Raymond Brown couldn’t have picked a better time to register his first three-pick game.
The rookie had three interceptions, returning one 115 yards for the touchdown, as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats pasted the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 52-0 in the final CFL exhibition game for both clubs.
Brown, a defensive back from Kansas, picked off Justin Goltz in the end zone and returned it for the TD on the final play of the second quarter to give Hamilton a commanding 35-0 half-time lead.
“One of the biggest job interviews of my life but it’s football and you let the cards fall where they may,” he said. “You can’t think about that but I hope I did (make a statement).
“I saw him (Goltz) come to the side and there was only one receiver that way, I just glided over. I know he didn’t see me and he threw it to me. The coaches have to make a tough decision and I respect them for whatever decision they make.”
Brown wasn’t the only Ticats rookie to shine.
Running back Lindsey Lamar returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown while safety Erik Harris had an interception and fumble recovery and receiver Greg Ellingson had two catches for 88 yards — including a 58-yard TD grab. Lamar took Mike Renaud’s 46-yard punt the distance on the final play of the first quarter to put Hamilton ahead 14-0.
With receiver-returner Chris Williams continuing his contract dispute, the Ticats could be in the market for a special-teams dynamo.
“I feel like I’ve done everything I can,” Lamar said. “I came, I showed up, I did everything the coaches asked me to do, I put my head down and worked hard.
“It’s out of my control now, it’s in God’s hands.”
CFL teams must reduce their rosters to 46 players by 10 p.m. ET on Saturday.
“We have some players and that’s a good thing,” said Ticats head coach/GM Kent Austin. “We understand there’s some tough decisions that have to be made and that’s unfortunate but we’re going to have to make them as a staff.”
The first-year players shone in Hamilton’s first “home” game at Alumni Stadium on a simply gorgeous evening. The facility on the campus of the University of Guelph will be the Ticats’ home away from home this season while a new venue is being built.
The usual seating capacity here is roughly 7,500 but has been increased to 13,000 for Ticats games. The announced attendance for Thursday’s game was 12,732.
Although the game was Hamilton’s first at Alumni Stadium, Ticats starter Henry Burris said the club is settled in.
“This is already home and we look forward to getting here and testing out the new locker-room,” Burris said. “We’re so happy to be here and to be able to play in this atmosphere, we’re excited about it.”
The Ticats will move into their new stadium next season. The facility will also stage the soccer competition for the 2015 Pan American Games.
Hamilton finished the exhibition season with a 2-0 record while Winnipeg was 0-2. The two clubs were tied for the CFL’s worst record last year at 6-12.
Chevon Walker, Andy Fantuz and Harold Mutobola had Hamilton’s other touchdowns. Luca Congi booted the converts and three field goals while Brett Lauther had a single.
Winnipeg kicks off the 2013 regular season Thursday hosting the Montreal Alouettes at new Investors Group Field. Hamilton travels to Toronto next Friday night to face the Grey Cup-champion Argonauts at Rogers Centre.
The two teams took different approaches to this contest as Winnipeg came with just 41 players while Hamilton dressed 64. Among the notable Bombers missing was starting quarterback Buck Pierce, who didn’t make the trip after going 0-for-5 passing in the club’s first exhibition game, a 24-6 home loss to Toronto last week.
Goltz got the start and completed 12-of-21 passes for 101 yards and two interceptions as Winnipeg didn’t get over centre field until just over two minutes were left in the opening half. Chase Clement, who left Hamilton’s camp in 2009 after just a single practice, and Max Hall took second-half snaps for the Bombers, who committed nine turnovers (six interceptions, two fumbles, downs).
It was a miserable pre-season for Winnipeg, which was outscored 76-6 in the two games and could only muster two field goals.
“The Little Sisters of the Poor would’ve beaten us,” Bombers head coach Tim Burke said. “Usually when you turn the ball over three times you’re going to lose so when you do it nine times I guess it equals three losses.”
Burris started for Hamilton and looked solid, completing 13-of-17 passes for 198 yards and two TDs in the opening half before giving way to sophomore Dan LeFevour to start the third.
Walker opened the scoring with a one-yard TD run at 7:43 of the first, which was set up by Harris’s interception. Then at 11:55 of the second, Burris found Fantuz on a five-yard touchdown strike before hitting Ellingson at 13:48 to put Hamilton ahead 28-0.
Congi booted three field goals in the third before Mutubola ran 37 yards for a TD at 9:49 of the fourth. He took a lateral from Emanuel Davis after he had an 23-yard interception return.