Redblacks KO Cato

Greg Ellingson

On Friday night, in front of yet another packed house at TD Place (which sold out two full days before the game), the Ottawa Redblacks bent but didn’t break, coming up with huge turnovers at key moments as they edged the Montreal Alouettes 26-23 in a hard fought contest.




Pre-game:

– The day dragged on as R-Nation pumped themselves up for the game

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– Lansdowne was a sea of plaid as the Redblacks hosted a Lumber Party

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– R-Nation tailgated in style

– The Alouettes try to chirp but quickly get cut down

– With Chris Williams (#80) out with an injury, fan favourite Khalil Paden (#13) dressed for his first game in 2015

– Haircut of the year is unveiled by Neil

– In keeping with the trend of honouring Ottawa’s CFL history, former Renegade and Rough Rider cheerleaders took to the field for a special pre-game performance

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– Redblacks win the coin toss and defer to the second half, Montreal chooses to start on defence

1st Quarter:

– QB Henry Burris (#1) comes out on fire, hitting Paden and Brad Sinopoli (#88) for back to back gains of 15 yards. Greg Ellingson (#82) gets in on the action with a 12 yard catch of his own before a short 3 yard catch by Sinopoli and a Montreal offsides sets up a 2nd and 2. RB Chevon Walker (#29) takes the hand-off and picks up 2 yards and 1 inch, gifting Ottawa with a fresh set of downs. After an incompletion, Ernest Jackson (#9) hauls in Burris’ shovel pass and rumbles 7 yards for a touchdown, capping off the 10 play, 78 yard drive. Newly signed Chris Milo’s (#30) kick is good, and the Redblacks are up 7-0.

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– Montreal QB Rakeem Cato strings together a first few downs but the Als are forced to settle for a 44 yard FG attempt when Moton Hopkins (#95) forces a fumble that the Als recover. Borris Bede’s kick is wide but the Als pick up a rouge when Jock Sanders (#19) decides not to take the ball out of the end zone.

– Burris moves the chains by hitting Jackson and Ellingson for gains for 6 and 13 yards, but the drive stalls after Burris under throws a pass and Maurice Price (#7) lets a pass go through his hands. Anthony Alix’s (#15) punt is returned 103 yards for a TD but thankfully is called back by an illegal block.

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– SJ Green gets behind Jovon Johnson (#2) for a 33 yard gain

– After 15 minutes of play

2nd Quarter: 

– TSN shows announcer Rod Black kayaking to the stadium as his colleague Duane Ford blows by him in a boat.

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– Brandon McDonald (#22) forces the Als to settle for an 18 yard FG by breaking up an end zone pass and tackling Alex Charette short of the first down marker.

– Walker’s 3 yard run and a knocked down Burris pass lead to the Redblacks first two and out of the night. Alix shanks the punt (which travels only 25 yards) and Montreal takes over on their 48 yard line.

– It’s the Cato show as he completes a couple of passes and caps the drive off with a 19 yard TD scramble. Following the convert, Montreal leads 11-7.

– Walker picks up 3 on the ground and 4 in the air, but it’s not enough to avoid another Alix punt. Sloppy special teams coverage allows Stefan Logan to return the kick to Ottawa’s 50 yard line.

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– Keith “I like hitting people” Shologan (#74) sacks Cato for a 6 yard loss as the Als go two and out. Bede’s punt bounces through the end zone for a rouge and Montreal extends its lead to 12-7.

– A pair of plays to Walker nets a first down, but Ottawa’s drive stalls when Ellingson drops a pass and Burris’ 2nd down toss hits an Alouette defender in the helmet.

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– Aston Whiteside (#91) gets great penetration and makes a beautiful tackle in the backfield for a 5 yard loss, but is flagged for a face mask, even though he doesn’t face mask. On the next play, Cato throws an incompletion, but as Hopkins waves his arms to pump the crowd up, he gets flagged by the referees who think he’s gesturing for a flag. The Redblacks complete the hat-trick of flags on the ensuing play when McDonald gets flagged for unnecessary roughness. Just like that, in three plays Montreal moves 45 yards. Thankfully the drive doesn’t end in disaster as while scrambling to avoid heavy pressure from Whiteside, Cato tosses up a prayer that is picked off by Antoine Pruneau (#6).

