The Redblacks have been on the cusp of victory several times this season. They have lost five games by 8 points or less, and there were multiple games they were driving down field late to try and take the lead only to fall short.
In this past week’s game against Hamilton in the first half alone they had a fumble, an interception, a turnover on downs, and two missed field goals. I’ve seen meltdowns before and this certainly had the feeling of a colossal one at that. Somehow it was still tied 3-3 going into halftime.
Shortly after the half Hamilton tacked on another field goal going up 6-3. Ottawa stormed back to score the first touchdown of the game on a 3-yard run by Ante Milanovic-Litre off right tackle. It wasn’t long until Hamilton scored their own touchdown. The key play on their drive coming from a blown coverage that left a wide receiver wide open in the middle of the field for a huge gain.
On the following drive they showed faith in Tyrell Pigrome and called his number again after three failed attempts in the first half. On first down he would not be denied as he surged into the endzone. Pigrome has impressed me so far this season overall and proven to be to be extremely valuable as the QB2.
Hamilton would later take the lead once again thanks to the budding connection between Taylor Powell and Tim White. White did his fair share of damage on the day being targeted 12 times on the day collecting 198 yards of offense and 2 touchdowns.
The Redblacks would again find the endzone this time thanks to the legs of their QB1 Dustin Crum. The Hamilton offense would answer back with a field goal. Leaving the game 24-20 in Ottawa’s favor. Hamilton answered back with ANOTHER Tim White touchdown reception from Taylor Powell. This would make the score 27-24 and it would remain that way until the clock read 00:00. Another one score loss for the Redblacks making it six on the season. Ottawa is just 31 points away from being a 9-3 team.
Blessman Ta’ala Makes an Immediate Impact
Ta’ala has already been a big time addition for Ottawa since being drafted. In his first game fully healthy since early in the season he notched a sack and a fumble recovery on the day doing his part to help his team in a hard-fought game. Ta’ala looks to be a solid player, and a building block to craft this defense around for years to come.
Run Defense Continues to Stifle Opponents Who Quickly Abandon the Run
James Butler was held to just 2.5 yards per carry on the day. In total the team ran for 93 yards on 21 attempts. If not for a big run on a wide receiver sweep to Tim White this would have amounted to 3.75 yards per carry on the day. After that run: 4.42 yards per carry.
Allowing big plays in both the run game, and passing game, this defense seems especially susceptible to creative offensive play calling. If there is one area of this team that thry really need to address, it’s the secondary.
This defense continues to allow teams to throw the ball all over the field. Taylor Powell finished the day 21 of 32 for 326 yards, 3 touchdowns and no in receptions. He also ran twice for 27 yards. Powell has played like a completely different quarterback the last two games, and he might be emerging as the long term answer for Hamilton.
BC should be another team that Ottawa’s defense shits down the run game against. Currently they are last in total rushing yards, running for 95 yards less than Hamilton (7th in rushing) on more carries 212 to 210. What’s concerning
Welcome Back Devonte Williams
Last season we saw glimpses of what Williams could be in this league but injuries, and depth didn’t allow many opportunities for the 5’9 170 pound back to carry the load. Ottawa unleashed Williams in week 14, and it was glorious.
Williams went on to lead the team in carries rushing yards, receptions, and reception yards. He finished the game with 17 carries for 146 yards, and 4 receptions for 69 yards. He would have to watch as his touchdowns were vultured by every other ball carrier however. Dustin Crum, Ante Milanovic-Litre, and Tyrell Pigrome all scored on the ground. They also looked to Pigrome three straight times on the one yard line only to walk away empty handed.
I understand the hesitancy to give Williams more of a role on offense given his size but at this rate at 3-9 having accounted for three of Hamilton’s five wins the Redblacks have no choice but to win more games than Hamilton, Calgary, and Edmonton to make the playoffs as it stands every one of those teams has beaten Ottawa at least once. Currently Calgary is 4-9, and Edmonton is 3-10. The frustrating part about this team is their ability to play up or down to any opponent. They can beat team’s like Winnipeg, and Calgary, only to turn around and lose to Edmonton, or Hamilton three times.
