Adding talent and experience in the off-season is already paying off for the Ottawa Redblacks.
Taking advantage of a Montreal squad that lost starting quarterback Jonathan Crompton and backup Dan LeFevour to injuries, the Redblacks dominated the second half enroute to a 20-16 comeback victory in the CFLseason opener on Thursday night.
“This team’s always had belief, but we’ve got playmakers now,” said Ottawa quarterback Henry Burris. “It shows the will to win on this team.
“No one panicked. And it was big to see us go out there and close out the game and run the clock down.”
Jeremiah Johnson scored the game-winning points on a fourth quarter touchdown run for Ottawa, which won only two of 18 games as an expansion team in 2014. The Redblacks added veterans at several positions, especially in the receiving corps, and it showed as Burris went 23 for 36 for 263 yards.
Rookie Brandon Bridge of Mississauga, Ont., the first Canadian to play quarterback for Montreal since Gerry Dattilio in 1985, was forced into action midway through the third quarter after LeFevour hurt his non-throwing shoulder on only his second play from scrimmage.
He was impressive in going 5 for 10 for 62 yards, but threw two interceptions.
“I thought I did alright,” said 23-year-old Bridge, who was drafted in the fourth round from South Alabama this year. “I wish I could take a couple of throws back, especially that one they scored on.”
Ernest Jackson caught a touchdown pass for Ottawa, which also had a Delbert Alvarado field goal, a safety and a two-point conversion by Burris.
Tyrell Sutton and Jean-Cristophe Beaulieu had TDs and rookie Boris Bede had a field goal for Montreal, which led 13-5 at halftime despite Crompton going only 5 for 17 for 51 yards.
Crompton left after the first half with a bruised throwing shoulder. Tom Higgins said both Crompton and LeFevour would be evaluated to see if they can play next week, when the Calgary Stampeders visit.
Sutton scored on the opening series as he carried 27 yards to set up his own five-yard TD run. Bede missed the 32-yard convert.
Allan-Michael Cash picked off a pass in the second quarter, only to have Ottawa’s Moton Hopkins intercept a Crompton pass on the next play. That set up Alvarado’s 40-yard field goal at 4:11.
The Redblacks picked up a safety, but Jonathan Hefney picked off a Burris pass and, six plays later, Crompton hit Beaulieu with a four-yard TD pass at 9:18.
Ottawa looked ready to answer back when Burris threw his third interception of the half to Billy Parker.
Burris made up for it on the opening drive of the second half, an 11-play drive kept alive by a fake punt and a fake field goal attempt. It ended with a 13-yard TD pass to Jackson and Burris made the two-point convert to tie the game 13-13.
“It felt great to deal with the frustrations and adversity of the first half,” said Burris. “We just had to settle down.
“I had to settle down. Sometimes we had some growing pains and I got caught up in it and we didn’t make good decisions. We went back out there and everything was smooth.”
LeFevour went in for Crompton to start the second half and was injured on a high hit from Abdul Kanneh. In went Bridge, who found S.J. Green with his first pass and got the Alouettes into position for Bede’s 37-yard boot.
Bridge was picked off by Jovon Johnson and Ottawa marched back for Johnson’s six-yard TD run 4:40 into the fourth.