Bob Dyce stepped into an unenviable position. He took over a team mid-season with a losing record. They have struggled to find consistency in many facets and rotated two different QBs with neither finding success. Despite all this, Dyce led his team to victory in his first game as head coach.
Quarterback Conundrum Solved?
Coach Dyce took over the team with their largest question being the quarterback position. As if by some miracle, Dyce rolled with Arbuckle as the starter, using Evans for his mobility when needed. Both men ended up playing a crucial part to the success of the team last night.
Arbuckle proceeded to dice up the defense completing 28 of 32 passes or 87.5%. He managed 229 yards passing with no touchdowns or interceptions. Adding one carry for two yards. Evans came in on several occasions and acted as a short-yardage runner for the Redblacks. In this role, he didn’t attempt a pass but ran seven times for 11 yards and 2 red zone touchdowns.
This performance by both men was exactly what the team has been looking for all year long. Despite rotating these two players at quarterback for several weeks before the coaching change, they simply couldn’t find success. One game with Dyce and they account for 28 of 32 for 229 yards, adding 8 carries for 13 yards and 2 touchdowns. While protecting the ball and preventing interceptions which have been a major issue for the team.
Big Time Performances
The Redblacks have been struggling to find a consistent rushing attack. They have had three different backs try their hand at carrying the load. While all three have had solid games, their most consistent back didn’t log a touch in this game.
Instead, it was Bennett who got the call. He would carry the ball nine times for 41 yards with a long of 9 yards on the night. He also caught all four of his targets adding 25 yards through the air. He was the most efficient runner on the evening for the Redblacks.
No one put on a bigger show than Justin Hardy. Hardy spent four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons before spending 2020 out of football. He was signed in July of 2021 by the Chicago Bears but released only a few weeks later spending another year out of the league.
It was this two-year hiatus that led Hardy to the CFL. Ottawa saw an opportunity to bring in a solid wide receiver with NFL-level talent who had all but fallen out of football. There’s a good chance Hardy turns into a long-term asset for the team. Last night he showed he could be the go-to target in this offense hauling in 11 of 13 targets for 79 yards. He would put up 44 yards in the YAC department. Hardy also contributed 3 returns for 42 yards giving him 121 total yards on the night.
Ward has been clutch as of late. Already headed into week 19, Ward has made 41 field goals on 49 attempts, adding an 18 of 20 conversion rate on point after attempts. Collecting 141 points on the season so far. In this Monday night matchup, Ward converted all three of his field goal attempts and one point after attempt. These 10 points ended up being the difference for the Redblacks.
Over the last five weeks alone Ward is 19 of 21 on field goals, and 6 of 6 on PATs. He has been a huge reason why the Redblacks have begun to find some success in the win column over the last two months of the season. If he can keep this up, it bodes well for Ottawa’s chances to close out the regular season on the right foot.
Defense Makes Some Plays
The Defense also got in on the fun. Linebacker Avery Williams, defensive back Abdul Kanneh, and Patrick Levels combined for 15 tackles and 3 forced fumbles. Antoine Pruneau would add 6 tackles and a fumble recovery of his own.
Adam Auclair returned from injury contributing on defense and special teams. Auclair has missed the last 2 months due to injury, and this was his first game back. Great news for the defense who needed him healthy.
What does this mean for the future?
Before we start getting ahead of ourselves this is nothing more than one step in the right direction. While it’s an encouraging victory, to say the least, it’s coming late in the year, under an interim head coach, that quite honestly might not even be in Ottawa next season. The main thing is, it appears the coaching change lit a fire under the team, hopefully, they can carry this momentum into next weekend and make it 2-0 for Coach Dyce.
My big takeaway from this victory is simple. Finally, the Redblacks had things fall their way. They seem to lose the majority of their games by one score. Their first three losses totaled just a 12-point deficit. I think the firing of LaPolice had more to do with how he lost the last two games than it did with his overall performance. They had dropped six games by seven points or less before this two game stretch. Then proceeded to lose by a combined 45 points over the last two weeks.
Amazingly enough, this victory by the Redblacks kept their playoff hopes alive for at least 3 more days. Had Ottawa lost and Saskatchewan won, the Redblacks would have been eliminated from contention. Now, Ottawa will have a rematch with Montreal on Friday and could control their destiny at this point. This time the Redblacks are at home, having won in Montreal on Monday night.
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