A Look Back at the Redblacks Inaugural Season

By: Santino Filoso

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Before closing the books on the Redblacks 2014 season, it’s worth one final look back at how they got to their league worst 2-16 record and why they’ll be drafting 1st overall in May.

Game #1: 36-28 loss to Winnipeg

After exploding for 21 points in the 1st quarter, the Redblacks’ offense bogged down and managed only 7 for the rest of the game. Ultimately a 96 yard kick return TD and a late Bomber FG put this one out of reach.

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1st TD in Redblacks history

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Game #2: 27-11 loss to Edmonton

The Redblacks lost this defensive struggle on a few key plays and by gifting the Eskimos with incredible field position (11 penalties for 118 yards) on a day when both offences struggled. Jamill Smith had an open lane for a punt return TD but stepped out of bounds. The turning point came late in the 4th quarter with the Eskimo’s inside the red zone. Brandon Lang sacked Mike Reilly with a clean (and I really do mean textbook) hit, but was called for roughing the passer. Edmonton went on to score and pulled away in what had been a single score game until that point.

Edmonton Eskimo's Vs Ottawa RedBlacks

Seth Williams, Nate Coehoorn

Edmonton Eskimo's Vs Ottawa RedBlacks

Game #3: 18-17 win over Toronto

After 3177 days, CFL football returned to Ottawa with a roar as R-Nation unleashed nine years of pent up energy. Kicker Brett Maher made six FGs and the Redblacks hung on for their first win as LB Jasper Simmons sealed the deal with a dramatic interception on the final drive of the game.

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Game #4: 33-23 loss to Hamilton

In a game where the Redblacks’ offence finally came to life, the defence got shredded by the Ticats back up QB. The Dan LeFevour show single handedly beat the Redblacks as he piled up 470 total yards of offence, 361 in the air and 109 rushing.

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Ottawa Redblacks v Hamilton Tiger-Cats

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C.J. Gable

Game #5: 38-14 loss to Saskatchewan

This flag filled affair was over early as the GREENWHITES built up a 24-0 lead after 15 minutes and never looked back. Anytime the Redblacks seemed to be generating some positive momentum drops and/or flags killed their drives. But yeah, they did score the 1st TD at TD Place off a nice trick play.

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Thomas DeMarco, punter extraordinaire

Game #6: 38-17 loss to Calgary

Drops and flags continued to plague the Redblacks as they were simply outclassed by a much better Stampeder team. 1st round pick Antoine Pruneau got his first start and responded nicely by making 8 tackles.

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The football gods were not listening

Game #7: 10-8 loss to Edmonton

On a cold rainy night, the Redblacks defense shined, making two goal line stands, generating 4 turnovers, getting 3 sacks and not allowing a touchdown. After a late offensive drive appeared to have put the Redblacks in position to win, Matt Carter fumbled inside the Eskimo’s red zone. Using his arm and legs, Mike Reilly moved Edmonton into position to kick the game winning FG with 20 seconds left.

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Taking the coach’s advice, Elder really got his head in there

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Game #8: 32-7 loss to Calgary

Wearing their new Signature Look uniforms for the first time (minus the plaid helmets), the Redbalcks hung with the Stamps until late in the 4th quarter when a tired defence collapsed and allowed Calgary to put up 21 points in 4 minutes and 5 seconds. After another poor offensive showing, a potential QB controversy was avoided when Thomas DeMarco was hit low and tore his knee in the last minute of the game.

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Unsurprisingly, not flagged

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Game #9: 20-10 loss to Montreal

Running the ball only seven times + a number of questionable PI and roughing the passer calls against the Redblacks + Head Coach Rick Campbell’s decision not to kick a FG when down 10 with 1:30 left = another loss.

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Can you spot the Renegade and Bear?

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Game #10: 7-5 loss to BC

Frank Clair’s statue was unveiled and a torrential downpour caused a 20 minute rain delay. The Redblacks found another way to lose by fumbling a 4th quarter FG snap that would’ve given them a late lead.

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Possibly the easiest of his 31 career interceptions

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Game #11: 35-32 double OT loss to Saskatchewan

Despite finally exorcising their offensive demons, the Redblacks defense and a few non-calls by the referees cost Ottawa a much needed win. Weston Dressler’s 2nd quarter punt return sparked the GREENWHITES comeback but shouldn’t have counted as there were two illegal blocks, right in front of referees, that went unflagged. Conservative play calling in overtime backfired as the Redblacks played for the tie instead of going for the win but had their FG attempt blocked.

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Ottawa Redblacks v Saskatchewan Roughriders

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Ottawa’s hit of the year

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Game #12: 15-7 loss to Montreal

The Redblacks faced 3rd and 1 six times and went a pathetic 1-6. Three times the Redblacks ran out of shotgun on 3rd and 1 and got stuffed. OC Mike Gibson’s play calling was atrocious all game long, especially in the red zone. The game ends with Ottawa on Montreal’s 7 yard line when WRs fail to get lined up and Gott snapped the ball into Burris’ ankles, leading to a sack as time ran out.

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Game #13: 42-20 win over Winnipeg

Jonathan Williams’ break out game led to Ottawa’s 2nd win of the season as he exploded for 229 yards and 2 TDs, with 180 of them coming on the ground. The Redblacks’ defence chipped in with 3 interceptions and six sacks.

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After thrashing the Bombers, Ottawa’s CPR attempts failed to revive Winnipeg’s crushed playoff hopes.

Game #14: 41-3 loss to BC

Maybe it was the West Coast effect, but the Redblacks came out without a pulse and never recovered. The offensive was sluggish with no WR making more than two catches all game and the defence was gouged by Kevin Glenn and company.

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*Not pictured, BC’s Felions who launched Bighill skyward

Game #15: 16-6 loss to Hamilton

The defence was once again stout but ultimately a toothless offence and a number of penalties prevented Ottawa from getting its first win on the road. Rick Campbell’s baffling decision to punt the ball down 10 points on 3rd and 2 near midfield with 3 minutes left in the game caught many by surprise.

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 Game #16: 23-17 loss to Montreal

At the first major gathering after the shooting on Parliament Hill, the Redblacks played inspired football in front of R-Nation but ultimately came up short. The dual QB system of O’Brien and Burris proved to be slightly effective but the game turned on a clear 4th quarter fumble that was recovered by Ottawa but incorrectly ruled not a fumble, even after review. This led Campbell to challenge the challenge (which is technically legal under CFL rules). In the last minute of the game Matt Carter got behind Montreal’s secondary but dropped a long pass that would’ve been a touchdown.

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Game #17: 34-25 loss to Hamilton

The 9th straight sellout crowd at TD Place was treated to an exciting game of back and forth football on Halloween night, the last home game of the season. Unfortunately it’s damn near impossible to win a game when you have 5 turnovers (with 21 points coming off them), give up a 103 yard kick off TD return and throw two pick sixes.

