The mood was grim in Ottawa heading into Tuesday’s matchup versus Edmonton, but Caleb Evans managed to put the team on his back in his first pro start. Giving this offense the much needed life it has been lacking so far, Evans has given a glimmer of hope to Ottawa’s 2021 season.
He was 15 of 22 passing for 191 yards and 3 scores while adding 59 yards on the ground as the Redblacks won 34-24. Now, with their first win of the year since the league opener, Ottawa will try to rally around their rookie QB down the stretch. So just who is Chris Evans? It appeared a desperate move to start the youngster in the wake of Dominique Davis and Matt Nichols struggles’ under center, but as our own Domenic Marinelli said “Undoubtedly, something needed to be done.”
For a team to struggle so mightily at such a crucial point in the CFL’s history did not bode well for the Redblacks, but after this upset there is hope that this team can bring itself back from the brink. Now, Ottawa has as many wins (2) as three other teams in the league, and perhaps there’s still time to turn the season around. Paul LaPolice sure thinks so.
What’s so remarkable about Evans’ big performance is that he did so in his first ever CFL action. Adjusting to the new rulebook is always an adjustment for young American players, especially quarterbacks. Having to track 12 defenders, and 11 teammates requires more mental processing ability, which is already the big question mark for any young QB. However Evans proved big enough for the moment, and to bring home such a signature debut win on a floundering team is even more impressive.
Of course, next week is a big test for this team’s new QB as they face the 4-3 Argos, who are 2nd in the East right now. Now, preparation for this game may be a bit off as they won’t know who’s starting under center as of yet. McLeod Bethel-Thompson has a big performance last week and has yet to throw an interception, but Toronto seems eager to run it with Nick Arbuckle, who could be back from a hamstring injury. Either way, Ottawa will have to play it’s best football to compete in this matchup, and a heavy burden is likely to fall on Caleb Evans’ shoulders. He was essentially the entire offense this week, and though game flow dictated that Ottawa rely less on the run, Tim Flanders was only able to garner 45 yards on 14 attempts (3.2 YPC).
Perhaps with the league now more aware of Evans, defenses will respect his arm more and open things up for the run, but he’ll have to come up big again either way. So just who is Caleb Evans?
The American prospect out of Mansfield, Texas played 4 years at the University of Louisiana-Monroe. A steady passing threat who threw for 9,520 yards, 58 TD’s and 34 picks with a 60.4 completion rate, he was also a dynamic threat on the ground. Judged as the Sun Belt Conference’s “Best Scrambler”, he rushed for over 2,134 yards and a whopping 36 TD’s in his college career.
Undrafted in the NFL, he made his way to Canada, caught on in Ottawa and the rest is history to be made. An electric quarterback, he’s a prototypical QB in the modern CFL and after such a big splash in the league, people are sure to remember his name. Hopefully, he can keep that momentum going into next week.