By: Santino Filoso
On an emotional Friday night, and on the first big gathering since Wednesday’s shooting, Ottawa came together as a community to begin healing through the power of sports. The Redblacks played an inspired game, buoyed by the energy and emotion of an 8th straight sell out crowd at TD Place but unfortunately still couldn’t find a way to finish, losing to the Alouettes and dropping their record to 2-14 on the year.
The vibe around the city and build up to the game was simply outstanding with players and fans alike aware of its significance
The world’s biggest Canadian flag (on loan from the Ticats) is displayed across the field as Redblacks and Alouette players stand side by side during the singing of O Canada
Burris’ makes an incredible pre-game speech to the offence
– The Redblacks get the ball to start and move it with ease. Henry² (Marcus Henry #16) makes a 22 yard catch before Roy Finch (#19) and Jonathan Williams (#23) pound the rock on three straight plays picking up 5, 10 and 8 yards. Patrick Lavoie (#81) gets in on the fun with his own 10 yard catch and Henry² caps the drive off in style hauling in a 6 yard TD pass
– With his 1st passing touchdown at home in 94 possessions, Henry Burris (#1) moves into 3rd place all time, passing Ron Lancaster with 334 career passing TDs.
– Montreal responds with a long drive of their own, moving the chains twice with big second down catches by SJ Green. The Als appear to settle for a FG attempt when Jerrell Gavins (#24) nearly gets a pick six from his own end zone but Montreal coach Tom Higgins challenges for pass interference
– About 2.7 seconds after the challenge flag hits the ground, the league overturns the call, giving the Als a first down on Ottawa’s 1 yard line. Short yardage specialist Tanner “One Yard Ain’t No Thang” Marsh wastes no time punching it in on the QB sneak to tie the game at 7
– A heavy dose of Williams bulldozing defenders and Finch weaving through would be tacklers allows the Redblacks to march the ball deep into Als territory before the promising drive ends when Burris’ pass is tipped and picked off.
– A Marlon Smith (#98) sack is wiped out by a pass interference call on Gavins (his second of the night) but continued heavy pressure forces Crompton to throw an incompletion and ensures the Als have to punt
– True to his word, HC Rick Campbell puts Danny “Boy” O’Brien (#9) in for a series and after handing off to Williams for a 4 yard loss, he throws into heavy coverage and his first pass of the night is picked off
– Abdul Kanneh (#14) immediately gets Ottawa the ball back with his own interception
– O’Brien comes in at QB again and on the ensuing play William’s leg gets awkwardly twisted as he is pulled down
– After the injury time out Burris re-enters the game and hits Lavoie for a first down gain but his next two passes fall incomplete. Brett Maher’s (#3) beautiful punt pins the Als on their 5 yard line
– A swarming defence nearly get its second interception of the night before forcing a two and out
– Much to R-Nation’s relief Williams re-enters the game, looking no worse for the wear
– Former Renegade LB Kyries Hebert shows that there’s no place like home as he blows up a screen on 2nd down. Things go from bad to worse when Maher’s punt is blocked
– Montreal settles for a 41 yard FG when Antoine “The Phenom” Pruneau (#6) sniffs out the screen for a loss and Keith “I Like Hittin’ People” Shologan (#74) and Justin Capicciotti (#93) meet at the QB, sacking Crompton
– Backed up by flags, a sack leads to a two and out for the Redblacks
– The defence bends but doesn’t break and the Als eventually kick a 14 yard FG
– With less than a minute left in the game, O’Brien comes back in at QB and hands off to Finch three times in a row
– After 30 minutes, Habs lead 13-7
– Als get the ball to start the second half and two questionable flags on Kanneh, (pass inference and later objectionable conduct) lead directly to a touchdown, 20-7 for the Als
– Burris’ pass hits Henry² right in the hands, but he can’t hang on and instead pops it up for the player with the best name in the CFL, Bear Woods, who picks it off
– Montreal turns the turnover into points with a 47 yard FG
– The Redblacks string together a few first downs courtesy of hard running from Finch and catches by Khalil Paden (#13) and Carlton Mitchell (#88) but the drive stalls when Burris is sacked on 2nd down
– Faced with 3rd and 9 and an inattentive Montreal defence, Maher fakes the punt and passes to Lavoie for a 38 yard gain
– After an incompletion and yet another sack, Maher splits the uprights with a 21 yard FG to make it 23-10
– Despite losing a shoe, Brandyn Thompson (#25) makes a beautiful play and breaks up a deep pass on 2nd down
– O’Brien gets another series and proceeds to book up with Wallace “Boom or Bust” Miles (#84) on a 44 yard bomb before second round pick Scott Macdonell (#83) makes a catch, splits two defenders and rumbles 58 yards to the house for his first career touchdown. In 2 plays and 56 seconds the Redblacks cover 102 yards.
