Jeremiah Masoli made an impressive pitch Saturday to move up the pecking order with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Masoli threw three second-half touchdown passes to lead Hamilton past the Montreal Alouettes 28-23 in the CFL exhibition opener for both teams Saturday. The sophomore completed 9-of-13 passes for 137 yards and also added a game-high 28 yards rushing on six carries.
"We're all competitors and we all want to play, right?" Masoli said. "No different for myself, I want to play every game.
"I definitely feel better than last year. Part of that is being confident with being back again in this system."
Masoli put Hamilton ahead 28-23 with a 16-yard TD pass to Sam Giguere at 9:21 of the fourth quarter before 5,573 spectators at Ron Joyce Stadium. Montreal led 23-21 on Delbert Alvarado's 26-yard field goal at 2:27.
Masoli gave Hamilton a 21-20 advantage with two third-quarter TD strikes. He hit C.J. Gable on a six-yard pass at 6:32, then capped a 105-yard, six-play march with a 20-yard toss to Luke Tasker at 12:31. Alvarado's 43-yard field goal had put Montreal ahead 20-7.
"Jeremiah ran the offence very well," Ticats head coach Kent Austin said. "He ran the ball, he saw coverage . . . he made his zone reads very well, just had a full command of the offence."
Newcomer Zach Collaros, who started against Montreal, is Hamilton's clear-cut No. 1 quarterback. But Masoli outplayed Dan LeFevour (4-of-12 passing for 45 yards with two interceptions), his competition for the backup job.
But Austin wouldn't say if Masoli had the upper hand for the backup job.
"We expect all our guys to play well," he said. "We don't distinguish much between starters and backups because many guys have to play in a long season.
"Anybody who takes the football field, we expect them to play like a starter."
Collaros, signed this off-season after being released by the Toronto Argonauts, played the first quarter. He was 5-of-8 passing for 52 yards and had a 13-yard run.
"I thought Zach did well," Austin said. "He was accurate, he made a play that turned into a first down with his feet, moved the sticks, made some throws."
Tyrell Sutton and Kyle Graves had the Montreal touchdowns. Sean Whyte added the converts and a field goal while Alvarado booted two.
LeFevour scored Hamilton's other touchdown. Brett Lauther had two converts while Justin Medlock added one.
With incumbent Troy Smith not dressed, Montreal started Tanner Marsh before Alex Brink and Collin Klein took turns under centre. The trio combined to finish 17-of-31 passing for 197 yards with a TD and two interceptions.
"There were things they did we were extremely pleased with and there were others you're, 'Ok,"' Montreal head coach Tom Higgins said. "But a lot of times the quarterbacks get too much credit and too much blame with how things go.
"When all is said and done, the fact we got through this football game relatively healthy and had the opportunity to evaluate and see the players play that needed to play, we got done what we needed to get done."
Brink was Montreal's most effective quarterback, completing 7-of-10 passes for 90 yards and a TD. Marsh was 6-of-11 for 50 yards and an interception while Klein finished 4-of-10 for 57 yards and an interception.
Brink's nine-yard TD strike to Graves at 13:38 of the second staked Montreal to a 17-7 half-time lead. Graves, the former Acadia quarterback trying to make the Alouettes as a receiver, scored after Whyte connected from 43 yards at 10:20 to break a 7-7 tie.
Sutton opened the scoring with a one-yard TD run at 9:33 of the first, set up by a pass interference call in the end zone on Hamilton's Brandon Stewart. Montreal took over at the Ticats' 25-yard line after Medlock was tackled recovering an third-down errant snap resulting in a 40-yard loss on the play.
LeFevour tied it with a one-yard TD run on third down on the final play of the first. It was set up by a pass interference call on Montreal's Michael Carter in the end zone after Hamilton's Eric Norwood forced and recovered a fumble on a punt return.
NOTES — Former NFL star receiver Chad Johnson didn't dress for Montreal due to an ankle injury. Quarterback Troy Smith and linebackers Chip Cox — CFL's top defensive player last year — and Kyries Hebert also didn't suit up for the Alouettes . . . Hamilton finishes its exhibition schedule visiting the Toronto Argonauts on Thursday night at Varsity Stadium. Montreal hosts the expansion Ottawa Redblacks on Friday night . . . CFL teams must reduce their training camp rosters to 65 players by 11:59 ET on Sunday . . . Hamilton is scheduled to play its first game at the new Tim Hortons Field on July 26 hosting Ottawa.