Manziel ‘hum­bled’ in CFL de­but

The Western Star - - SPORTS - BY DAN RALPH

The re­sult was pre­dictable. Johnny Manziel’s muchan­tic­i­pated CFL de­but fizzled quickly Friday night. The rookie quar­ter­back threw an in­ter­cep­tion on his first down-field throw and fin­ished with four over­all in the Mon­treal Alou­ettes’ lop­sided 50-11 home loss to the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats be­fore 18,576 spec­ta­tors at Mol­son Stadium.

Manziel, 25, fin­ished 11-of20 pass­ing for just 104 yards against his for­mer team. Hamil­ton dealt Manziel to Mon­treal on July 22 when it be­came ap­par­ent he wasn’t go­ing to dis­lodge in­cum­bent Jeremiah Ma­soli as the Ti­cats starter.

Manziel drew the start af­ter just four prac­tices in Mon­treal’s of­fence, a huge ask con­sid­er­ing he hadn’t played a reg­u­lar-sea­son game since Dec. 27, 2015 - 950 days ago - with the NFL’s Cleve­land Browns.

And Manziel was un­der cen­tre for a club that en­tered Friday’s game 1-5 and had started three other quar­ter­backs. Sure, Manziel is the first fresh­man to win the Heis­man Tro­phy and sure, he was a for­mer firstround pick of the Browns.

But he’s still a CFL rookie, learn­ing a new game and now, with a sec­ond team in roughly two months af­ter com­ing to Canada and sign­ing with Hamil­ton.

He showed glimpses Friday of his ath­leti­cism, of be­ing able to es­cape pres­sure and ad-lib on the run. How­ever, there’s no es­cap­ing the fact Mon­treal’s of­fence is last in the CFL in so very many cat­e­gories. Prior to Friday’s game, Erik Burkhardt, Manziel’s agent, said the Alou­ettes were “in­sane” to start his client so quickly.

Let’s face it, if Manziel is go­ing to be part of the so­lu­tion in Mon­treal, it’s go­ing to take time. A lot of time.

“This game is hum­bling,” Manziel said after­wards. “This is a hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I’ve had this ex­pe­ri­ence in the past. You can let this get you down and sulk or take it on the chin like a man and never al­low this taste to come back into your mouth again and never let this hap­pen again. Moving for­ward, this is only go­ing to mo­ti­vate me. This is a test of my will and my drive.”

Mon­treal vis­its Ottawa next Satur­day.

CARTER RE­TURNS

Duron Carter had three catches for 59 yards and a TD in his re­turn to the Saskatchew­an Roughrid­ers re­ceiv­ing corps.

Carter, the Rid­ers’ lead­ing re­ceiver last sea­son, lined up on of­fence af­ter play­ing four games at cor­ner­back when Nick Mar­shall suf­fered a fin­ger in­jury. Mar­shall was ac­ti­vated last week and played in Saskatchew­an’s 26-16 loss to the Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos on Thurs­day night.

Rid­ers quar­ter­back Zach Col­laros, back un­der cen­tre af­ter miss­ing four games due to a con­cus­sion, was 22-of-34 pass­ing for 261 yards and a TD while adding an 11-yard run.

COME­BACK WIN

As thrilling as Toronto’s 42-41 last-sec­ond win over the Ottawa Red­blacks was Thurs­day night, it wasn’t the big­gest come­back vic­tory in Arg­onauts history.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s 23-yard TD strike to Ar­manti Ed­wards with one sec­ond re­main­ing capped a stir­ring rally from a 38-14 deficit for Toronto. But on Oct. 2, 1994, Marvin Graves came off the bench in the sec­ond half and the Ar­gos trail­ing Hamil­ton 36-11 and car­ried the club to a stir­ring 39-36 vic­tory.

Graves, in his rookie sea­son out of Syra­cuse, didn’t start be­cause of a back in­jury. But he re­placed fel­low rookie Erik White with three min­utes re­main­ing in the third quar­ter at Rogers Cen­tre and or­ches­trated the great­est four-quar­ter come­back in the fran­chise’s sto­ried history.

How­ever, Toronto’s at­ten­dance woes con­tin­ued.

Just 11,857 spec­ta­tors wit­nessed Thurs­day’s feat. That’s an in­crease from the sea­son­low turnout of 10,844 that came for the Ar­gos’ 38-20 loss to the Win­nipeg Blue Bombers on July 21.

But through four home games this sea­son, Toronto is draw­ing a pal­try 12,837 spec­ta­tors per game. Last year, the club av­er­aged un­der 14,000 at BMO Field be­fore be­ing pur­chased in the off-sea­son by Maple Leafs Sports & En­ter­tain­ment.

POW­ELL’S STRUG­GLES

It’s been a rough four-game stretch for Ottawa run­ning back Wil­liam Pow­ell.

Pow­ell be­gan the sea­son rush­ing for 355 yards on 55 car­ries over Ottawa’s first three games, an av­er­age of 118 yards per con­test. What’s more, the five-foot-nine, 207-pound Pow­ell was av­er­ag­ing a stel­lar 6.5 yards per carry.

But since rush­ing for 138 yards in Ottawa’s 28-18 win over Mon­treal on July 6, Pow­ell has run for a com­bined 149 yards on 51 car­ries in the Red­blacks’ last four con­tests. That’s an av­er­age of 37.25 yards per game and 2.9 yards per carry.

On Thurs­day night, Pow­ell had 35 yards rush­ing on 14 car­ries (2.5-yard av­er­age) in Ottawa’s 42-41 road loss to the Toronto Arg­onauts.

But Pow­ell isn’t the only Red­blacks of­fen­sive star who is strug­gling.

Re­ceiver Greg Elling­son, a 1,000-yard per­former the last three sea­sons in Ottawa, has gone six games with­out hit­ting the 100-yard plateau. He ac­com­plished that feat in the Red­blacks’ sea­son-open­ing 40-17 win over Saskatchew­an on June 21, reg­is­ter­ing eight catches for 104 yards.

But Elling­son hasn’t reached the 50-yard re­ceiv­ing mark in each of Ottawa’s last five games. The six-foot-three, 197-pound Tampa na­tive had two catches for 26 yards against Toronto.

CP PHOTO

Mon­treal Alou­ettes quar­ter­back Johnny Manziel pauses dur­ing third-quar­ter CFL ac­tion against the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats in Mon­treal on Friday night. Manziel’s much-an­tic­i­pated CFL de­but fizzled quickly in the game.

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