MONTREAL -- Even without kick-return star Chad Owens, the Toronto Argonauts found a way to pull off a spectacular win.
Down 23-8 midway through the third quarter, the defending Grey Cup champions roared back for a 37-30 victory over the Montreal Alouettes to retain sole possession of first place in the CFL East Division on Sunday afternoon.
The win on a blustery day before 23,911 at Percival Molson Stadium stopped a two-game losing run and avenged a 20-9 loss to the Alouettes in Toronto on Tuesday. The Argos (6-4) stayed two points ahead of Hamilton (5-5) and four ahead of Montreal (4-6).
"Nobody gave us a chance," said Argonauts coach Scott Milanovich. "We had our backup quarterback, our third-string running back, Chad Owens is out... I told them after the game that there won't be another time all season that they doubt that they can win a game."
Both teams were missing key offensive players, which may be why there were no offensive touchdowns in the torturous first half of a game that only sprang to life in the final 22 minutes.
Zach Collaros, filling in while starter Ricky Ray recovers from a shoulder injury, ran in a touchdown and threw to John Chiles and Dontrelle Inman for two others. He completed 30 passes for 336 yards, with one interception.
Defensive tackle Kiante Tripp also scored on an interception, and kicker Noel Prefontaine missed three field-goal attempts but added two field goals and four singles.
Montreal rookie quarterback Tanner Marsh, in his second start while Anthony Calvillo deals with a concussion, threw a TD pass to Duron Carter and ran one in himself, while defensive back Geoff Tisdale also scored.
But Marsh struggled to move the ball, completing only 13 of 28 passes for 225 yards. He was picked off three times, while Toronto had another pick on a failed trick-play pass by slotback S.J. Green.
"We have to do a better job of helping Marsh, but you have to give them credit," said Montreal coach Jim Popp. "They confused him some today.
Both teams were missing their starting quarterbacks, running backs and a top receiver, with Ray, Chad Kackert and Owens out for Toronto and Calvillo, Brandon Whitaker and Jamel Richardson among a long list of starters down for Montreal.
It came down to the defences, and for just over half the game, Montreal's was dominant.
Collaros said the game turned when the Argonauts beat Montreal's ferocious pass rush a couple of times in the third quarter, which gave them space to make plays.
"That's why the third quarter was so big, because we burned them a couple of times on their pressure," he said. "It kind of scared them off a bit and we were able to have a little more time to execute things."
Popp would have no argument for that. "They made plays and we didn't," he said. "They made adjustments at halftime.
"Our defence was outstanding in the first half, but we weren't doing much on offence. We didn't move the ball much. We didn't help our defence."
-- The Canadian Press