Redblacks finish the pre-season winless

The last time an Ottawa team took on the Montreal Alouettes in a pre-season game in Quebec City, it was June 7th, 2003, they were called the Renegades and lost 54-23 in front of 10,358 fans. On Saturday night, CFL football returned to Laval yet again, as the Redblacks took on the Alouettes at Stade Telus-Université Laval. This time around, roughly 5,000 fans piled into the 12,500 seat stadium to watch Montreal beat Ottawa 26-9.

Pre-game:

– R-Nation was well represented by a large contingent of rowdy Southsiders who made the trek to Quebec City to tailgate and cheer the only way they know how

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– As the “home team”, for the second week in a row the Redblacks come out sporting their black uniforms

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– The man behind the brand, Mat Smith, goes all out to provide great content for Redblacks fans

– Patrick Lavoie (#81) wins the coin flip for Ottawa, and the Redblacks choose to receive

1st Quarter:

– Back to back 7 and 9 yard catches by RB Chevon Walker (29) aren’t enough to overcome a holding flag, so Ottawa’s first drive ends with a Delbert Alvarado (#48) punt. Montreal returns the punt for a touchdown, but it’s called back by a flag.

– Jonathan Crompton’s first pass falls incomplete and Marlon Smith (#98) gets a sack as Montreal is forced to punt

– Henry Burris (#1) hooks up with Maurice Price (#7) for a 29 yard gain, Walker and Chris Williams (#80) break runs of 10 and 5 yards respectively and following a drop by Greg Ellingson (#82), on 3rd and 5, Ernest Jackson (#9) makes a 7 yard catch, giving Ottawa a fresh set of downs. Two perfect deep throws by Burris are knocked away at the last second by Montreal’s Geoff Tisdale and Alvarado’s 37 FG is wide right.

burris

– Pinned deep, another Smith sack forces the Alouettes two and out

– An Ellingson drop and a Burris incompletion quickly force Ottawa to punt. Montreal gains extra field position as the Redblacks get flagged for having an illegal man downfield on the punt.

– Montreal breaks a big run before the defense settles down and forces them to punt. Sean Whyte’s kick sails through the end zone for a rouge and the Als go up 1-0.

– Catches by Jackson and Price aren’t enough to avoid a two and out, perhaps due to a dubious spot from the officials. Alvarado’s shanked punt leads to a no yards flag.

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– Montreal goes two and out for the 3rd time in the quarter and former Laval kicker Boris Bede is given a standing ovation as he smashes a punt 64 yards to pin Ottawa at their 6 yard line.

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2nd Quarter:

– A promising Redblacks drive starts with Ellingson and Price each making catches of 16 yards on back to back plays but falters after 6th round draft pick Kienan Lafrance (#37) runs for 7 yards and then 1 yard. Alvarado shanks his 2nd consecutive punt.

– Montreal tries to take advantage of great field position but settles for a 28 yard FG after Abdul Kanneh (#14) breaks up a pass in the end zone. Jerrell Gavins (#24) needs to be helped off the field.

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– An incompletion and a short scramble by Burris isn’t enough to keep Ottawa’s drive alive, but an offsides flag against Montreal is. Jeremiah Johnson (#27) runs for gains of 5 and 6 yards but the Redblacks eventually punt.

– Canadian Brandon Bridge enters at QB for Montreal and quickly goes two and out

– Price’s 10 yard catch is followed up by a misfire from Burris and a drop from Williams. Alvarado’s 40 yard FG is good. Montreal leads 4-3

– Bridge continues his string of incompletions but Justin Capicciotti (#93) is shaken up. On the ensuing play, fans at Laval toss their hats on the field as Smith gets his 3rd sack of the night, completing the hat trick.

– Burris’ pass bounces off his receiver’s hands, gets picked off and returned 54 yards to Ottawa’s 6 yard line. During the return, Torrance Hunt (#34) gets absolutely levelled with a blind side block.

– Montreal immediately turns the turnover into points as Bridge hits Brandon Rutley for a 6 yard TD.

– Time runs out in the half as Johnson carries the ball for gains for 5, 14 and 7 yards

3rd Quarter:

– Montreal receives to start the half but Ottawa’s defence picks up where they left off, forcing another punt. Hunt muffs the punt return but manages to recover and maintain possession.

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– Danny O’Brien (#5) enters at QB for the Redblacks and proceeds to hit Jordan Verdone (#33) for a 10 yard gain. Unfortunately O’Brien’s next few passes are lobbed up with way too much air under them, causing incompletions and a punt.

