Rookie Tanner Marsh threw for 309 yards and a TD in his first CFL start, leading the Montreal Alouettes past the Toronto Argonauts 20-9 on Tuesday night.
Marsh, who came off the bench to rally Montreal (4-5) past B.C. 39-38 last week, didn’t need any late-game heroics to help the Alouettes win the opener of the home-and-home series with Toronto (5-4). The two meet again Sunday at Molson Stadium.
Marsh finished 18-of-27 passing and got the better of Argonauts sophomore Zach Collaros before a Rogers Centre gathering of 18,863 consisting mostly of enthusiastic university students. They witnessed a contest that felt more like a pre-season game that, while it had some notable moments, also featured its share of miscues and blown assignments.
Collaros, Toronto’s starter with incumbent Ricky Ray (shoulder) out six weeks, was 21-of-32 passing for 261 yards with a TD but threw an interception and had a costly fumble.
Montreal is tied with Hamilton (4-5) for second in the East Division after improving to 2-0 with veteran Anthony Calvillo (concussion) sidelined.
Marsh threw four interceptions and lost two fumbles against B.C. but had an interception against Toronto, which finished a three-game homestand on a losing note after winning the first two.
The Argos’ best chance to get back into the game came late in the third when Dontrelle Inman’s 10-yard catch put them at the Montreal 13-yard line. But Alouettes interim coach Jim Popp successfully challenged the play, correctly contending Inman fumbled and Montreal’s Byron Parker recovered.
Marsh then hit Duron Carter — the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter — on a 47-yard completion to end the third to set up Sean Whyte’s 14-yard field goal at 1:50 of the fourth for a 20-8 advantage.
Montreal tied the season series 1-1 as the Argonauts won the first meeting 39-13 on Aug. 8. The two teams play their regular-season finale Nov. 1 at Rogers Centre.
John Chiles had Toronto’s TD. Noel Prefontaine booted the convert and two singles.
Shea Emery and Arland Bruce III scored Montreal’s touchdowns. Whyte kicked two field goals and two converts.
Emry’s 37-yard return of a Collaros fumble and Marsh’s 28-yard TD strike to Bruce in the second quarter staked the Alouettes to an unlikely 17-8 lead in a sloppy opening half of missed opportunities. Emery scored at 13:31 less than five minutes after Bruce gave Montreal its first lead of the game.
Toronto opened with two impressive drives but only managed Prefontaine’s single off a missed 30-yard field goal at 2:39. Prefontaine set up for a 30-yard boot on the Argos’ second drive but holder Trevor Walsh bobbled the snap and was held short of the first down, giving Montreal possession at its own three-yard line.
Collaros hit Chiles on a 34-yard TD pass at 10:01 of the first to put Toronto ahead 8-0. Montreal countered with a 57-yard catch by S.J. Green before Jamie Robinson punched the ball loose and it was recovered by the Ricardo Colclough at the Argos’ 16-yard line.
Green had a glorious chance to atone but couldn’t control Marsh’s pass in the end zone, setting up Whyte’s 12-yard field goal at 3:37 of the second to cut Toronto’s lead to 8-3.
Collaros was hurt at 9:59 when taken down by an illegal Chip Cox horse-collar tackle. Walsh came in but Collaros returned on Toronto’s next possession.