Redblacks Have a Game to Forget

Late Saturday night (at least for us Easterners), the Ottawa Redblacks took on the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium. Fresh off a bye, and boasting an impressive 8-0 record following one under John Hufnagel, the Stampeders finally looked and played like last year’s Grey Cup champions, thrashing the Redblacks 48-3.


– You can take the Redblacks out of Ottawa but you can’t take R-Nation away from their team

– With Chris Williams missing his second game to injury, Marcus Henry (#16), last season’s leading receiver, made his season debut

– Ottawa calls heads and loses the coin toss.

1st Quarter:

– Stampeders start off on offence but go two and out. Rob Maver’s punt is caught, safely secured and returned 10 yards by Brandon McDonald (#22)

– Henry Burris’ (#1) pass is tipped but Brad “Mr. 2nd Down” Sinopoli (#88) hauls it in anyways for a gain of 26 yards. Following a 1 yard Chevon Walker (#29) run, Burris is sacked on 2nd down and Ottawa is forced to punt. With Anthony Alix (#15) out, Head Coach Rick Campbell sends out backup QB Thomas DeMarco (#17) to boot the ball away.

– The Redblacks defence does its job but the ensuing Stamps punt is muffed by McDonald and recovered by Calgary

– Bo “Levi Jeans” Mitchell wastes no time in turning the turnover into points, hitting Anthony Parker for a 26 yard gain and then scrambling 11 yards to the end zone. Stamps go for and get the extra 2 points, so Ottawa trails 8-0.

– Walker gets stuffed in the backfield for a 4 yard loss but a roughing the passer flag for a low hit on Burris on 2 and 14 keeps the Redblacks drive alive. Sinopoli, Walker and Jeremiah Johnson’s (#27) catches are all overshadowed by an incredible one handed snag by Greg Ellingson (#82). Following an incompletion and a sack, Chris Milo’s (#30) 31 yard FG splits the uprights.

– Calgary goes two and out

– On second down, Ernest Jackson (#9) atones for his first down drop by making a 12 yard catch. Burris hits Sinopoli for a quick gain of 7 yards but his deep pass intended for Maurice Price (#7) falls incomplete. At the end of the play, Price signals for a flag and gets one, though probably not the one he wants as he gets flagged for signalling for a flag. Got it? Ottawa’s challenge for defensive pass interference fails.

2nd Quarter:

– Joe West gets behind Jovon Johnson (#2) for a 37 yard gain but is tackled on Ottawa’s 1 yard line. The tackle only delays the inevitable as Bo “Levi Jeans” Mitchell sneaks it in on the next play. Rene Paredes 32 yard convert is good and the Stamps lead 15-3

FBO CFL Redblacks Stampeders 20150813

– Walker brings the kick off to Ottawa’s 19 yard line before being blown up by a heat seeking missile disguised in a Stampeder jersey.

– Two Burris incompletions = another DeMarco punt

– The Redblacks defence flexes its muscles, bringing the blitz on consecutive plays and forcing Bo “Levi Jeans” Mitchell’s passes to fall incomplete

– Facing 2nd and 4, Calgary picks up their third sack of night when Burris gets nailed from his blindside by an untouched blitzer

– Aston Whiteside (#91) continues his strong play, sacking Mitchell and forcing a punt. McDonald struggles to field the punt and again the Stamps recover.

– One play action fake later, Joe West hauls in a 17 yard TD, extending Calgary’s lead 21-3

– As the offensive line does their best swiss cheese impressions, it’s all Burris can do to scramble out of the pocket and throw the ball away on back to back plays

FBO CFL Redblacks Stampeders 20150813

– Jovon Johnson replaces McDonald and while he doesn’t pick up any yards on his punt return, he also doesn’t fumble

– Following a short Walker run and an incompletion, DeMarco’s shanks a 32 yard punt

– The Stampeders tact on a 22 yard FG

– Two Burris incompletions = another DeMarco punt

– Abdul Kanneh (#14) is shaken up when Moton Hopkins (#95) makes the tackle but rolls onto of him and is carted off the field.

– With 0:03 left in the half, Bo “Levi Jeans” Mitchell hooks up with Eric Rogers for a 23 yard TD

– After 30 minutes, the Sens trail the Flames 31-3


– The TSN panel does its best to put a smile on R-Nation’s face

3rd Quarter:

– The Stamps kick off sails through the end zone for a rouge

– DeMarco takes over at QB for the Redblacks but after Walker is buried for a 2 yard loss, he gets sacked and then punts the ball away

FBO CFL Redblacks Stampeders 20150813

– McDonald shows that even though he struggled returning punts, his knockdown game is on point, knocking down a Mitchell pass. Maver’s punt bounces out at Ottawa’s 2 yard line.

– Both of DeMarco’s deep shots fall incomplete so the Redblacks concede a safety

– Ottawa’s defence forces the Calgary to go two and out for the 6th time

– Johnson picks up 4 on the ground but DeMarco’s 2nd down pass falls incomplete. The ensuing punt is returned for a TD but just like last week, the Redblacks are saved by a flag

– Antoine Pruneau (#6) makes a nice tackle to force a punt, but Jovon Johnson fumbles the punt return and naturally, the Stamps recover.