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Game #18: 23-5 loss to the Argos

The Redblacks season came to an end with a whimper. O’Brien got the majority of reps at QB but struggled to move the ball and seemed to crumble in the face of pressure. Argos backup QB Harris had a hot start before Ottawa’s defence allowed only a FG in the 2nd half.

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@RedBlackGade

– All images from CFL.ca, ottawaredblacks.com, Ottawa Sun or Ottawa Citizen unless otherwise noted

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Positional Review of the 2014 Redblacks

By: Santino Filoso

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After having a few weeks to digest the Redblacks’ inaugural season, we here at Defend the R thought it was fitting to have a conversation and break down the team’s performance by position.

Quarterback:

@RedBlackGade: While Burris certainly didn’t get a lot of help from his teammates or offensive co-ordinator, he simply didn’t live up to his contract and I agree that for 400k, he needed to be better. Burris showed flashes but it seemed like every game there were at least 3-4 massive under/over-throws that just looked horrible. It was also disappointing not to see him run more, he looked hesitant to take off when the pocket broke down, but to be fair to him it broke down nearly every play. On the other hand, it’s hard for any QB to look good when his team has over 50 drops, that’s like two full games of completions, plus he was sacked once every ten times he dropped back. Doesn’t mean he gets  a pass for his performance but you can’t ignore those stats, hard to see any QB thriving with dealing with issues like that. Lastly I found it interesting that the only time Burris really seemed to get into a groove this year was when he was in the no huddle, calling plays himself. In terms of other QBs, I don’t think it’s possible to judge DeMarco as he had so few snaps before tearing his knee. O’Brien didn’t impress me. Yes he seemed to make some big TD throws and I do like his willingness to toss the deep ball, but if you go back and look at them most of those long TDs were actually short passes that turned into huge gains when receivers made guys miss. Obviously he didn’t get a ton of reps either but I thought he looked a bit uncomfortable in the pocket when faced with pressure and had a worrying habit or making the wrong read and tossing interceptions at bad times. Maybe it’s just rookie growing pains but his stat line of 2 TDs with 5 INTs and a 53% completion rate don’t scream QB of the future to me.

@ottroughriders: Yes, there are lots of reasons why Henry Burris struggled this year – play-calling, young receiving corps, dropped balls, weak offensive line – but we need to be careful not to deflect all the blame for those reasons. Burris was, quite frankly, a massive bust on the field. The $400k+ future Hall of Fame QB was just plain bad. Over an 18-game schedule, you have to expect a guy with his pedigree would be the difference in a game or two. He wasn’t. While there were decent drives or quarters here and there, on the whole we saw too many over/under-thrown balls and an unwillingness to use his feet. For a 39-year old, he can still move a little bit, but generally seemed unwilling to do so. For everything he does for the team off the field, I’m still ok with the Burris signing. He is an unbelievable ambassador for the league/team/city. But I also don’t think it’s unfair to question whether or not he can still hack it as a starting QB. Lots of evidence this year that perhaps he cannot. Hard to say too much about any of our other QBs, since none of them got much significant time in the field. Thomas DeMarco was lost to an ACL tear early on and Danny O’Brien’s reps were little more than spot duty. What we saw from both was a spark here and there, but nothing to hang your hat on. Since the season became a write-off fairly early, I still don’t understand why the coaching staff didn’t give O’Brien a full game’s reps.

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Running Back:

@ottroughriders: Shame how things turned out for Chevon Walker. Not just the injury or the fact he was badly under-utilized, but in some ways also the emergence of guys like Jon Williams and Jeremiah Johnson. Training camp 2015 could be a real dogfight. I harken back to the Redblacks 4th game of the season vs Hamilton at McMaster University (great little stadium, by the way). In taking to a couple of Ticats fans who spoke highly of Chevy, they were also quick to point out that he wasn’t great between the tackles. Perhaps coincidentally, after an explosive start, it was pretty much from that game forward that Walker (and the rest of the offense) struggled. Shame we only got to see Williams play a couple games in a row between injuries, but boy did he make an impression! He pretty much single-handedly got us win #2 vs Winnipeg, showing an ability to get the tough yards and out-run people to the outside. Fingers crossed for a full recovery. The sample size was even smaller on Johnson, but seemed to be some similarities between him and Williams. Wonder if that two-headed monster backfield would work? If nothing else, we’re at least pretty sure we now have one solid offensive position of depth at RB.

@RedBlackGade: Injuries, injuries and more injuries. It seemed like every time one of our backs got into a groove he got hurt. Does R-Nation even remember Chevon Walker? The Redblacks had seven different guys tote the rock this season but the ones who really stuck out to me where Williams, Johnson and Finch…in that order. Jonathan Williams especially won me over with this tough, no nonsense running. Jeremiah Johnson made the most of the few carries he got and Finch seemed to show a burst that the others lacked, despite his small stature. With Walker, Williams and Johnson all moving off major injuries it’ll be interesting to see who emerges as the lead dog of this pack next training camp. I also think having a new offensive co-ordinator will work wonders as Gibson had a habit of forgetting to run the ball. In a perfect world I’d like to see Williams or Johnson as our main guys to wear defences down with Walker and Finch subbing in for explosive/passing plays.

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Receivers:

@RedBlackGade: The receivers this season were easily the most disappointing aspect of the team. Though they finished the year on a strong note, Ottawa lost a number of close games due to drops and guys who didn’t know where to line up or who ran the wrong routes. Losing Kierrie Johnson to injury was a big blow as he seemed to be the only guy with real deep threat speed. I thought 2nd round pick Scott Macdonell excelled every time he was called upon, which was rarely. I really didn’t understand why he sat on the bench while a guy like Matt Carter kept getting starts. Carter had some nice catches but it seemed like every catch was followed up a drop. Marcus Henry was pretty frustrating too. Though he led the team in receptions, aside from one big game against the Ticats he disappeared for long stretches, where was he the last three games of the year? Wallace Miles is another guy who was incredibly exasperating to watch as a fan. Miles seemed to have multiple drops per game, yet always hauled in at least one deep circus catch every game. I don’t know if it was an attention issue or what but if he could catch half the passes thrown his way he’d been an all-star. Lastly guys like Jamill Smith and Dobson Collins didn’t do much to impress though they didn’t have a ton of opportunity either. Eddie Poole only played the last game of the season, despite being on the practice roster all year, and looked very good, but it’s hard to judge him based on a single start.

@ottroughriders: The receiver position has been identified by many as the weakest position on the 2014 Redblacks. In particular, the WR corps took a lot of heat for an abnormal number of drops, especially in the first half of the season. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some people to be excited about. An arm injury in Hamilton ended Kierrie Johnson’s season after 3+ games. To that point, Johnson was the closest thing to a game-breaker among receivers, notably hauling in the Burris long bomb that made the game-winning field goal in our magical home opener possible. Khalil Paden, added to the active roster around mid-season, quietly put together a strong year. Paden showed an ability to make the easy catches and the tough catches – something few others did. Don’t think there’s any question he’ll be back in 2015. Canadian Scott MacDonnell showed quite well in his limited opportunity in 2014. Among his 13 catches was a memorable catch-and-run first career TD at home against the Alouettes in October. Big body with nice hands. Hope to see him get more looks next season.

