A Tale of Two Hanks

After a seemingly endless wait, the CFL season kicked off in style last night with a East Division match up between the Ottawa Redblacks and Montreal Alouettes at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium. After a busy off-season spent overhauling the roster, R-Nation finally got a look at what the new players added by GM Marcel Desjardins were capable of, as Ernest Jackson, Chris Williams, Brad Sinopoli and SirVincent Rogers all played large roles in the 20-16 victory.

Pre-game:




– TSN does it’s best to pump up Redblack fans before the game

– Busloads of rowdy members of R-Nation invade Montreal to tailgate in style

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– Ottawa comes out wearing their white road uniforms, one of the sharpest looks in the league

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– OSEG partner and team president Jeff Hunt gives the team a pre-game pump up speech, promising that if the Redblacks get the win, they spend the night in Montreal, a loss means they bus back to Ottawa following the game

– Montreal wins the coin toss and elects to receive

1st Quarter:

– The Als make the most of their first possession, taking 5 plays to go 65 yards for a touchdown, marching down the field with a couple of big runs and aided by a timely illegal contact flag on Brandon McDonald (#22). Rookie kicker Boris Bede shanks the 32 yard extra point, making it only 6-0.

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– Ottawa’s revamped offence starts off on the right foot, with newcomer Ernest Jackson (#9) making back to back catches for 10 and 18 yards. Feeling left out, Maurice Price (#7) gets in the on action with a 7 yard catch of his own. Following an offsides flag, Chevon Walker’s (#29) 2 yard run and 5 yard catch set up a field goal attempt. Unfortunately Delbert Alvarado’s (#48) 36 yard kick is blocked.

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– After two Montreal incompletions, Chris Williams (#80) shows off his speed by reversing the field and gaining 21 yards on his first punt return of the night.

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– The Redblacks string together a few first downs as Brad Sinopoli (#88) makes a 6 yard catch, QB Henry Burris (#1) scrambles for a 5 yard gain and Walker picks up 4 yards running up the gut, but a 2nd down incompletion force an Anthony Alix (#15) punt.

– Heavy pressure from the front seven quickly forces another booming Borris Bede punt

– Ottawa also goes two and out when Burris’ 1st down pass is tipped and his 2nd down pass dropped. Antoine Prueanu (#6) makes a great tackle on the ensuing punt.

– Montreal’s offence continues to go nowhere fast as they again go two and out.

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2nd Quarter:

– Burris has the Redblacks marching as Jackson makes another 18 yard catch, but a tipped pass off of Jeremiah Johnson’s (#27) hands is snagged by an alert Alouette defensive lineman

– Proving that anything Montreal can do, Ottawa can do better, a blitzing Abdul Kanneh (#14) and Justin Capicciotti (#93) meet at the QB, hammering Jonathan Crompton, who tosses the pigskin into the waiting arms of Moton Hopkins (#95).

– 12 and 5 yard catches from Jackson and Greg Ellingson (#82) put the Redblacks on the board when Alvarado’s 40 yard FG splits the uprights.

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– After being backed up on the kickoff, Kalonji Kasham (#97) knocks down Crompton’s pass and a Capicciotti sack forces Bede to kneel in the end zone and concede a safety.

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– Though he’s a 19 year vet, you’d never be able to tell as Burris throws an ugly interception

– With strong running and a timely unnecessary roughness flag against the Redblacks, Montreal wastes no time in turning the turnover into points. JC Beaulieu hauls in a 4 yard TD pass to put the Als up 13-5

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– Williams gets behind the defence for a 40 yard gain but after calling an audible, Burris throws into a sea of Alouette defenders, one of whom picks off his pass.

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– Montreal is forced to punt when Pruneau blitzes in and nails Crompton, causing another incompletion.

– A couple of short Walker runs end the half.

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– Montreal leads 13-5 after 30 min

Half-time:

– TSN’s Kate McKenna interviews a couple of Als fans in a crane box 20 feet off the ground, who just wanna find a bathroom.

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– In a sideline interview Burris admits he was pressing and overthinking things and promises to be better in the 2nd half.

– Montreal announces Crompton will miss the remainder of the game with a bruised shoulder.

3rd Quarter:

– After receiving to start the 2nd half, Burris and company waste no time in marching down the field. A short 2 yard run from Walker and 5 yard catch from Williams sets up a 3rd and 3. Instead of punting, Alix takes the snap and gallops off the right side of the line for an 11 yard gain and a fresh set of downs. Burris scrambles for 6 yards, Ellingson makes 12 and 19 yard catches, Walker dances for 8 yards and on 3rd and 1, Thomas DeMarco (#17), fakes the FG and instead sneaks ahead for another set of downs. Two plays later, Jackson’s 14 yard TD catch ends the 12 play drive in style. After some discussion by the officials, the ensuing two point convert is good and things are tied at 13-13.

– Dan LeFevour enters at QB for Montreal but on his first pass attempts rolls out of the pocket and gets absolutely hammered by Kanneh, forcing him out of the game and the Als to punt.