– On the next play Matt “Not Jon Cornish” Walter rumbles 6 yards into the end zone to make it 41-3

– On 2nd and 10 DeMarco fumbles the snap, recovers it and nearly throws an interception.

FBO CFL Redblacks Stampeders 20150813

– Drew Tate takes over for Mitchell at QB and quickly gets sacked by Ettore Lattanzio (#49)

– The Redblacks go two and out for the 10th straight time

4th Quarter:

– Marlon Smith (#98) gets a sack but the Stamps still add a 34 yard FG to make it 44-3

– DeMarco’s pass bounces off Scott Macdonell’s (#83) hands and is picked off and returned to Ottawa’s 39 yard line

– John Boyett (#31) doesn’t look behind him and knocks away a sure-fire end zone interception from Pruneau

– Zack Evans (#92) gets a sack but the Stamps get a 36 yard FG

– Danny “Boy” O’Brien (#5) enters at QB for the Redblacks and helps Ottawa pick up their first first down since the first quarter. Instead of ending in points, the drive stalls when Walker gets stuffed for a 1 yard loss on 3rd and 2.

– Keith “I like hittin’ people” Shologan (#74) gets a sack and Maver punts for a rouge

– O’Brien connects with Johnson, Ellingson, Price, Jackson and Macdondell to set up a 36 yard FG attempt. Because it’s that kind of night, Milo’s kick clangs off the right upright.

– The teams trade two and outs as the game mercifully comes to an end.

Final score: 48-3 for not the Redblacks

Key stats:

Burris went 7/17 for 114 yards

DeMarco went 1/8 for 7 yards and 1 INT

O’Brien went 9/10 for 58 yards

Walker had 7 carries for 11 yards

Sinopoli hauled in 3 passes for 50 yards

Munoz and McDonald made 7 tackles

DeMarco punted 11 times for 454 yards

Final thoughts

Sometimes a game quickly gets away from a team. Offensively, while Burris didn’t have his best game, the loss certainly can’t be pinned on him alone. In the first half he did a fairly good job moving the ball, especially when you consider that the run game was non-existent and that every time he dropped back to pass he was under siege. While the TSN commentators were critical of HC Rick Campbell’s decision to pull him in the 2nd half, I think it was the right call. Though no lead is safe in the CFL, with the way the team was playing Ottawa wasn’t coming back, and by half-time the game was over. Pulling Burris kept him healthy and let the coaching staff get a look at DeMarco in game action. Unfortunately DeMarco struggled with his accuracy and to complete passes before getting sacked. O’Brien came in late and while he had a fantastic completion percentage, dinking and dunking his way to a few first downs, he only averaged 6.4 yards per pass.

As with every Redblacks loss this season, an ineffective run game played a part. On a positive note, Walker hit double digits, on a negative one, he averaged 1.5 yards per carry. Johnson showed more burst when he got the ball, but 3 carries for 10 yards also isn’t good enough.

At the WR position, aside from Sinopoli’s early success and Ellingson’s highlight reel one handed catch, the group had a quiet night as the QBs struggled to fire off accurate passes while under heavy pressure. Much was made of Marcus Henry’s return to the field but in the end he was held without a catch.

The offensive line as a whole had probably their worst game of the season. The unit gave up 5 sacks and seemingly every time a QB dropped back he was immediately forced to scramble for his life. Don’t be surprised if 1st round pick Alex Mateas (#56) starts next week.

Defensively, while the final score isn’t flattering, the Redblacks weren’t horrible. Three times the unit got a stop only to have the punt returner fumble and gift Calgary with great field position. For all this struggles returning punts, McDonald had a great night in pass coverage with 4 knockdowns and making 7 tackles. The defensive line also picked up 5 sacks on the night and held the Stamps to under 100 yards rushing. Perhaps the most damning stat of the night is that Calgary’s average drive started on Ottawa’s 53 yard line, talk about putting your defence in a tough spot with a short field. Kudos to the entire unit for playing hard until the final whistle; it was evident that nobody quit or mailed it in, even with the game out of reach.

Without a doubt, special teams is where this game was lost. The decision to have starting DB Brandon McDonald return punts was a colossal mistake, and I don’t say that as a criticism of McDonald. To put it bluntly, the coaches set him up to fail. Both his fumbles led directly to touchdowns and following his struggles, Jovon Johnson did no better, also coughing up a fumble that lead to another touchdown. That’s 22 points directly off turnovers. The decision to use starting DBs as punt returners when eight receivers (who are probably most used to catching balls) were dressed for the game, was terrible. And as bad as the return game was, the kick coverage was worse, allowing a punt return TD for the 2nd week in a row, but luckily for the Redblacks, like last week, it was called back due to a flag. While some will question the coaches for using DeMarco as a punter over Milo, I thought DeMarco did well, averaging 41 yards per kick.

Every team gets blown out sometimes and tonight was Ottawa’s turn and a couple of momentum killing fumbles quickly led to things getting out of hand. While some in R-Nation may be quick to jump ship or dump on the team, let’s try to remember that this game was against the reigning Grey Cup champs, in their stadium, who were coming off a bye. The 2015 Redblacks are light years ahead of the 2014 team and while they can’t quite hang with the Grey Cup contenders, the season is young and Ottawa is still only one game back of first in the East.

Next up for the Redblacks is a Sunday afternoon matinée with the Argos at the soulless Rogers Centre.


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).