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Offensive Line:

@RedBlackGade: If the receivers were the biggest let down, the offensive line is a close second. Led by Jon Gott, the offensive line struggled in pass protection all season, allowing the QB to be sacked once every ten drop backs, a dismal stat for the group in charge of setting the tone. It routinely seemed like a jail break when Burris or O’Brien dropped back to pass and heavy pressure normally resulted in incomplete passes, sacks and turnovers. It’s hard to ask any QB to be accurate when he never gets a chance to set his feet. Nate Menkin was brought in to help anchor the line but ended up being a bust. Ottawa native Nolan MacMillan was thrown into the fire as a rookie but had the chance to play through his growing pains, hopefully the experience he earned helps improve his game going forwards. Late season addition Colin Kelly looked like a good fit at tackle and will probably be back next year. For all the struggles the offensive line had passing, they thrived on running plays, routinely knocking defences back on their heels as they pounded the ball between the tackles. Unfortunately the run game was often abandoned which meant that the hogs up front didn’t get a chance to tee off on defenders as much as they probably would’ve liked. Along with WRs, you’d have to think GM Marcel Desjardins will put in a call to every quality OL on the market this off-season.

@ottroughriders: No doubt, this group took a beating this year – both on the field and among the fan base. The key to any championship-calibre CFL team is a strong offensive line, and that means Non-Import/National/Canadian depth – something the Redblacks simply do not have yet. O-line weakness had to be a known concern coming into the season. And knowing that, one would have expected an offense designed to limit the damage. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and cost Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line coach Mine Gibson his job. Far too much of the playbook had Burris flat-footed in the shotgun as opposed to moving his feet and improvising. Have to think Ottawa will add 2-3 OL pieces via the draft or free agency.

Defensive Line:

@RedBlackGade: Maybe the backbone of the team. The defensive line was very good on most nights, both at containing the run and putting pressure on the QB. Keith Shologan, Zack Evans and Justin Capicciotti all had break out years and being Canadians, were ratio breakers. Mid-season addition Kalonji Kashama came on strong and is another Canadian who seems poised to be an impact player. Fan favourite Moton Hopkins is a free agent and it’ll be interesting to see if he’s brought back. This already strong group figures to get a boost with the return of Justin Phillips, who was lost very early this season. Though this group is already very deep, don’t be surprised if Desjardins brings in a pass rush specialist.

@ottroughriders: Very encouraging and the Canadian content is huge. Capicciotti was the biggest revelation of the group, taking home the top Canadian of the week award not once but twice in 2014. Nice to see that both of our 2013 red shirt DL draft picks – Kashama and Connor Williams – saw action this season. Props to Desjardins on that. Wonder if Kashama might be that future specialist to put the fear in opposing QBs?

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Linebackers:

@ottroughriders: Some amazing stories out of this group: Brown was found at an open tryout prior to the season, Simmons started the season on the practise roster, and “Crazy Legs” Pruneau was so good as a rookie he made veteran TJ Hill, a key free agent signing and then-defensive team captain, expendable by early August. If there was an award for the CFL’s top Canadian rookie (and shouldn’t there be?), Pruneau would have a new trophy for his collection. His performance has definitely made Desjardins’ draft day wheeling and dealing look like the work of genius.

@RedBlackGade: Losing veteran Anton MacKenzie during the pre-season should have been devastating, but thanks to a strong play from a group of young players, (Travis Brown, Jasper Simmons and Antoine Pruneau) a perceived weakness was actually a strength. I loved watching all of these guys play, especially Pruneau who seemed to always be around the ball and Simmons with his knack for making the big play when it was needed to get the defence off the field. It’s telling that Simmons was the Redblacks choice for team MOP and I really thought Pruneau had a shot at being the Eastern Rookie of the Year. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next season with a healthy MacKenzie and guys like Damaso Munoz and David Hinds pushing for more playing time. With a glut of talented LBs and only so many snaps to go around, it’ll be tough to keep them all happy but that’s a good problem to have.

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Secondary:

@ottroughriders: An up-and-down year for this group that featured a pile of CFL rookies, including Eddie Elder, Brandon McDonald, Abdul Kanneh, Jermaine Robinson and Brandyn Thompson. Inconsistency was to be expected for players getting their first taste of the nuances of the Canadian game. Gavins was maybe the best example of feast or famine – great some nights, pretty awful a few other nights. Seemed to get called for an unusually high number of penalties. Kanneh came on strong late in the season,  pulling down 3 INTs. Sick dreads, too. Veteran Jovon Johnson had a solid, if unspectacular year. His leadership will be an increasingly important asset. A year’s experience will do this squad well. I expect to see lots of familiar faces back in 2015.

@RedBlackGade: Agreed that this group had a roller coaster kind of year. Brandyn Thompson was the most consistent guy in the group and showed a nose for the ball. Once he became a regular in the line up I thought Abdul Kanneh played well for the most part, though did he did often get flagged for PI. I loved Jermaine Robinson’s game, he was aggressive and lowered the boom a few times on guys coming over the middle, but for some reason was a healthy scratch for a number of games. As you said Gavins had an up and down year. After being torched his first game he responded nicely and had a good stretch where he made a number of plays, though late in the season he seemed to regress. As for Jovon Johnson, I was honestly a bit underwhelmed. While he certainly did bring leadership to the group and was great with fans off the field, he didn’t make any big splash plays. On the other hand you could easily argue that if you don’t notice a DB it’s a good thing as he’s not being torched, so there’s that too. The main thing to keep in mind with this group is their youth, the experience they gained in their first year in the CFL should pay off in shades next season.

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General Manager:

@ottroughriders: For GM, positives were the impact of 2013 & 2014 draft picks in the first season – if Desmarais dressed/played, that would’ve made 7 that saw action. Acquiring Gott and drafting the best rookie (Pruneau) at #4 is a major coup as well. The negatives were not signing a significant WR (although partial credit for chasing hard at Dressler) and not jumping at Messam when he came available. Some argue that the team gave up on Paris Jackson too soon but I don’t think I agree, he obviously didn’t impress the coaches either.

@RedBlackGade: I think Desjardins did a fantastic job this year. At the time I was skeptical of trading the 1st overall pick away for Gott but in hindsight I think it was a good move. Also how can you not love swapping the perennial under performing Kevin Glenn for Pruneau? It’s not often that a GM gets the better of Wally Buono in a trade but Desjardins can brag that he did. I don’t fault Desjardins for not bringing in a top WR because there simply wasn’t anyone available. Plus, when one did hit the market, he offered the farm. The only thing that confused me a bit was the constant transactions bringing in more defensive linemen and linebackers, you’d have thought we’d have brought in more offensive lineman and receivers for looks as that was where we were weak but maybe there just wasn’t anyone out there.

