MONTREAL — Johnny Manziel wasn’t flawless in his second CFL pre-season game, but he did enough to lead the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to a come-from-behind victory.
Manziel came into the game in the second quarter and had an instant impact as the Ticats scored 30 unanswered points to defeat the Montreal Alouettes 30-15 Saturday, in the second and final pre-season game for both teams.
The former Heisman Trophy winner went 12-for-20 for 88 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 19 yards.
Manziel is Hamilton’s backup quarterback behind starter Jeremiah Masoli, who got the day off Saturday.
"By no means is it perfect, or close to perfect, but there are some flashes, things I know and feel comfortable with," said Manziel, who left the game in the fourth quarter. "There are things that I should hit on the field that I missed today. That’s just part of trying to get better and get back in a feel of playing ball every day, week in and week out.
"Any time I’m getting in and getting reps, and getting a chance to take live reps like today, that’s a positive day."
Manziel entered the game four minutes into the second quarter after starter Bryant Moniz went a paltry 3-for-7 for 17 yards and an interception.
The sparse and quiet 12,325 fans at Percival Molson Stadium gave Manziel, the former first-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns, a subdued cheer when he walked onto the field. In the crowd were a few Browns jerseys and Texas A&M jerseys, where the 25-year-old played his college ball.
Down 14-0, Manziel’s influence on the game was immediate.
He completed back-to-back passes to running back Alex Green for the first Hamilton first down of the afternoon. He followed that up, on the same drive, with a three-yard pass to Green for the touchdown to cut Montreal’s lead to 14-7.
"Hopefully that’s the first of many," said Manziel of the TD pass.
In the third quarter, Manziel, who made his CFL debut last week in Hamilton’s 36-18 loss to Toronto, led his team down the field on two good drives that ended in field goals by kicker Lirim Hajrullahu.
Seventeen seconds into fourth, Joel Ross picked off backup Alouettes QB Garrett Fugate and returned the ball 30 yards for the touchdown.
After another Hamilton field goal, Manziel left the game with his side leading 23-14.
"You saw him out there, he’s still a little rusty," said Tiger-Cats head coach June Jones. "But he’s a competitor, he knows what’s going on, he’s seeing what’s going on. He’s able to execute real quickly. You guys can see what he can do. He can make a difference.
"I think he’s going to be a very good player in this league."
Dane Evans took over from Manziel in the fourth and went 5-for-6 for 65 yards.
Sean Thomas-Erlington’s one-yard TD run with 6:49 left on the clock gave the visitors a 30-14 lead.
Alouettes quarterback Drew Willy left the game early in the third quarter after going 10-for-18 for 105 yards.
Montreal head coach Mike Sherman confirmed Willy is the team’s starting quarterback when the season gets underway next week.
Sherman’s decision was made easy for him when backup Matthew Shiltz strained a muscle in his back at practice on Thursday. He’s day-to-day with the injury.
"(Willy) handles pressure really well," said Sherman. "He’s been very good in the pocket in practice. We’ve thrown a lot of blitzes at him an he’s done a good job with the pressure and making big plays. I’ve been pleased with that."
Willy’s replacement Fugate went 3-for-6 for 37 yards. He fumbled the ball once and threw an interception.
The Alouettes went up 14-0 in the first half on a touchdown by Tyrell Sutton, a field goal by Boris Bede, a safety and two singles.
Both teams play their season openers next Saturday. Hamilton is in Calgary to play the Stampeders while the Alouettes face the BC Lions on the road.