MONTREAL — Johnny Manziel’s CFL debut was a disaster as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats picked off four passes en route to a 50-11 romp over the Montreal Alouettes on Friday night.
Jeremiah Masoli threw touchdown passes to Brandon Banks and Jalen Saunders and ran one in himself, while Alex Green ran in a pair and Sean Thomas Erlington scored on a blocked punt for Hamilton (3-4), which ended a three-game losing streak. Lirim Hajrullahu added three field goals.
Backup quarterback Vernon Adams had a late touchdown and Boris Bede kicked a field goal for Montreal (1-6), which has lost four in a row.
Despite major hype, Manziel’s debut drew only 18,576 to Percival Molson Stadium. They saw the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner’s first pass attempt intercepted by Larry Dean — the first of four picks he would throw in the first half alone.
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The former Cleveland Brown, playing his first real game since December 2015, showed flashes of talent, scrambling away from a persistent pass rush and throwing on the run. A 31-yard completion to Eugene Lewis in the second quarter was particularly impressive, but he was picked off by Mike Daly two plays later to kill a promising drive.
He was replaced by Adams in the fourth quarter, having completed 11 of 20 passes for 104 yards.
Manziel was acquired from Hamilton on July 22. He dressed but didn’t play in a 44-23 loss last week to Edmonton.
He wasn’t buying the notion spread widely on social media by past and present CFL players that he was thrown into game action too quickly, after joining the Alouettes only two weeks ago.
“Everybody has an opinion,” the 25-year-old said. “Would it have been nice to be here for three weeks and then get the start? Sure.
“But I didn’t lack any confidence coming into the game. I didn’t feel unprepared. But who knows? I got the start and it went just about as bad as it could possibly go.”
While Manziel struggled, Masoli took the Tiger-Cats through the Montreal defence with relative ease.
The eight-play opening drive ended with a 17-yard TD pass to Banks at 2:50. After the Dean pick, Green ran in from the one at 5:54. Less than three minutes later, Curtis Newton blocked a Bede punt and Thomas Erlington ran it in.
The first of two Jumal Rolle interceptions setup a 21-yard TD pass to Saunders and it was 28-0 after only 11:09 of play.
Manziel made his first completion with a 10-yard shovel pass to Ernest Jackson and got Montreal in range for a 29-yard Bede field goal to open the second quarter.
But another Rolle pick set the Ticats on an eight-play drive and another Green 1-yard TD. Hajrullahu added a 42-yard boot for a 38-3 half time lead, and put up threw more points from 48 yards early in the second half.
Masoli ran in from the six 1:32 into the fourth quarter. Adams scored with 2:39 left from the one after a pass interference call.
Manziel was the second Heisman Trophy quarterback to start for Montreal. Troy Smith won his debut in 2013.
“I didn’t feel uncomfortable,” Manziel said. “I just feel I might have been a bit too amped up.
“As the game started, I made a really uncharacteristic throw on the first drive and it really set us back. I did a bad job of setting the tone on that first drive.
“This is a humbling experience. I’ve had this experience in the past and there are two ways you go about this moving forward. One, you can let it get you down and sulk and harm you moving forward. The other way is to take this on the chin like a man and never let this taste creep back in your mouth again and never let it happen again. This will motivate me.”
Receiver Adarius Bowman, acquired two weeks ago from Winnipeg, did not dress.
THE CANADIAN PRESS