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What do you think? Who stood out to you and what positions need to be upgraded?

Mike Gibson Makes History

By: Santino Filoso

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In a somewhat surprising move yesterday, the Ottawa Redblacks fired offensive co-ordinator Mike Gibson. Don’t get me wrong, the firing itself isn’t unexpected or undeserved, but the timing is, as most teams normally wait until after the Grey Cup to make coaching changes. Perhaps the Redblacks simply wanted a head start in finding his replacement. Here’s what head coach Rick Campbell had to say:

“Mike is a dedicated football man and I’d like to thank him for his efforts this year.  We continue moving toward growing into a winning football team. We have some names in mind but we’ll take the time to do our homework before hiring anybody.  We want to add a coach that will best help us to win football games.”

While it’s important to remember that in the end a man lost his job, this was simply a move the team had to make. Though every expansion team has growing pains and takes time to gel, Gibson’s offence looked out of sync all year. To be fair, the injuries at the running back position and over 50 dropped passes were out of his control and certainly didn’t help his cause, but too often the game plan and play calling was highly questionable (to put it politely). Gibson also had a tendency to get away from the run game, something that proved to be extremely effective all season…..when the Redblacks actually ran the ball. It’s ironic that a former offensive line coach was fired partly because he ignored the run game, you’d think he would’ve been the biggest advocate for it. Instead Ottawa ranked dead last in the league in rushing.

One of the biggest issues the Redblacks dealt with this season was poor offensive line play, Burris was sacked once every ten times he dropped back to pass. While Gibson can’t be blamed because he’s not the offensive lineman getting beat, his lack of adjustments, such as calling more screens or quick passes to get the ball out the QBs hands faster, would’ve resulted in less sacks and put his players in a better position to be successful.

Ultimately it comes down to cold hard numbers and this season’s offensive performance was simply ugly. Under Gibson, Ottawa averaged 14.1 point per game and ranked 8th in the league with 324 yards per game. The Redblacks put up a measly 278 points this year, 82 less than Montreal’s 360, the second lowest scoring team in the CFL. Most damningly, Ottawa failed to score a TD in seven, yes you read that right, seven games this season.

Perhaps what sealed Gibson’s fate was that the offence got worse over Ottawa’s final few games. Instead of finishing strong and showing any kind of significant improvement, the team limped to the finish, capping off the year by putting up 5 whole points against the Argos. R-Nation has been clamouring for Gibson’s head all season and clearly management heard their voices. Firing Gibson shows that the team knows they need to make big strides next year.

Gibson’s time in Ottawa will probably best be remembered by his puzzling calls in short yardage situations and for making Redblacks history as the first coach to be fired in franchise history. With him now out of the picture, there are a number of interesting candidates who might replace him. Guys like Argos receivers coach Jason Maas, Alouettes offensive co-ordinator Ryan Dinwiddie, Argos offensive co-ordinator Marcus Brady and former Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo have all been rumoured to be potential candidates. Notice a trend? Every one of them is a former QB. Landing a guy like Calvillo would be a home run for the organization as his winning pedigree speaks for itself, but I don’t think you’d want to immediately hand him the headset, he might be better off as a QB coach first for a few years. Current Ottawa GeeGees coach Jamie Barresi has his team playing extremely well and might be a dark horse candidate. Finally, current TSN broadcaster Paul LaPolice could be an option as his name always seems to pop up whenever there is an opening around the CFL.

Who would you like to see the Redblacks hire as their new offensive co-ordinator?

@RedBlackGade

Redblacks Recap: Ottawa goes out with a whimper

By: Santino Filoso

If you look closely, you can count every Argo fan on one hand
If you look closely, you can count every Argo fan on one hand

On Friday night, the Redblacks inaugural season game to an end in the soulless stadium once known as Sky Dome. An Ottawa team playing for nothing but pride took on an Argos squad fighting for their playoff lives in front of the biggest home crowd of the year (roughly 19,000) and two dozen members of R-Nation who made the trek down the 401. Ultimately Toronto jumped out to a quick lead and the Redblacks never recovered. With the loss Ottawa finishes the year with a 2-16 record while the Argos playoff hopes now rest on the outcome of the Montreal/Hamilton game on Saturday.

Pre-game:

– Toronto media felt it fitting to publicly bash the Redblacks and their players, even going so far as to advise the Argos to rest key players and not try hard as they’d win anyways. Said media outlet barely deserves to hold the title of “News” and rhymes with run.

– Teams pay tribute to Canada’s fallen soldiers with poppy decals on each player’s helmet

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– The Redblacks come out for their warmups wearing their Signature Looks instead of their normal white road uniforms

– After three botched coin flip attempts, the Redblacks finally win the toss and chose to receive

1st Quarter:

– Ottawa opens with a trick play as Roy Finch (#19) laterals across the field to Antoine Pruneau (#6) who picks up 31 yards on the return

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– Despite starting on their own 46, the Redblacks quickly go two and out after a short Jeremiah Johnson (#27) run, an offside penalty and an overthrow

– Brandyn Thompson (#25) blows up Toronto RB Steve Slaton as he reaches for an over throw, but the Argos made it look easy as back up QB Trevor Harris picks apart the Redblacks secondary. Soft coverage + weak tackling = an Argo touchdown

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BOOM!

-Henry² (Marcus Henry #16) wipes out his own first down catch by starting the play offside and on the next play Henry Burris (#1) panics in the pocket and tosses a pass right into Argo DL Tristan Okpalaugo’s hands who returns it to Ottawa’s 3 yard line. Burris 14th pick of the year might also be his worst pass of the season

– Chad Owens converts one play later with a 3 yard TD pass, Argos led 14-0 after 7 minutes of play

– Danny “Boy” O’Brien (#9) enters the game and hands off to Johnson for a 10 yard gain, but that’s quickly wiped out by a holding call on Jon “Dangerbeard” Gott (#63)

– Following an incompletion and Scott Macdonell (#83) 6 yard catch, Brett Maher (#3) punts for Ottawa

– The Argos drive down the field but Abdul Kanneh (#14) intercepts a deep ball in the end zone for a touchback

– Redblacks do nothing on offence going two and out for the 4th time in the quarter

2nd Quarter:

– Swayze Waters 39 yard FG makes it 17-0

– A promising drive that starts with a 19 yard romp from Johnson and a  6 yard catch from Macdonell ends when O’Brien is sacked on second down

Johnson was a threat, both times OC Mike Gibson decided to give him the ball
Johnson was a threat, both times OC Mike Gibson decided to give him the ball

