Manziel ‘humbled’ in CFL debut
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.