– Relentless defensive pressure earns another Alouette two and out
– O’Brien and the offence go two and out but Maher’s coffin corner punt again pins the Als deep
– Pruneau nearly picks off Crompton and on the next play Kanneh forces a fumble which is recovered by Jovon Johnson. Unfortunately and inexplicably the call is overturned after a review when the officials claim the Montreal player was down by contact
– Not satisfied with the bush league ruling or perhaps simply to spite the refs, HC Rick Campbell blows everyone’s mind by challenging the review, asking the refs to take a second look at the play. The review of the review is quickly shot down by the officials who confirm the review
– The Als march down the field in small chunks, chewing up precious clock before eventually punting. Ottawa takes over on their own 10 with 2:31 left in the game
– Following a Macdonell 7 yard catch, Burris throws the ball away under heavy pressure. Just like last week, facing 3rd and 3 and down 6 points with 2 min left in the game, HC Rick Campbell chooses to punt and crosses his fingers that his team will get the ball back
– The Redblacks defence shows why it’s the backbone of the team, bailing out their coach by forcing a quick two and out
– With 1:15 left, on 1st down Burris overthrows Carter on a deep route. On 2nd down the pass is behind Macdonell. With the game on the line and needing 10 yards to keep the drive alive, NOT A SINGLE RECEIVER RUNS PAST THE FIRST DOWN MARKER, so Burris checks down and Macdonell makes a 7 yard catch but can’t get any more.
– Alouettes take over and run out the clock
Final score: 23-17
Burris went 12 of 21 for 110 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs
O’Brien went 3 of 5 for 111 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT
Williams ran 8 times for 50 yards
Macdonell hauled in 8 passes for 73 yards and 1 TD
Simmons made 8 tackles
Maher punted 4 times for 173 yards, averaging 43 yards per kick
It was never really about the game to be honest, in the first major gathering since Wednesday’s tragic events, the football was always going to be secondary. The focus tonight was on Ottawa’s response to tragedy and it rose to the occasion. The Redblacks went out of their way to honour this week’s fallen soldiers and R-Nation did an incredible job singing O Canada for the entire country.
After a dazzling opening drive that made it look easy, the Redblacks failed to move the ball with any kind of consistency as flags and sacks killed numerous drives. Burris started out hot and finally threw a touchdown at home but quickly cooled off with overthrows and drops leading to two and outs. Danny O’Brien got a fair number of reps and after his first pass was picked off he responded in style, covering 102 yards in 2 plays for Ottawa’s second touchdown. Unfortunately Campbell’s flip-flopping between QBs seemed to not only hinder the offence, but also didn’t ride the hot hand as O’Brien was responsible for all the late positive momentum but was on the sidelines for Ottawa’s final two drives. The run game took a big hit when Williams was lost to injury though Finch continued to shine when called upon. No receiver made more than three catches or really stood out other than Scott Macdonell who looks and plays like he belongs. The offensive line had a tough game, failing to provide a clean pocket for the majority of the night and giving up four sacks. Perhaps the most frustrating play of the game was on 3rd and 10 with 45 seconds left. Mike Gibson dialled up a brilliant play that culminated with no receivers running past the first down marker. Kind of a fitting reflection of the Redblacks offensive performance this year. Equally infuriating was the decision to run the ball three straight times to end the first half when we only needed about twenty yards into field goal range.
Defensively the Redblacks more than punched above their weight, repeatedly bailing out an offence that put them in tough positions with five turnovers. Though it didn’t result in many sacks, heavy pressure forced Crompton to rush a number of throws and led to incompletions. Simmons and Pruneau led the a swarming defence with eight and seven tackles respectively. The defence seemed to provide the late spark needed to turn the tide in Ottawa’s favour with a forced fumble, but a blotched review took away the turnover and all the momentum the Redblacks had built up.
Special teams were good as Ottawa clearly won the field position battle. Maher was solid punting, showing off his ability to pin teams deep with accurate corner punts and a perfectly executed fake punt led to a huge first down and a 38 yard gain, and later a field goal. Finch looked dangerous every time he fielded a punt though he always seemed to be one block away from a huge return. Once again the referees were a major factor with more than a few scratching decisions. Both teams were flagged a number of times as a result of sloppy and undisciplined play and what turned out to be a pivotal play in the game was decided by a mind boggling call on a review. Twice Ottawa had reviews go against them, first when a pass interference call lead to Montreal’s first touchdown and second when the refs somehow found enough evidence to overturn a clear fumble, which was the call on the field. There’s no way around the fact that the zebras were a deciding factor in the game tonight, throwing 27 flags for 253 yards, with 14 of those going against Ottawa for 143 yards.
Rick Campbell made a few decisions that will be second guessed, such as his attempt to challenge a challenge, asking for a review of the review and again choosing to punt the ball away when down by a single score with two minutes left in the game. The incredible number of after the whistle penalties reflect poorly on him as it shows a lack of discipline. It’s obvious that certain guys are still buying in and giving their all, but some guys are playing for themselves and stupid, selfish, bonehead plays show that.
Next up for the Redblacks is the final home game of the year on Halloween night against the Hamilton Ticats. Ottawa will be playing for pride and looking to entertain a hopefully 9th straight sell out crowd. Make sure you come out and cheer loudly because it’s your last chance to show the team some love and to put an exclamation mark on our inaugural season.
– All images via CFL.ca and ottawaredblacks.com