From zero to hero

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:16 AM ET

It says all you need to know about the efforts of Brandon Browner when Stamps defensive coordinator Denny Creehan is spotted after the game asking for an autographed ball.

While the souvenir was presumably for a fan, the reality is Creehan also had good reason to covet the defensive back's game-saving effort late in yesterday's win.

Thing is, 90 minutes earlier, Creehan probably wanted to shove the ball down Browner's throat following as puzzling a move as you might ever see in the CFL.

In a Labour Day game when strange plays have long turned tides, Browner was responsible for the two weirdest of the afternoon. Not surprising for a 6-ft.-3 freak of nature whose speed and size could land him in the NFL if he can limit his brain burps.

The shocking hiccup came with nine seconds left in the first half when Sean Fleming's field-goal attempt drifted wide left. As the ball sailed through the endzone, Browner turned to the unsuspecting Eskimos kicker and bashed him to the ground, giving the visitors a first down and a chance to make good on the kick for a 21-15 halftime lead.

"I apologized to him right away and told him 'I didn't know I couldn't hit you,' said the 23-year-old rookie, unaware the kicker can only be touched once he crosses the line of scrimmage.

"All week long, the special teams coach was stressing blocking the kicker if they miss a field goal. So I did."

It punctuated a horrible half for the Stamps, which they would soon atone for with Browner leading the way.

Shortly after the Stamps took a 32-21 lead with three straight touchdown drives, the secondary parted like the Red Sea, allowing Esks receiver T.J. Acree make an easy reception and head towards the endzone for what would surely be a 75-yard score. However, as Acree looked right to ensure he could outrace Dwaine Carpenter, Browner closed a lengthy gap in record time, reached around the receiver at the 15-yard line and punched the ball into the endzone where Carpenter recovered it.

"If he gets in, it's a whole different ball game, so I put my head down, got there quicker than I expected, saw the ball a bit and swung at it with my best shot and got it," said the 206-lb. Oregon State star who has run the 100m dash in 10.6 seconds.

"I didn't know it came out until I heard the crowd."

The roars didn't subside until the final gun when the Stamps had preserved a 35-24 win, allowing just three points in the second half.

On a day when Henry Burris, Ryan Thelwell and the offence took centre stage, Browner was part of the two biggest plays of the day --much as he was in Edmonton a month earlier. It was then the speedster went from goat to hero in similar fashion following a run-in with Fleming that he followed immediately with a crucial goal-line stuff on Stefan LeFors.

"We supported him after what he did (yesterday), and he came back and made that play," Carpenter said. "We stopped any momentum they may have gotten and kept it in our favour with that play. He helped save the game."

And some face.


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