First Half Miscues
In the first half alone the Redblacks managed to leave at least 12 points on the board. With two missed field goals, an interception, the turnover on downs, and the fumble by Devonte Williams. This can not continue to happen if Ottawa is ever going to climb out of the hole they have dug for themselves. If we are being honest, Ottawa has a lot of talent on this team but currently mistakes, and the pass defense are overshadowing how good this team can be.
Injuries haven’t helped but the depth on this team has been truly remarkable. Dustin Crum was once our fourth string quarterback, sitting on the practice roster. At running back Demontre Tuggle has been on and off the active roster but has come up clutch when counted on, including a 100 yard rushing game earlier this season. Jovan Santos-Knox, and Blessman Ta’ala both missed a significant amount of time, yet he run defense didn’t miss a beat and kept dominating.
Unfortunately, this comes back to coaching. I am a huge Bob Dyce fan but so far it’s not looking good for his long-term prospects as Ottawa’s Head Coach. He has done a tremendous job of eliminating penalties, but I would rather have penalties than turnovers especially five in the first half alone. The fact that Ottawa only lost by 3 after all that happened in this game, is a testament to how talented this team truly is.
Heading into a matchup with BC, there is a lot of work to be done in Ottawa, but most if not all of it is in the mental side of the game. Eliminating turnovers, better clock management, and more creativity on defense all need to be be explored as soon as possible so Ottawa isn’t looking at another loss this weekend. BC is currently 8-4 and sitting in third place in the league, while Ottawa has fallen to 8th. If these turnovers and miscues continue against BC Ottawa could be walking into a blowout loss.
Keys to Victory Against BC
The Redblacks have to focus on three things in this game to make sure they win a game for the first time since July.
They must produce more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Last season Lorenzo Mauldin was the defensive player of the year for his ability to sack 16 quarterbacks. This season under Barron Miles he has 4 in 12 games. He will be lucky to have double digits by season’s end. This is across the board, given that Bryce Carter leads the team with 5. Douglas Coleman currently has 4. We need more creativity on defense to create pressure., specifically from the interior while keeping contain on the edge.
Contain Vernon Adams. Adams is one of the most athletic starting quarterbacks in the league. He has averaged 6.1 yards per carry or more the past two seasons, showing a knack for knowing when to take off and run. The problem is he can also beat you from the pocket, he is having one of his most accurate seasons to date completing over 68% of his passes. This is why getting pressure up the middle is key. Rush his timing, and keep him from escaping the pocket, and he has shown he will turn the ball over with 11 interceptions in 12 appearances.
We must find a way to slow down this passing attack. What has made BC so efficient is their ability to simply take what defenses give them. Adams has spread the ball around nicely with five different pass catchers over 400 yards. They also have had seven different players catch 22 or more passes this season. The Redblacks have struggled in this area all season, and they haven’t faced many offenses that can attack a defense like BC can. If you don’t rush Adams, he will carve up this secondary.
Where to Watch
For international viewers like myself this game can be caught at 7 pm on CFL+ for free. Canadian Viewers can find the game as usual on TSN. You can watch former Redblacks Head Coach Paul LaPolice talk about the team he coached last season, and his former assistant coach who took over for him.
Betting Odds and Prediction
The Redblacks are 9.5 underdogs in this game and most of that has to do with the defense. This match up on paper doesn’t favor Ottawa at all, and could turn into a nightmare quickly. The money line is +320 for Ottawa, and -110 for BC. Over/Under is 47 points. Ironically it wouldn’t shock me if Ottawa covered the spread in this game. This offense isn’t what I would call high scoring but like mentioned above they find ways to play up to the competition. Regardless I would be a fool to say Ottawa finds victory here.
BC Lions 36-Ottawa 28
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