– Chad Owens has an impressive 7 yard loss on the punt return

– The Redblacks’ defence flex their muscles and force a quick two and out

– A one yard loss on a run by Johnson and an O’Brien pass aimed at the top of the CN Tower Skypod leads to another two and out

– Ottawa’s defence bends but doesn’t break, eventually forcing a punt

– Showing off a lack of arm strength, O’Brien’s slow toss across the length of the field is picked off

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Not exactly what the coaches were hoping for

– After a Keith “I Like Hittin’ People” Shologan’s (#74) 2nd down sack, the Argos settle for a 22 yard FG

– Teams trade two and outs as both offences forgo the run and toss incompletions

– With 55 seconds left, O’Brien strings together his longest drive of the day, hitting Wallce “Boom or Bust” Miles (84), Macdonell and Finch for gains of 6, 10 and 10 yards. The half ends with a flag for unnecessary roughness on the Argos

Half-time:

R-Nation decides drinking socially won’t do and breaks out the heavy stuff because stats don’t lie

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U, G, L, Y, you ain’t got no alibi, you UGLY!

3rd Quarter:

– The Redblacks break the shutout when Maher’s 63 yard kick off is downed in the end zone for a single

– The Argos move the chains once before being forced to punt

– Different QB = same result as Burris re-enters the game but goes nowhere fast with an incompletion and sack

– Harris picks apart the secondary for a few easy first downs though the Argos are eventually forced to punt

– Burris puts together a few completions hitting Miles on back to back plays for gains of 11 and 12 yards, and newcomer Eddie Poole (#8) for a 9 yard gain. Burris also uses his legs to scramble for a 10 yard gain as the pocket collapses but the drive stalls when an open Matt Carter (#85) drops a deep pass. Maher’s punt sails 54 yards through the end zone for a rouge

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– The Redblacks defense continues to do it’s part with yet another two and out

4th Quarter:

– Ottawa finally enters Toronto’s red zone when Poole makes a great adjustment to haul in a  to a 42 yard bomb. A few plays later the refs miss a blatant face mask and following two straight incomplete end zone passes the Redblacks settle for a 22 yard FG

– The Argos answer with a 45 yard FG of their own to take a 23-5 lead

After an incredible first half, Harris cooled off
After an incredible first half, Harris cooled off

– On second down Burris is sacked for 10 yard loss so once again Ottawa punts

– Giving the Argos nothing, the defence forces another Argo two and out

The defence was much improved in the 2nd half
The defence was much improved in the 2nd half

– With 4:23 left in the game and O’Brien comes in at QB for the Redblacks

– Khalil Paden (#13) makes a great adjustment (and a few Argos miss) on a 77 yard catch and run, the longest play of Ottawa’s season. The great field position is wasted when O’Brien’s pass on 3rd down falls incomplete, leading to a turnover on downs

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– Argos go two and out

– Jamill Smith (#15)  fields the punt and decides to run backwards which predictably leads to a huge loss

– O’Brien’s 3rd down pass skips off the turf causing another turnover on downs

– The players on the defensive side of the ball look angry as they continue to punish Argonaut players with big hits and force a two and out

– Time expires as O’Brien alternates between throwing to nobody and hitting Patrick Lavoie (#81) for short gains

Final score: 23-5 for the team named after a band of mythic Greek heros

Key Stats:

O’Brien went 13 of 25 for 161 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT

Burris went 7 of 13 for 94 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT

Johnson had 2 carries for 19 yards

Paden made 2 catches for 89 yards

Justin Capicciotti (#93) made 5 tackles and 1 sack

Maher punted 9 times for 395 yards

Closing Thoughts:

The Redblacks season came to an end with a game that epitomized all of the things that have plagued the team this season; poor QB play, unoriginal play calling, untimely flags and a defence that bent but didn’t break. Leading up to the game, Head Coach Rick Campbell had talked of wanting to give O’Brien a good number of reps to see how he’d react and I think it’s safe to say he was at best, disappointing. O’Brien struggled all night, making a number of bad throws and tossing an ugly interception that seemed to show a lack of arm strength. Worse, he appeared to crumble in the face of pressure, often running backwards as he threw the ball out of bounds. That being  said, Burris wasn’t much better as he also threw an ugly interception but the only time the Redblacks strung together any kind of drive was with him under centre. Johnson and Finch ran hard, all FOUR times they were called up to run the ball. Yet again, OC Mike Gibson completely abandoned the run game, proving that without a doubt he should be the first person out the door when the team starts handing out pink slips. The offensive line had a terrible game, failing to protect either of the QBs, getting manhandled by Toronto’s front 7 and failing to pick up the blitz. In terms of WRs Paden had one beautiful catch and run and Poole looked very fast, though his QBs rarely had time to get him the ball. Macdonell showed some flashes early but after the first quarter never got any more playing time. Henry², Ottawa’s leading WR, was invisible, completly disappearing and rarely getting a look. I think it’s safe to safe that the position with the highest turnover in the off-season will be the WR group, as too many guys simply didn’t get it done. I know I’ve harped it him a lot, but it’s because he’s deserved it, once again Gibson’s play calling set the team up for failure. When your offensive line is struggling you need to adapt your calls and help them out, by calling quick passes with shorter drops and by pounding the rock. Calling 4 runs in a game is criminal, especially when guys like Johnson and Finch had proven to be highly effective downhill runners. Gibson’s vanilla offence was on fully display in the red zone, as he called the exact same corner fade route three times, and every time it was either over thrown or broken up. Why not a screen, or a draw, or a quick slant?

If there’s anything to take solace in after this frustrating season, it’s the Redblacks’ defence. On another night that the offence was a no show, the players on the defensive side of the ball recovered from a weak opening half to limit the Argos to a single FG in the final 30 minutes of play. Damaso Munoz (#45), Thompson and Capicciotti lead the way with 5 tackles each though guys like Jasper Simmons (#31) and Pruneau also looked strong. The biggest issue for the defence in the first half was that they simply couldn’t get any kind of pressure on Harris, allowing him to sit back and torch a secondary who had one of it’s weaker games. From a fans perspective is was nice to see the defence throwing some crushing hits and playing angry, it really stood out in contrast to an offence that never showed any sense of urgency. Going forward there’s a number of strong pieces for the team to build around and if defences do win championships then the Redblacks are headed in the right direction.

Ottawa’s special teams tonight were spectacular. Maher made the field goals he was supposed to and punted well. Great special teams coverage on the league’s most dangerous returner, ChadOwens, meant that for the majority of the night Ottawa won the field position battle. The opening play lateral to Pruneau was well executed and a throwback to the successful tricks plays used so effectively earlier this season. Smith really struggled on punt return, too often going backwards and giving up a ton of yards in a vain attempt to look for an opening, by this point in the year he should know better.