– Brandon McDonald (#22) breaks up a deep pass and on 2nd down, three Redblacks hit Bridge before he is sacked for a 25 yard loss. Hunt muffs his 2nd straight punt return.

– Another lofty throw from O’Brien and a drop by Jamill Smith (#15) = another two and out

– Facing 2nd and long, Bridge beats the blitz with a throw off his back foot for a 1st down, and three runs later, Chris Rainey busts up the gut for a 10 yard touchdown. Als go up 19-3

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– An O’Brien interception is wiped out by an offsides flag but Ottawa fails to sustain another drive by following it up with an incompletion and a sack. Travis Brown (#43) lays a devastating hit on the ensuing punt.

4th Quarter:

– Montreal goes two and out

– Thomas DeMarco enters the game at QB for the Redblacks and strings together a few first downs with catches by Khalil Paden (#13) and hard running from Akeem Shavers (#30). Ottawa’s best chance at points in a long while comes to nothing when DeMarco’s 3rd down pass is knocked down.

– Ottawa gets a turnover on the next play as Eric Harper (#96) forces a fumble which is recovered by Cory Henry (#78)

– Taking over on Montreal’s 20 yard line, Lafrance loses a yard and Philip Enchill (#18) drops a pass in 1st down territory. Alvarado’s 28 yard FG attempt is blocked.

– Rakeem Cato enters at QB for the Als and eventually puts Montreal up 26-3

– The Redblacks finally add a TD of their own when Paden hauls in DeMarco’s 2 yard pass with 1:40 left. The ensuing two point convert is no good.

– Ottawa tries an onside kick but fails to recover.

Final score: 26-9

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Key stats:

Burris went 12 of 21 for 126 yards and 1 INT

O’Brien went 2 of 6 for 21 yards

DeMarco went 5 of 10 for 73 yards and 1 TD

Johnson had 6 rushes for 37 yards

Price made 5 catches for 60 yards

Smith had 4 tackles and 3 sacks

Alvarado punted 9 times for 333 yards

Final thoughts:

Despite losing once again, this was a good effort from the team. On offence, Burris played better than the stats show, as his receivers dropped four passes and tipped a pass that should’ve been caught, instead turned into an interception. Danny O’Brien was #2 on the depth chart, but lacked touch all night. His throws either had too much air on them and set his receivers up to be levelled, or were complete misfires. DeMarco was okay in the 4th quarter but it’s hard to judge his performance as it was against Montreal’s 3rd stringers. Some media in Ottawa this week questioned if Burris’ job would be usurped but tonight showed he’s still the Redblacks best option going into the season.

At RB Johnson stood out with his violent downhill running. While other backs danced around and hit the holes slowly, Johnson showed a strong burst and averaged over 6 yards per carry. In my mind Jonhson won the starting job tonight, as his running style is more effective than a guy like Walker, who’s perhaps better suited as a change of pace back.

WR Maurice Price showed why Ottawa swung a trade to bring him in, playing as advertised, stretching the field and flashing his speed. Paden also stood out and Michael Campbell’s highlight reel catch late in the 4th quarter was impressive. While individual players on offence had good games, as a unit they struggled to find any kind of rhythm and to sustain drives.

Defensively, Smith stole the show, terrorizing Montreal’s offensive line, making 4 tackles and getting 3 of Ottawa’s 5 sacks. The defensive unit was very strong in the 1st half, only giving up 4 first downs and 88 total yards as they repeatedly forced the Alouettes to go two and out. The lone touchdown given up by the starting unit came as a result of an interception which set the Alouettes up on the 6 yard line. Injuries to Capicciotti and Gavins are worrying and hopefully they’re both healthy and ready to go for the opener.

Once again, special teams were a nightmare. On their first punt, the Redblacks gave up another kick return touchdown, though it was called back due to a flag. Throughout the night, Montreal was repeatedly able to gain big chunks of yards on their returns, whereas last week’s breakout player Hunt, managed 12 yards on 4 returns. Alvarado handled all the kicking duties and had a game to forget, shanking punts, missing one FG and having another blocked. Discipline was a major issue issue, as the Redblacks were flagged 21 times for 146 yards. Overall special teams play continued to be sloppy and is a definitely a concern going forward.

While this week’s result will do nothing to stem the worry that was already running through R-Nation after last Saturday’s poor showing, fans must remember that it’s still only the pre-season. This loss is no need to panic, but it does show that the team needs to make the most of their extra time off before their season opener against these same Alouettes in Montreal in 11 days time. The extra week off might prove to be especially valuable to all the guys banged up in tonight’s game.

@RedBlackGade

Santino Filoso is originally from Ottawa and has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know).