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Collaros throws one touchdown, runs in another to lead Argos over Als

Toronto Argonauts' Trent Guy (left) evades a tackle by Montreal Alouettes' Tanner Marsh after intercepting a pass during the second quarter of their CFL game Thursday June 20, 2013 in Toronto.

Jon Blacker/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Zach Collaros doesn't put much stock in one game. But in the Toronto Argonauts' battle between backup quarterbacks, his game Thursday certainly didn't hurt him either.

Collaros ran in one touchdown and threw for another to lead Toronto to a 24-20 victory over the Montreal Alouettes on Thursday in the final pre-season game for both teams.

"I don't think I sent a message, they've seen enough of all the quarterbacks," said Collaros, who played just one game for the Argos last season. "I don't know how much that will change anything."

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Collaros, who's battling Trevor Harris for the No. 2 spot behind Ricky Ray, clinched the win in a homecoming of sorts for the defending Grey Cup champions when he threw a 29-yard touchdown to Juaquin Iglesias at 12:29 in the fourth quarter in front of 6,204 fans at Varsity Stadium.

With CFL cutdown day looming on Saturday, Collaros completed 5-of-9 pass attempts for 72 yards, and rushed for 14 yards on three carries. He ran in a one-yard touchdown after assembling his own scoring drive late in the third quarter.

Harris was 9 of 16 for 79 yards and a touchdown.

"I thought they did well," Argos coach Scott Milanovich said of his two backups. "We struggled in the first half offensively, and there were a lot of reasons for that, but until I see it I'm not going to know what was happening for Trevor.

"I thought we did a better job offensively adjusting in the second half and gave Zach a little better opportunity to be successful."

Harris, who played in two regular-season games last year for Toronto, wasn't reading too much into Thursday's final dress rehearsal either.

"The coaches told us they evaluate everything, everything equally," Harris said. "Practices and walkthroughs and the way we carry ourselves, gratitude and effort every single day — those are big things that they look into and this was one part of it and I'm sure they'll weigh this in how they want to weigh it in and make their decisions likewise and accordingly."

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Ray, meanwhile, started for the Grey Cup champs, but threw just three incomplete passes in his brief playing time.

Milanovich was pleased with the win, but not so much the performance.

"There's a lot of things you're trying to get out of a pre-season game, but winning's a habit, so is losing, so it's always important for us to try to come out on top. We'll certainly take it," the coach said. "But we know we need to get a lot better next week."

Anthony Calvillo was 6-for-12 passing for 114 yards and a touchdown for Montreal. Als backup Josh Neiswander was 6 of 8 for 84 yards.

A festive atmosphere welcomed the Argos back on the field in their first game since they beat the Calgary Stampeders in last November's 100th Grey Cup game. Fans gave the team a standing ovation during introductions.

"It sort of had a throwback feel for us in a way, sort of like an under-the-lights 'Friday Night Lights' type of feel," Harris said. "So it was kind of fun, with the stands on one side and the lights. Obviously quarterbacks will tell you all that we'd rather play in a dome without the wind and stuff, but it was a great time out there."

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The night marked the first CFL game played at downtown's Varsity Stadium in 55 years. Fans lined the stadium gates along Bloor Street, peering through the rails. Several hundred fans paid $30 for standing-room-only tickets, and lined the west side of the running track.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and CFL commissioner Mark Cohon were seated in the front row, and shared a handshake before kickoff.

Reggie Williams scored Toronto's other touchdown, a circus catch in the end zone on a 16-yard pass from Harris that put the Argos up 9-7 lead in the second.

Arland Bruce and Michael Campbell scored touchdowns for Montreal. Bruce caught a 32-yard pass from Calvillo for the first touchdown of the game, while Campbell caught a 47-yard bomb from Tanner Marsh in the third.

Delbert Alvarado booted two field goals of 19 and 36 yards.

Curtis Steele rushed for 87 yards on eight carries for Toronto.

The game was the first meeting between the division rivals since the Argos won the Eastern Final at Montreal's Olympic Stadium.

The Argos host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats next Friday in their season opener, while the Als battle the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg in their opener on Thursday.

NOTES: Argos defensive back Brent Vinson was hurt early in the game, and was taken away by paramedics, his left leg and ankle splinted. . . Varsity Stadium has hosted 30 Grey Cup championships, including nine Toronto wins. . . Nick Volpe, the MVP of the 1950 Grey Cup "Mud Bowl" at Varsity Stadium, was at the game.

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