The Redblacks closed out their season with a whimper, barely putting up a fight against a desperate Argo team. Apparently numerous players read the reports from the Toronto media bashing them yet that emotion clearly didn’t carry over into the game as this one was out of reach early in the first quarter. Though the Redblacks season can be described as nothing but a disappointment, the future seems bright with many building blocks already in place. Guys like Scott Macdonell, Antoine Pruneau, Jasper Simmons, and Justin Capicciotti are poised to have big roles going forward. The real MOP this season was Ottawa’s fans, who sold out 9 straight home games, packing TD Place with 24,000+ despite their team’s record. The support will carry over to next season but expectations will be raised, the team cannot hide behind the expansion label going forwards. GM Marcel Desjardins figures to be busy this off-season addressing weaknesses such as the offensive line and the WR corps and perhaps adding a few QBs to the mix. Who do you think the Redblacks should target in FA and in the draft?

@RedBlackGade

It’s a social thing; The man behind @Redblacks, Mat Smith

Having a social media presence is pretty well a requirement for all modern businesses. Few, however, use it to its full potential, actively engaging with fans and customers. In less than a year, Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group’s social media coordinator Mat Smith and the Ottawa Redblacks have established themselves as a model for social media presence in pro sports. Mat was good enough to sit down with us to discuss the job, his path to OSEG and some thoughts on the Redblacks inaugural season.

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@OTTRoughRiders: What is your background? Hometown, school, career?

MS: I come from a military family, so I moved around a lot as kid. Our stops included Israel, Barrie, Virginia, Winnipeg, and we finally ended up in the place I’m proud to call my hometown – Kingston, ON. I grew up playing soccer and football as my two main sports.

I graduated with a degree in Sport Management from Brock University in St. Catharines.

In the first semester of my fourth year, I completed an internship with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment in their community relations department. I was responsible for scheduling, tracking, and attending Raptors player appearances, and assisted in the launch of MLSE’s “Shape Up” – a program that leverages the MLSE athletes to help provide teachers with daily physical activity resources.

After completing my degree, I held positions in Alberta with the Edmonton Oilers/Edmonton Oil Kings and BMO Team of the Week.

How did you end up with OSEG?

Upon returning to Ontario from Alberta, I e-introduced myself to every team in the Ontario Hockey League. Within two weeks, I accepted a position as Project Coordinator with the Ottawa 67’s, where I wore several different hats including social media, media relations, community relations, and sponsorship activation. When the 67’s organization transitioned to OSEG, I was promoted to Digital Media Coordinator.

Biggest surprise working for a professional sports franchise?

The amount of moving parts that go on behind the scenes to make everything run smoothly. I wasn’t exposed to it as much when I worked for the Oilers, so I’ve really learned a lot this season.

Give us a couple of your highlights from this inaugural season.

Too many to count, but here are some notable ones:

First mini-camp in Richmond, Virginia; winning our home opener; selling out seven straight home games (UPDATE: all nine); the nail-biter vs. Saskatchewan; getting to visit every stadium in the CFL; interacting with our players, coaches, staff, and fans on a daily basis.

It’s been a fun ride.

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Mat gives Henry Burris the #ALSIceBucketChallenge treatment

Other than the losses, any lowlights you want to mention?

One lowlight that sticks out to me would be the amount of injuries we’ve had. It was tough to watch guys like Justin Phillips, Thomas DeMarco, and Chevon Walker suffer season-ending injuries.

Tell us about the OSEG social media strategy

The OSEG social media strategy is based around the following five principles:

• Being human
• Engaging
• Accessible
• Establishing relationships
• Being timely

We’re focused on creating a strong sense of community on our social channels. We want our channels to be a place where fans feel appreciated, involved, and excited to be a part of.

How do you personally approach it?

As the one who designed our strategy, I try ensure that we hit all five points as much as possible. I like to add a bit of my own personality to our channels (Seinfeld references, friendly back-and-forth with other teams, etc.), while also trying to take our fans behind-the-scenes as much as possible. I’m also a strong advocate of incorporating fan-generated content into social media because it gives a unique perspective that I wouldn’t necessarily otherwise be able to provide. Following a game or big event, sometimes I’ll stay on Twitter for an hour or two just to engage with fans that I missed.

23,400 Twitter followers, 16,000 Facebook likes, 4,800 Instagram followers. Impressive numbers for a young franchise. What do you like about each of these formats? How are fans/followers different on each?

The numbers are a really accurate representation of how strong our fan base is. What I love about social media is that it’s a two-way conversation. I also get to see and hear the different range of emotions felt by our fans.

For me, Twitter is the best platform – you can share videos, images, gifs, and articles – all in 140 characters. It’s the platform that gives me the chance to reach the largest possible audience AND it’s the best medium to engage with fans. Since information is digested (and lost) so quickly on Twitter, it really forces me to get creative with content, which is the best part! It’s also the platform where I see the broadest range of demographics amongst our followers.

Instagram is definitely the platform that reaches the youngest fan base. I think images, especially in sport, are incredibly powerful. Instagram is a great way to showcase the best moments throughout the year.

Facebook tends to skew to an older demographic, so it’s an effective way of reaching long-time Ottawa football fans who might not be on the previous two platforms. Content tends to last longer on Facebook, so it may warrant one or two posts a day, rather than that 10-15 daily pieces of content that Twitter commands.

What are the things that have really worked so far?

Behind-the-scenes content, engaging with fans about football and non-football related topics, and making our players accessible to fans on all platforms. We’ve also established a team of volunteers that gather fan content on game days. This helps me be in seven or eight different places at once and showcase all aspects of our game day experience. The OSEG staff has also been very helpful all year – a lot of them are on Twitter and share experiences from all different areas of the organization.

Who at OSEG gets the credit for the #RNation hashtag?

To be honest, I believe I first saw the #RNation hashtag used by either @RedblackGade or @OTTRoughRiders.

(According to @RedblackGade, the #RNation term originated on the RenegadeNation.ca forums, but he may have been one of the first to use it on Twitter. All credit to the Redblacks for running with it the way they have, though. Very well executed.)

I thought it was a great way to capture Ottawa’s football history (Rough Riders, Renegades, and now, REDBLACKS). It was also fitting for Ottawa as the Nation’s Capital, “#RNation” = “#OurNation”.

Without giving away too many secrets, what are some of the future plans/strategies for increasing fan interaction on social media?

We’re looking into some cool ways to showcase fan-generated content in-game next season; video board, social wall, interactive fan voting, etc. We’ve provided high-density wireless at TD Place to help facilitate our social community and our bandwith is built to handle future innovations. We’re also further establishing our relationship with Twitter to ensure we have the ability to launch new applications as soon as possible.

Any suggestions?

Any favourite CFL moments growing up?

When I lived in Virginia, I attended a Baltimore Stallions home game at Memorial Stadium – not too many people can say that.

Favourite on-field moment of the season?

Winning our home opener. Everything about that day was perfect – the weather, sold-out crowd, and comeback capped with a game-winning field goal by Brett Maher. I’ll never forget it.

