After blowing a 24-point lead in a wild 42-41 last-second loss to the Toronto Argonauts, the Ottawa Redblacks tried to make sense of what just happened.
For quarterback Trevor Harris, the pain didn’t end with the final whistle Thursday although he said the Ottawa team backbone is strong enough to withstand the result.
“It’s going to bother us for a day or so,” said Harris. “And if it doesn’t, then shame on you. This stings, (it’s) a punch in the gut, right. But it’s not going to define our team and it’s not going to spill over in the next few days.
“But we’ve got to let it hurt, because it does.”
Ottawa (4-3-0) led 28-7 at the half, reeling off 20 unanswered points in the second quarter. But Toronto (2-5-0) outscored the Redblacks 35-13 in the second half, with 22 of those points coming in the final quarter.
In the first half, Argo drives ended in punt, interception, punt, TD, punt, punt, turnover on downs, fumble and a drive that ended with time running out. Add to that a fumble on a punt return that led to an Ottawa TD.
Harris completed 18-of-21 passes for 245 yards and two TDs in a first half that looked like Ottawa was going to have an early night.
But the worm turned in the second half, despite Ottawa holding a 38-14 lead in the third. The Toronto drive chart read TD, punt, TD, TD, FG, TD, TD and TD as quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, in his first CFL start, got on a roll.
“It’s just tough,” repeated Ottawa wide receiver Diontae Spencer, who hauled in eight passes for 145 yards and had 104 more yards on punt returns.
“We played a good game, we just couldn’t finish it at the end,” added Spencer, who like Harris is a former Argo. “I don’t think this is going to affect us in the long run. If anything, we know we should have come out here and dominated for four quarters and blown this team up. To be serious, we should have blown this team up. It shouldn’t even have been close.
“But as a team we’ve got to learn when things get tough, just hold our head (up) and just keep moving forward. But we’ll be fine.”
Coach Rick Campbell, his jaw clenched tight, offered no excuses for a game that got away.
“Credit them. They made plays to win the game,” he said. “I never view it, and our team never views it that we had the game in the bag. It’s the CFL and a lot of stuff happens. That’s why people like this league.
“They made more plays than us to win the game at the end. Both teams had opportunities to make plays to win it. They made more plays than we did. ”
For the neutrals, it was CFL excitement at its best. The two teams combined for 851 yards net offence. There were six turnovers. And special teams were thrilling all night long for the small announced crowd of 11,857 at BMO Field.
Toronto has now won eight of 11 meetings against Ottawa dating back to 2014, with nine of those games decided in the final three minutes.
Campbell said the loss would be instructive, reminding reporters that his team had been the one celebrating in previous games.
“I’m way more interested in people, how they react when you’re facing adversity and you’re losing. You learn way more about people than when you win. It’s easy to be on a winning team and having people patting you on the back.
“I like these guys. Our guys have a good spirit about them. This one will hurt. But then we’re going to reload and we’re back to another East Division team next week in Montreal. We keep going on this journey.”