Ottawa Redblacks have time to sort it out and start winning games

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As frustrating as the young CFL season has been for the Ottawa Redblacks and their fan base, it’s not time to punch the panic button.

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While the Redblacks have put up a fight in all three of their games — and we know close doesn’t count for much in life — they’re plugging along with an 0-3 record.

The losses have all come against undefeated teams — Winnipeg (19-17 and 19-12) and, most recently, 34-31 to B.C. on Thursday night at home.

But here’s the thing: They have not yet played an East Division opponent and don’t until their fifth game of the season, on July 16 in Hamilton. Beating East opponents and jockeying for playoff positions is what really matters.

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Of the Redblacks’ final 14 games, 10 are against East opponents. Up next is a Friday game in Regina, against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

“As we start playing the East teams, we need to make sure we stay in the hunt for the playoffs,” Redblacks coach Paul LaPolice said. “Everything we want is in front of us. It’s unfortunate we’re 0 and 3, but we’ve got to keep our focus. The 0 and 3, that’s over. Now, we need to go 1 and 0. That’ll be the message for the guys. We’ll learn from the mistakes, we’ll take a day to dwell on it, then we’ll move on and get ready for Sask.”

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While Ottawa’s offence wasn’t sharp Thursday — full credit to the Lions defence — the Redblacks defence stepped up, with the exception of a couple of game-changing plays: A 50-yard touchdown run by B.C. quarterback Nathan Rourke on a quarterback sneak and a 71-yard touchdown catch by Keon Hatcher.

Rourke was able to bounce outside left and raced down the sideline into the end zone. Defensive back Money Hunter, who had a huge game with two interceptions (each setting up Ottawa touchdowns) and a fumble recovery, took the blame for the Rourke touchdown. It was his job to keep outside contain.

“We made mistakes, me specifically on that first touchdown,” Hunter said. “There are things we need to clean up, things I need to clean up.”

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On the third-quarter touchdown toss to Hatcher, with the Redblacks in a Cover Zero defence (a blitz, with man coverage), the receiver was far behind any of the defenders in what was a blown assignment.

On offence, the Redblacks sputtered. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli completed 14-of-27 passes for 162 yards.

The positive: After not scoring a touchdown for nine quarters, going back to the first quarter of Week 1, Ottawa got three of them Thursday on runs by Masoli, Caleb Evans and William Powell, who looked sharp in his return to the lineup with 55 yards on 11 carries.

“We have to be a bit more consistent offensively, we had too many two-and-outs,” LaPolice said.

“You want to make sure you’re still progressing,” Masoli said. “It would suck if we didn’t get any touchdowns. Obviously, our defence is playing very well. We want to give them more touchdowns to give us a bit more of a cushion. We’ll figure it out. We’ll get after it next week.”

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R Nation witnessed some bad football through 2019 and 2021, but this just seems different. It shouldn’t be overlooked in their first and second games of the season, the Redblacks put up plenty of passing yardage (Masoli threw for up 380 and 331 yards). That’s a far cry from the Redblacks’ offensive stumbles of a season ago.

“We have to figure out why we’re not getting it, why we’re not hitting this play or that play,” Masoli said. “We left a lot of plays out there. You have to figure it out. I think we’re there, you just have to turn it over and get the W.

“We have leaders in that room not letting anybody get too down about it. We should be mad and frustrated about it; I am, for sure. We’ve played two really good teams so you don’t want to hang your head low. It’s not like we’re getting blown out. All three games have been hard fought. We’ll bounce back, I know we will.”

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Football teams learn a lot about character through adversity so this will be a good test.

Asked about the mindset going forward, Hunter said: “Just keep our heads up and stay focused on winning one game at a time. Come to work every day to get better and be better. You come to win, that’s the only message you can give everybody right now.

“The offence has to step up to the plate, the defence needs to step up to the plate, everybody has to do a bit more. The first three games were us knocking the dust off. We’re going to get it right.”


It seemed like a logical move, right? When Justin Hardy was pulled from Thursday’s lineup at the last minute with a non-COVID-related illness, the Redblacks could just activate R.J. Harris? Actually, no. Because Harris was on the one-game injured list, he was not eligible to be added to the game-day roster. So linebacker Troy Young was the replacement … LB Frankie Griffin left Thursday’s game with a leg injury and could be sidelined for a while.

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Offence: C

The good: After nine quarters without a touchdown, the Redblacks got one, two, three of them. Two of them were set up by Money Hunter interceptions, which got the ball deep into B.C.’s territory. The Redblacks put together a nice drive to make the game close in the final minute. Also, nice effort by running back William Powell, making his season debut. The bad: Way too many two-and-outs. Didn’t look like there was much there for the Redblacks.

Defence: B-

Very nice interceptions by Hunter, who also had a fumble recovery when he punched the ball out of bounds after Justin Howell knocked it loose. But two huge mistakes — when a Nathan Rourke bounced outside to his left on a third-and-short quarterback keeper and went 50 yards for a touchdown, plus Lions receiver Keon Hatcher was left uncovered for a 71-yard touchdown.

Special Teams: B

Nice work by Ottawa’s cover teams. Terry Williams looked good on the return teams. Richie Leone had a 47.2-yard punt average (a strong net of 41.9). Kicker Lewis Ward made three field goals, but missed a convert.


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