It’s only one win, but the way the Ottawa Redblacks went about it was most impressive.
Ottawa posted a 40-17 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Thursday night in its season opener with quarterback Trevor Harris throwing two touchdowns and 345 yards.
Harris was impressive going 26 for 36 with one interception, but the Redblacks defence was aggressive and unrelenting, making life difficult for Saskatchewan’s QBs.
“The big thing was creating those turnovers,” said Ottawa head coach Rick Campbell. “That’s kind of what we were missing last year, we did a lot of good things, but we kind of missed those big plays and (Thursday) you saw they were moving the ball and we came up with some big interceptions that totally kills the momentum for them.”
Things didn’t go so well for the Roughriders (1-1), who lost starting quarterback Zach Collaros in the second quarter as he underwent concussion protocol.
Sakatchewan head coach Chris Jones said there was no further update following the game.
Collaros, who was sacked in the first quarter, completed four of 10 passes for 106 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, in his brief appearance.
Brandon Bridge stepped in to replace Collaros and struggled, going 13 for 22 for 145 yards with one interception.
Jones gave full credit to the Redblacks for making life difficult for his QBs.
“We weren’t able to get pressure and they were,” said Jones. “They were able to get pressure on our quarterback and move us off our spot and again that’s the difference in the game.
“They affected our quarterback and we didn’t affect theirs.”
The Redblacks got significant contributions from rookie kicker Lewis Ward, who went 3 for 4 in his CFL debut in front of 24,224 fans, as well as receiver Diontae Spencer who had six receptions for 82 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown pass.
The touchdown pass came in the third quarter as Spencer was able to get behind Duron Carter and find some open space. The day before the game Carter had said he didn’t feel challenged by Ottawa’s receivers.
“That’s all he do is talk,” said Spencer. “I ain’t had to talk, the scoreboard, find the score that’s what I told him.”
Even after the game Carter still didn’t want to give too much credit to the Redblacks.
“Diontae is fast and I knew that and Trevor threw a great ball where I couldn’t get my hand to it,” said Carter. “It was a big play. I was trying to stay on top of him the whole time and I got a little antsy and he got behind me.”
When asked if Spencer created a challenge for him, Carter answered in his typical fashion.
“No, not at all. That’s what he does, he catches deep passes.”
Leading 25-14 to start the second half, the Redblacks padded their lead on the Spencer touchdown. Harris ran in for the two-point conversion to take a commanding 33-14 lead.
A four-yard pass to William Powell in the fourth quarter made it Ottawa 40-17
The only scoring for Saskatchewan in the second half came on a 35-yard field goal by Brett Lauther.
Ottawa got off to a solid start and never looked back.
The Redblacks opened the game with back-to-back field goals by Ward and kept Saskatchewan’s offence off the field for much of the first quarter, but with 31 seconds remaining Collaros connected with Jordan Williams-Lambert for a 32-yard touchdown pass giving the Roughriders a 7-6 lead.
Ottawa regained the lead as Jonathan Rose stepped in front of Shaq Evans for the interception and raced 55 yards into the end zone. A two-point conversion gave Ottawa a 14-7 lead, but Saskatchewan answered right back as Carter, playing at defensive back, had his own interception and returned the ball 28 yards to tie the game 14-14.
A 15-yard run by Powell midway through the second quarter and a 44-yard Ward field goal put Ottawa up 25-14 at the half.
Ottawa is back in action next Thursday as they head to Calgary to face the Stampeders, while Saskatchewan hosts Montreal June 30th.