Favourite off-field moment?

The most memorable moment for me was at our pre-season game in Saskatchewan. My parents, Laurie and Bruce (both long-time Southsiders), drove to Regina from Kingston, ON to witness the first REDBLACKS game live. This was also my first time working a professional football game, so spending time with them before the game was really special.

Biggest surprise being around the players and/or on the sidelines?

Our players are really down to earth. I’ve been around some prima donnas in the NHL/NBA and our guys are the complete opposite.

Biggest sideline surprise: It is LOUD down at field level. If anyone tries to say that crowd noise doesn’t affect the game – they’re wrong. I sometimes find it difficult to talk to the person next to me, so I can’t imagine how tough it is to keep 12 players on the same page.

Your favourite element/area of TD Place?

Location – there’s nothing else like it in Canada. It’s a unique arena/stadium combination that’s situated next to one of our country’s most beautiful landmarks. I’m also partial to the Frank Clair statue on the south side. I think it’s cool that he’s always watching over the field.

If you had to choose, which Redblacks jersey would you buy – red, black or white?

My favorite jersey is the black home look, but I’ve already purchased a white road jersey with “Ottawa” and the number 14 on the back.

And since I’m the resident jersey geek, I have to ask: how long before we see a Rough Rider-style throwback jersey?

It’s an idea that’s been discussed internally, but honestly, I’m not sure. I’d also like to see a throwback jersey at some point.

Can you fill us in on what happened with the plaid helmets?

The manufacturer couldn’t design the helmets to the specs we wanted.

Tell us something that totally surprised you about a member of the Redblacks team or coaching staff.

I was completely surprised to find out that Henry Burris is a wine connoisseur. He also owns a restaurant in Calgary called Brooklyn Pizzeria & Taps.

Coolest story you’ve heard from a former Rough Riders or Renegades fan/ticket holder.

My parents said that a fan ran out onto the field at a Rough Riders game, climbed the uprights, and wouldn’t get down until he could speak with Jo-Ann Polak. She actually came down, negotiated with him, and finally got him to climb down from the uprights.

Favourite visiting stadium you’ve been to?

Tough choice, but I have to go with Investors Group Field in Winnipeg. BC Place in Vancouver is a close second.

Advice to anyone wanting to get into pro sports?

Here are the pieces of advice that have really helped me:

• Don’t think any job is below you
• Volunteer and network as much as possible
• Make a list of teams you want to work for and apply to those organizations, regardless of whether or not they’re hiring. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the response.

Anything else you want to share with Redblacks fans?

More than anything, I just want to say thank you. #RNation has been supportive, loud, and so engaged on social media. It makes my job a lot easier when I get to work with such a great fan base on daily basis.

If there’s anything you’d like to see more of on social media, feel free to let me know at @REDBLACKS or @smith_mat.

Thanks again for your time, Mat.

@OTTRoughRiders

(Photos courtesy of Mat Smith)

Redblacks Recap: Ottawa Implodes as Ticats Claw Out Win

By: Santino Filoso

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On a cold, windy, Halloween night, the Ticats rolled into town for the Redblacks final home game of the season. As has come to be expected, R-Nation packed TD Place, selling it out for the 9th straight time and proving once and for all that Ottawa IS a football town. Though the home fans were treated to a much more exciting game than the usual defensive struggle they normally see, ultimately the Redblacks lost once again.

Pre-game:

– In yet another classy move, OSEG continues to link Ottawa’s storied football history to the present by renaming and dedicating the press box to long time Rough Rider announcer Ernie Calcutt

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– R-Nation goes all out to get into the Halloween spirit

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Hamilton Tiger-Cats v Ottawa RedBlacks

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– Good to see that PA announcer Mike. Sutherland is recovering well from his recent plastic surgery

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– Players gather at centre field to salute the fans, who once again do their part, selling out TD Place for the 9th straight time

– Ottawa wins the coin toss to move their toss record to 5-14 on the year

1st Quarter:

– Roy Finch (#19) returns the opening kick off 38 yards to start the game

– Ottawa goes two and out after FB John “Boom” Delahunt (#49) makes a 4 yard catch and a deep pass for Matt “Matty Ice” Carter (#85) is broken up

– A beautiful punt by Brett Maher (#3) and great coverage pins the Ticats inside their own 10

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– Jovon “The Vet” Johnson (#2) comes roaring in on the corner blitz and brings down Collaros for his second sack of the year

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– Catches by Carter and Wallace “Boom or Bust” Miles (#84) help the Redblacks march into the red zone but the drive stalls when Burris is sacked and overthrows an open Henry² (Marcus Henry #16) in the end zone

– Maher pushes his 29 yard FG wide right but gets the single so Ottawa takes a 1-0 lead

– Heavy pressure forces Collaros to throw an incompletion on 2nd down and the Ticats go two and out

– Danny “Boy” O’Brien (#9) enters the game and immediately hits Henry² for a 20 yard gain

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– The Redblacks cover 86 yards in 7 plays for a touchdown on Jeremiah “Flow” Johnson’s (#27) back as he gets it done with hard running and a beautiful executed screen. O’Brien is shaken up on the drive after being levelled while completing a pass

Jeremiah Johnson, Colin Kelly

2nd Quarter:

– On 2nd down, Travis Brown (#43) and Jermaine Robinson (#32) meet at the QB and sack Collaros for a big loss, Ticats come away with nothing after a long drive

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– O’Brien is back in at QB and Johnson takes off for 21 yards. The drive is cut short when Finch catches a short pass and fumbles. Ticats knock it out of bounds, recover and take over at Ottawa’s 29

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– Hamilton makes the most of the turnover two plays later when back to back run plays lead to a touchdown

– The short kick off is fielded by 6 foot 6 inch DL Marlon Smith (#98) who actually looks surprisingly smooth as he scurries for a decent return

Defensive lineman? Or Dante Hall in disguise?
Defensive lineman? Or Dante Hall in disguise?

