The 2-5 Montreal Alouettes looked to be underdogs in over their heads Thursday against a 5-2 B.C. team with a defence that had been very good to this point, especially thanks to Anthony Calvillo's concussion forcing them to start backup quarterback Josh Neiswander. Oddly enough, though, they managed to pull out a huge last-second 39-38 upset, and a big part of the reason why was their decision to go even further down the depth chart to third-stringer Tanner Marsh. With less than 15 seconds left and Montreal down by two, Marsh found Eric Deslauriers on a massive bomb that he caught with 1.9 seconds left to set up Sean Whyte's game-winning field goal. It was a highly improbable sequence of events that led to their triumph, but the Alouettes came away with a fairytale ending and gave themselves a lot of hope to build on going forward in the process.
The Als might not want to look too closely at the statistics from this one, though. In particular, while Marsh was crucial in leading Montreal to the win, he was also involved in many of their worst moments of the night. The two late interceptions he threw in particular could have doomed the Alouettes for good if the Lions' offence hadn't suddenly turned inept. It wasn't just him, either, as there were plenty of questionable moments from other Montreal players: they let B.C. put up plenty of offensive numbers on them, there were plenty of instances of blown coverages and missed tackles, and Tim Brown's massive 124-yard touchdown return off a missed field goal was particularly embarrassing for the Alouettes. Still, they kept fighting throughout in a way they utterly failed to do in their first game under interim head coach Jim Popp, and they executed well in the final moments, which they didn't do in Popp's second game last week. They also saw enough from Marsh that he might be an intriguing option going forward until Calvillo returns—and perhaps even a potential successor once the 20-year veteran decides to hang up his cleats for good.
Really, it's the bright moments here for Montreal that really deserve the spotlight. This was a game few figured they could win at any cost, and that likely would have been the case even with Calvillo under centre. With him and seven other starters injured, it looked like a foregone conclusion. The Alouettes refused to see it that way, though, and they refused to roll over even after B.C. kept putting up leads on them. Marsh was a critical part of that. He replaced Neiswander after just three series (which did include a bad interception), and he helped motivate Montreal to rally despite fumbling early on. His drive at the end of the first half (hitting Duron Carter, Deslauriers and then recording his first career CFL touchdown with a pass to S.J. Green) was inspiring, and it kept the Alouettes in the game.
It was the last-second drive that was the best, though. After throwing three interceptions on four passes, many veteran CFL quarterbacks would be rattled, to say nothing of your typical newbie, but Marsh hung in there and kept battling. He didn't give up when receivers dropped a couple of his passes, and his final throw to Deslauriers was a perfect bomb down the central seam of the field, caught with just enough time left for the game-winning field goal. Marsh's night sure didn't start in fairytale fashion, but it had a happy ending for him and the Alouettes. Montreal will just be hoping the clock doesn't strike midnight on this Cinderella story just yet.