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– A short run from Walker and a deep pass intended for Jackson fall incomplete so the Redblacks punt. Starting middle LB Travis Brown (#43) falls awkwardly while trying to make the tackle and seems to be favouring his arm while being helped off the field.

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– Canadian Brandon Bridge, Montreal’s 3rd string QB, enters the game. His first pass is nearly picked off but he quickly settles down, leans on his veteran wide receivers and with a couple of completions puts the Als in position for a 37 yard FG. Montreal regains the lead 16-13

– An incompletion and short run from Walker aren’t enough to overcome a time count violation flag, leading to another Alix punt. FB Jordan Verdone (#33) does his best WWE move as he wrestles Montreal’s Stefan Logan to the ground.

4th Quarter:

– Veteran Jovon Johnson (#2) welcomes the rookie Canadian QB to the league when he picks off Bridge’s pass over the middle.

– The Redblacks make the most of the turnover as a couple of big catches from Walker, Williams and Ellingson bring the ball down to Montreal’s 6 yard line. On the next play, Jeremiah Johnson takes the hand off and bowls his way into the end zone. Alvarado’s 32 yard convert is good and Ottawa goes up 20-16.

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– Montreal goes nowhere fast as an incompletion and David Hinds (#20) sack force a punt.

– Jackson’s 12 yard catch and Burris’ 12 yard scramble move the chains twice, but eventually the drive stalls and Ottawa is forced to punt.

– The Alouettes pick up a first down off a dubious roughing the passer call on Capicciotti but otherwise fail to move the ball.

– The Redblacks execute a 3 minute drill to perfection, alternating between feeding Walker the ball on 1st down and throwing quick hitters to Sinopoli and Williams to move the chains on 2nd down.

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– With the clock showing zeros, Ottawa lines up in a victory formation and Burris kneels to make it official.

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Final Score: 20-16 for the Redblacks

Key Stats:

Burris went 23 of 36 for 263, with 1 TD and 3 INTs

Walker had 16 carries for 52 yards

Jackson made 7 catches for 74 yards and had 1 TD

Hinds made 4 tackles and 1 sack

Alix punted 6 times for 262 yards, averaging 43.7 yards per kick

Closing thoughts:

A gutsy effort and a perfectly executed 3 minute drive at the end of the game secured the Redblacks first road win in franchise history. On offence, the game was a tale of two Hanks, bad Hank and good Hank. In the first half Burris strung together some drives but kept throwing awful, momentum killing interceptions. Whatever the coaches said to him at half-time worked though, because he came out on fire in the second half, leading the team down the field on a scoring drive and never looking back. It was especially good to see Burris using his mobility to pick up key first downs.

At running back, Walker saved his best for last, coming through in a big way during the final drive. Though he allowed Ottawa to chew the clock and end the game, his inability throughout the game to hit holes with conviction is still a worry. In fact, Walker only averaged 3 yards per carry and was repeatedly stuffed for no gain in short yardage situations. Going forward he’ll have to be much more decisive in his runs if he wants to stay atop the depth chart. The contrast between him and Johnson was never more evident than on Johnson’s late game TD run, when he simply put his shoulders down and barrelled forward for the score.

Nearly all of Desjardins new wide receiver additions shone in their regular season debut. Jackson in particular stood out, as Burris seemed to look his way every time the offence needed a big catch. Price and Ellingson also made contributions, and Williams and Sinopoli’s sure-handedness at the end of the game helped seal the win.

SirVincent Rogers (#55) and the rest of the offensive line gave Burris a clean pocket and lots of time to throw for the majority of the game. The one area they’ll need to improve is in short yardage, as the line didn’t seem to have much push in the ground game.

Defensively the Redblacks were impressive. After giving up an opening drive touchdown, the unit settled down and repeatedly forced Montreal to go two and out. Extremely tough, physical play lead to both Crompton and LeFevour being knocked out of the game via vicious but clean hits. Kanneh in particular was willing to trade paint all game long and flew around with reckless abandon. Jovon Johnson’s interception was a turning point in the game and one of two turnovers.

Special teams got off to a rough start with Alvarado’s first FG attempt being blocked, but from there things improved. Alix’s punts had good hang time and the kick coverage was smothering, which was impressive considering Montreal boasts one of the CFL’s most dangerous returners in Stefan Logan. The Redblacks also managed to convert a fake punt and a fake field goal on the same drive, which ultimately led to a touchdown. Kudos to Head Coach Rick Campbell for having the guts to make the risky calls in an effort to spark his team.

Injuries to Travis Bown and Jermaine Robinson (#32) are a concern but at this point in time it’s too early to say if they’ll be available for next week’s matchup against the BC Lions.

While this win might not always have been pretty, in the end it’s about the final score, not style points. As a fan it was great to watch the last drive in particular, because last season, the offence would’ve went two and out, the defence would’ve been tired from being on the field so much and let the Als sneak down to score and steal the game. Thankfully this Redblacks team seems to have an edge that last year’s lacked.

With the first road win in team history now behind them, Ottawa will head into their home opener at TD Place on a high note. The Redblacks will look to put on a show for R-Nation and look to move to 2-0 in what is sure to be a sold out stadium, as less than 1000 tickets remain available for the game.

@RedBlackGade

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