– The QB rotation continues and Burris finds Carter three times on the drive for gains of 19, 11 and finally 34 yards for a TD as Carter carves up the Ticats secondary like a pumpkin

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– All the energy and momentum is sucked out of TD Place when Brandon Banks takes the ensuing kick off for 103 yards for a touchdown

– After a 7 yard run by Johnson, Burris scrambles for his life, barely avoids the sack and throws the ball away

– Newcomer David Hinds (#20) is flagged for roughing the passer when he slightly nudges Collaros

– With no one open and under heavy pressure, Collaros forced to throw the ball away on 2nd down

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– O’Brien takes the reigns of the offence and after hiting Delahunt for a 15 yard gain and  Johnson for anther 10,  an overthrow is picked off and returned 46 yards

– Justin Capicciotti’s (#93) ninth sack of the year is an 18 yard loss and on 3rd and 33 the Ticats punt

– Jamill Smith’s 28 yard punt return is wiped out by an objectionable conduct call on Ottawa’s bench

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– Johnson runs for 6 before O’Brien takes a knee to end the half

Jeremiah Johnson

– Redblacks lead 15-14 after 30 min

Half-time:

– Big Joe’s anthem plays

– This guy wins best costume and $1000

3rd Quarter:

– Ticats get the ball and march down the field thanks to sloppy arm tackles and flags. Capicciotti gets his 2nd sack of the night but Hamilton takes the lead with a 22 yard FG

– With Burris in at QB the offence puts together one of it’s best drives of the night; Johnson picks up 28 yards on two runs, Delahunt hauls in an 11 yard pass, Smith gains 9 yards on sweep, Burris gives the Redblacks a fresh set of downs after a QB sneak and Johnson caps the drive off in style, juking 25 yards into the end zone, making Ticat defenders look silly

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– The defence flexes it’s muscles quickly forcing another Ticat two and out

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– O’Brien has a series to forget as he fumbles the handoff on first down before throwing a pick six on the next play. Ticats lead 24-22

– With Burris in at QB, the Redblacks go two and out following two incompletions as OC Mike Gibson decides that running the ball isn’t a good idea in a tight, one score game

– Brown gets the ball back for Ottawa when he absolutely blows up Terrell Sinkfield and forces a fumble that is scooped up by DL Moton “The Motivator” Hopkins (#95)

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– Johnson runs for a short gain and Burris is sacked on 2nd down. A bonehead after the whistle flag on OL Colin Kelly (#67) pushes the Redblacks back an extra 15 yards

4th Quarter:

– Hamilton RB Mossis Madu wobbles off the field after getting walloped by a trio of Ottawa defenders

– Ticats increase their lead with a 28 yard FG

– Miles season is summed up in a nutshell as he drops an easy pass before making two tough catches over the middle for gains of 19 and 12 yards respectively. Maher’s 42 yard FG makes it 27-25

– Smith blows up a run for a loss and Collaros throws an incompletion as the Ticats go two and out

– Inside the shadow of his own goal posts, Burris is sacked and then proceeds to show that anything O’Brien can do he can do better by throwing his own pick six

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– HC Rick Campbell decides to keep O’Brien on the bench and Burris trots back out (after the game we learn that O’Brien was hurt)

– Ottawa is saved by the flag when a sack is wiped out by a roughing the passer call

– Carter gets way behind the defence but a sure fire touchdown falls incomplete, rolling off his fingertips

– Khalil Paden (#13), Patrick Lavoie (#81), Miles and Carter all make catches to get the Redblacks into the red zone but OC Mike Gibson decides to run the ball on 2nd down which results in a 4 yard loss

On 3rd and 7, down by 9 with 1:47 left and on the Ticat’s 19 yard line, Campbell chooses NOT to kick the FG to cut the lead to 6 and instead Burris’ pass is picked off in the end zone

– Hamilton strings together a few first downs to run out the clock

Final score: 34-25

Key stats:

Burris went 15 of 22 for 222 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs

O’Brien went 6 of 10 for 83 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs

Johnson had 17 carries for 131 yards and 2 TDs

Carter made 5 catches 81 yards and 1 TD

Capicciotti made 4 tackles and 2 sacks

Maher punted 4 times for 180 yards

Closing Thoughts:

Once again the Redblacks take two steps forward and two steps back. It’s hard to win CFL games and it’s damn near impossible to win when you have 5 turnovers (with 21 points off them), give up a 103 yard kick off TD return and throw two pick sixes.

The dual QB attack was effective early but seemed to hinder both QBs as the game worn on, as neither one seemed to be able to settle into a rhythm, both overthrowing receivers and tossing interceptions. A case could be made for either QB having the better game but in the end neither did enough to protect the ball. The run game was extremely effective as Jeremiah Johnson tore through the Ticats like a knife through hot butter. Inexplicably, in spite of the run game rolling on all cylinders, OC Mike Gibson sometimes got away from the run which lead to two and outs. The WRs were led by Miles and Carter and once again though Carter had a strong game, ultimately he will be remembered for the late drop when he was wide open. Disappointingly, promising rookie Scott Macdonell (#83) never saw the field, despite proving his value in recent weeks. The shuffled offensive line looked very good when run blocking, opening up huge running lanes for Johnson to exploit but failed to pick up the blitz in pass protection several times, giving up sacks in crucial situations. Mike Gibson chose not to take advantage of Hamilton’s aggressiveness with bland play calling, calling only one screen and no draws or misdirection plays. Still, it was one of the team’s better offensive performances on the year, though much of the good work they did was undone with interceptions and fumbles.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Redblacks made the Ticats grind out every drive. Collaros was under duress for the whole game but often hung in the pocket just long enough to take a hit and deliver the pass for a first down gain. The Redblacks routinely blew up plays in the backfield for losses, setting up 2nd and long and allowing them to blitz and tee off on Collaros. Though they didn’t score, the unit generated another turnover and bailed out the offence after O’Brien’s first pick, sacking Collaros to push the Ticats out of FG range. Technically the defence only gave up 13 points with 14 of the Ticats 34 coming off interceptions taken to the house and 7 from a kick return.

Special teams again winded up costing Ottawa big time. As has been the case all season long, Maher punted extremely well but shanked a short FG, points that would’ve come in handy late in the game. The most glaring error was the team surrendering yet another long kick return touchdown, the 6th return touchdown given up by the Redblacks this year.

Head Coach Rick Campbell will take some flak this week for another puzzling decision. Late in the game on 3rd and 7 when down by 9, he chose to forgo the FG and instead go for the end zone. If the Redblacks kick a field goal at that point they extend the game, keep hope alive and give their offence another shot. Instead, by choosing to go for it, the game was effectively over the second the Redblacks didn’t convert that play. As has happened the past few weeks, Campbell looked like a rookie coach simply blowing an important decision late in the game. Clearly he’s still learning how to properly manage a game but as a fan it’s much more frustrating to see a coach make a mistake than a player.

Looking back, this year will be a disappointment but it’s important to remember that this was Ottawa’s 10th loss by 10 points or less this season. The Redblacks may have lost 15 games but they were almost never blown out. Thankfully their two wins came at home and it was fantastic to see the community of Ottawa embracing their new team, selling out every home game. Many of the players on the team played their last game in front of R-Nation tonight and they’ll look back on their time in the Nation’s Capital with fond memories. Next up for the Redblacks is a date with the Argos in the soulless stadium once known as the Sky Dome. Ottawa will potentially have the opportunity to knock the Argos out of playoffs and with jobs on the line you can be sure the team will bring their A game.

@RedBlackGade

P.S. Hats off to the team for rewarding loyal fans by having players literally give the shirts off their backs to fans after the game

– All images via CFL.ca, Ottawaredblacks.com and the Ottawa Citizen