Alouettes win season finale as Ticats miss game-winner at the buzzer

The Montreal Alouettes ended a miserable season on a positive note.

Antonio Pipkin threw a touchdown pass and ran for two others as Montreal held on for a 30-28 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the regular-season finale for both teams Saturday night. The Alouettes (4-14) will miss the CFL playoffs for the fourth consecutive year but ended the campaign with two straight victories.

“That was very important,” Pipkin said. “We were 3-15 last year and didn’t finish how we wanted and that leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth.

“Finishing with a win here, it just shows we were in a lot of ball games. Even though teams always change every year, being able to come back next year we have something to build off of.”

Hamilton (8-10) came in having cemented second in the East Division and thus rested most of its starters, including quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. The Ticats host the B.C. Lions in the conference semifinal next Sunday riding a three-game losing streak.

Hamilton had a shot at the last-second win, but Lirim Hajrullahu missed a field goal 49 yards out on the game’s final play.

“I feel like just watching the game that we gave ourselves a chance to win,” said Hamilton head coach June Jones. “That’s what we wanted to do and we did, we just fell a little bit short.

“We’re where we want to be. Now we’ve got a home playoff game and a chance to win that and go to Ottawa (for the East final). We’ve given ourselves a chance to get there.”

Pipkin’s one-yard TD run at 14:24 of the third quarter staked Montreal to a 30-18 advantage. It was set up by Ty Cranston’s recovery of Terrell Sinkfield’s fumble on a kickoff at the Hamilton 19-yard line.

Ticats quarterback Dane Evans, in his first CFL start, found Mike Jones on a 26-yard touchdown pass at 4:34 of the fourth. That cut Montreal’s lead to 30-25 before a generously announced Tim Hortons Field gathering of 23,381.

Evans drove Hamilton to the Montreal 19-yard line but the Ticats had to settle for Hajrullahu’s 20-yard field goal at 12:42 of the fourth to narrow Montreal’s lead to 30-28.

Evans finished 22-of-37 passing for 315 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. Mike Jones had five catches for 114 yards and the TD, Bralon Addison recorded seven receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown while John White ran for 88 yards on nine carries.

Quarterback Johnny Manziel made his eighth start for Montreal. He completed four of five passes for 59 yards before giving way to Pipkin in the second quarter with the Alouettes leading 7-3.

“I would’ve enjoyed playing every play of the entire game,” Manziel said. “But with the snaps I got and the three drives that we had, I felt like we should’ve got more points than the seven we did.

“But to come out early in the game, move the ball, which we hadn’t been doing over the course of the past six, seven, eight games, and score first (was good).”

Manziel reiterated the importance of Montreal finishing its season strong.

“Just to have a chance to win two and end on the right note and build into next season I think is the biggest part about it,” the former Heisman Trophy winner said. “We weren’t looking back at what happened earlier in the season or anything like that.

“We were focused on finishing the season the right way and building and moving into what’s coming next year.”

Pipkin was 8-of-15 passing for 217 yards while running four times for 21 yards. Eugene Lewis had two catches for 105 yards and two TDs for Montreal while William Stanback registered four receptions for 100 yards.

Hamilton cut Montreal’s lead to 20-18 on Sean Thomas-Erlington’s two-yard TD run at 5:26 of the third. But Boris Bede’s 43-yard field goal at 11:20 put the Alouettes ahead 23-18.

Bede kicked three converts and a field goal for Montreal.

Hajrullahu booted three converts, a single and two field goals.

Pipkin hit Lewis with a 75-yard TD toss at 12:25 of the second to stake Montreal to a 20-11 halftime lead. He was sacked on the two-point convert.

Hamilton trimmed the deficit to 14-11 on Evans’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Addison at 8:41. Hajrullahu followed up with a 72-yard single on the ensuing kickoff.

Pipkin’s one-yard run at 3:47 of the second put Montreal ahead 14-3. The TD was awarded upon review after Pipkin was seemingly stopped on third-and-one.

It came after Hajrullahu’s 22-yard field goal at 11:53 of the first. Manziel opened the scoring with a 30-yard TD strike to Lewis at 5:10, capping a seven-play, 76-yard drive.

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