– As the half comes to a close, the Redblacks march down the field thanks to catches from Jackson and Ellingson and runs from Walker and Burris. Following a procedure flag, Burris is sacked on 2nd and 15 and Ottawa is pushed out of field goal range. Milo comes in to punt for the struggling (and perhaps injured) Alix and pins Montreal on their 12 yard line.

– Montreal chooses to play it safe and kneels three times to close out the half.

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Half-time:

– The TSN Panel unanimously agrees that Ottawa needs to score more points if they want to win.

– R-Nation is treated to some kinda “special” half-time show at TD Place.

3rd Quarter:

– Montreal gets the ball to start but quickly goes two and out as Shologan gets his 2nd sack of the game.

– Price makes his first catch of the night and Walker picks up 5 yards on the ground to move the sticks. On 2nd and 10, Sinopoli makes a tough 20 yard catch over the middle to keep the drive alive. Two Walker runs gain 9 and Burris sneaks for a first down. Ellingson makes a 7 catch and Walker runs for a gain of 7. On the next play, Paden can’t hang on as he gets nailed going over the middle (Burris probably owes him a dinner for that high suicide pass). After being backed up by a holding call, Milo’s 41 yard FG is good and the Redblacks trail 12-10.

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– Fred Stamps blows by Abdul Kanneh (#14) for a 54 yard catch and run and sets up Montreal inside Ottawa’s red zone. Two plays later, the threat is negated by a McDonald end zone interception.

– Burris wastes no time in making the turnover count, leading the Redblacks on an 8 play, 85 yard drive that’s capped off by an 11 yard, play action TD pass to FB Patrick Lavoie (#81). Milo’s PAT is good and Ottawa leads 17-12.

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– Mr. Shoe Beer gets some help from the LumberJoes

4th Quarter:

– Montreal responds to Ottawa’s touchdown with a scoring drive of their own, tacking on  a 42 yard FG.

– The Redblacks go two and out after a 3 yard catch by Price and a rare Sinopoli drop

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– Things go from bad to worse for Ottawa. First Pruneau gets injured while making a tackle and then Montreal marches down the field with a 6 play, 74 yard drive and scores the go-ahead touchdown when Jacques Washington (#28) misses a tackle in the flats. The convert is good and Montreal leads 22-17.

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– Bede’s kick off sails through the end zone for a rouge, extending Montreal’s lead to 23-17.

– Catches by Jackson, Sinopoli, Price, Lavoie, Ellingson, Sanders and Price again quickly move the ball down to Montreal’s 14 yard line. Facing 3rd and 2 with 5:23 left in the game and trailing by 5 points, head Coach Rick Campbell sends out the FG team, only to have holder and backup QB Thomas DeMarco (#17) line up under centre, but the fake fails when DeMarco trips over a lineman’s foot. Montreal takes over on a turnover on downs.

– Shologan continues his strong play by sniffing out a run in the backfield, and a holding call sets up a 2nd and 21. As the play clock winds down, Cato desperately calls for the snap but the deafening roar of R-Nation leads to a Montreal offsides. Backed up to his own 4 yard line, Cato completes a short pass to Nik Lewis, who is gang tackled by no less than 6 Redblacks players. Instead of punting, Bede runs around in the end zone to kill some clock before kneeling and conceding the safety. With 3:03 left, Ottawa trails 23-19.

– With 65 yards between them and victory, following an illegal contact flag, Burris hits Walker and Ellingson for gains for 14 and 38 yards. After Walker gets stuffed for no gain on the ground, Burris’ 2nd down pass falls incomplete. On 3rd and 10 from Montreal’s 12 yard line, Alouettes DB Dominique Ellis gets flagged in the end zone for PI and TD Place goes wild as the ball is spotted on the 1 and the drive is kept alive.

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– Behind a wall of surging offensive linemen, Burris sneaks the ball into the end zone for a TD and Milo’s convert kick makes the score 26-23 for the good guys with 1:30 left in the game.

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– Cato attempts to drive Montreal into FG range but instead gets sacked by Shologan for the 3rd time, this one for a 12 yard loss. On 3rd and 17, under heavy pressure, Cato is forced to scramble out of bounds.

– The Redblacks line up in victory formation and three quick knees seal the win!

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Final score: 26-23 for the boys in plaid

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Key stats:

– Burris completed 32 of 44 passes for 323 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs

– Walker carried the ball 14 times for 84 yards

– Ellingson hauled in 8 catches for 110 yards

– Shologan made 5 tackles and had 3 sacks

– Ettore Lattanzio (#49) made 2 special teams tackles

– Milo was perfect on the night

– And

Final thoughts:

On October 24th last year, the Redblacks trailed Montreal 23-17 at TD Place and were in need of a last minute score. The team drove all the way down the field, only to waste the final play of the game, as receivers struggled to line up in the right place and the ball was snapped early and fumbled. What a difference a year makes. Tonight’s win was a gutsy performance from the entire team.

Offensively, Burris had another fantastic performance, completing nearly 72% of his passes. He also hit 8 different receivers and used his feet to keep drives alive when there was no one open, scrambling 5 times for 18 yards. Perhaps most importantly, Burris avoided turning the ball over for the 2nd consecutive game.

Coming into tonight’s game, Ottawa’s run game had been…lacking, to put it nicely. After sitting out last game, Walker responded with a strong performance, running hard up the gut and providing a dual threat as he caught 6 passes for 37 yards.

The offensive line more than did their part opening holes for the running game and provided Burris with a clean pocket and time for him to step up and find his man down the field.

The overhauled wide receiver group continued to shine. Last week it was the Chris Williams show, this week Greg Ellingson’s stole the spotlight. Brad Sinopoli and Ernest Jackson also both had strong games, consistently coming up with tough second down catches from their slot positions. Maurice Price’s struggles continued, as he had a couple of drops and his longest catch of the night went for 8 yards, probably not what Desjardins had in mind when he traded for the deep threat.

Defensively, the Redblacks were resilient, bending but not breaking, allowing Montreal to go on lengthy drives, but then either generating a turnover or forcing the Als to settle for a field goal. Keith Shologan had his best performance as a Redblack, sacking Cato three times and making five tackles. Shologan’s performance wasn’t an anomaly either, as the entire defensive line put heavy pressure on Cato all night; though Aston Whiteside didn’t record a sack, he played the whole game deep in Montreal’s backfield. Before leaving with an injury, LB Antoine Pruneau had a whale of a game in front friends and family who traveled to watch him play, recording five tackles and a huge momentum changing interception. D-Block struggled at times but made big plays when they needed too, such as McDonald’s end zone interception.

In terms of special teams, Chris Milo came exactly as advertised. Not only did he calmly and cooly make every kick, but when Alix began struggling on punts, he took over those duties as well and didn’t miss a beat. Kick coverage was an adventure all night long, as Stephan Logan had no trouble ripping off big returns and the Redblacks were lucky that a 103 yard TD return was wiped out by an illegal block. Something else that the Redblacks were lucky about was that HC Rick Campbell’s decision to forego an easy FG and attempt a poorly planned fake didn’t cost them the game. If Campbell wanted to go for it, why didn’t he just keep his offence, which was in a groove, on the field?

With the win, Ottawa sits 4-2 atop the Eastern division standings and owns the season series edge over Montreal, which could be huge in a tie-breaker situation down the road. While not a perfect game by any means, the 24,427 members of R-Nation were treated to an entertaining and exciting game. Next up for the Redblacks is an away game against the Calgary Stampeders and with injuries to Pruneau and Paden, and Williams still on the mend, the Redblacks may be in tough against the reigning Grey Cup champs.

@RedBlackGade 

– All images via the Redblacks Site and Facebook Page

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