Johnson Runs Wild as the Redblacks Sack Saskatchewan

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in front of yet another sold out crowd, the Ottawa Redblacks took on the Saskatchewan GREENWHITES at TD Place. The Redblacks dominated from the get go, scoring on their opening drive and never surrendering the lead as they went on to blow out Saskatchewan 35-13.


– All around town R-Nation psyched themselves up for the game:

– Justin Phillips (#44) returned to TD Place

– Big Joe got lots of birthday wishes

– There’s no kind of tailgate like an R-Nation tailgate

– Ottawa’s defensive line wore their coach’s jersey in the warm ups

– Blackwell rocked the anthem

– Jeremiah Johnson fired up the team in the locker room

Darrel Fox did a ceremonial pre-game kick to mark 35 years since his brother Terry Fox kicked off an Ottawa Rough Rider game

– Redblacks lose the coin toss but wind up receiving to start when Saskatchewan defers

1st Quarter:

– QB Henry Burris (#1) wastes no time in marching the Redblacks down the field, quickly hitting Jeremiah Johnson (#27) and Brad Sinopoli (#88) for gains for 9 and 34 yards. Following a pass knocked down at the line of scrimmage, Burris finds Maurice Price (#7) who makes a quick juke, scampers 36 yards to end zone and finally gets a monkey off his back with his first TD of the season. Chris “Money” Milo’s (#30) convert is good and Ottawa leads 7-0.

Henry Burris

– R-Nation immediately makes its presence felt by roaring so loud that Saskatchewan takes a time count violation on their first play. Two plays later, a Moton Hopkins (#95) sack forces a punt.

– Ernest Jackson (#9) makes back to back catches for gains of 25 and 13 yards. Following an incompletion, Price picks up 14 and on the next play the rarely used Scott Macdonell (#83) hauls in a pass and rumbles down the sideline for a gain of 18 yards. Johnson caps the drive off with a thundering 7 yard TD run. Milo’s extra point is good and Ottawa leads 14-0.

– In his first game back from injury, Abdul Kanneh (#14) nearly picks off Saskatchewan QB Brett Smith’s deep pass. The GREENWHITES move the chains once but are soon forced to punt.

– Chris Williams (#80) hauls in a pass for 11 yards, but a holding flag on SirVincent Rogers (#55) backs up the Redblacks and leads to a Ronnie Pfeffer (#15) punt.

– Saskatchewan moves the chains once but after Aston Whiteside (#91) blows up a run for a short gain and Jacques Washington (#28) nearly gets an interception, the GREENWHITES get on the board with a rouge.

Antoine Pruneau Jacques Washington Rob Bagg

– Burris hits Jackson for a 4 yard gain but on the next play clearly isn’t on the same page as Williams, as the intended pass is nowhere near the receiver. Pfeffer’s shanked punt travels only 25 yards.

– Justin Capicciotti(#93) sacks Smith for a 10 yard loss

2nd Quarter:

– Saskatchewan’s punt flies through the air and bounces 70 yards through the end zone for another rouge

– Following two incompletions, one of which Head Coach Rick Campbell unsuccessfully challenges for DPI (defensive pass interference), Pfeffer’s punt is blocked and recovered by Saskatchewan at Ottawa’s 11 yard line.

– The 24,468 rabid members of R-Nation in attendance do their part, causing another time count violation, but Saskatchewan takes advantage of the short field when Naaman Roosevelt hauls in a 9 yard TD pass. The GREENWHITES go for two and get it, making it a 14-10 game.

Naaman Roosevelt

– Ottawa responds and puts together a decent drive with hard running from Johnson, a catch from Sinopoli and a couple of Saskatchewan flags. Things take a turn for the worse when Greg “Duke” Ellingson (#82) makes a 15 yard catch but fumbles when hit.

– #DBlock bails out Ellingson when Kanneh picks off Smith in the end zone.

– Johnson runs for 4 but on 2nd and 6 the pass intended for Price is low and dropped. Following two nightmare punts, Pfeffer’s kick has tons of hang time and the cover team hustles to immediately make the tackle.

– Tino Sunseri enters at QB while a glaring Brett Smith stalks the sidelines. The GREENWHITES move down the field thanks to an illegal contact flag on Jerrell Gavins (#24) that wipes out a Malik Jackson (#10) sack. Paul “Granddaddy” McCallum’s 28 yard FG clangs off the left upright and falls harmlessly to the ground.

– Burris is off with an incompletion and then on with a 14 yard pass to Johnson. After hitting Jackson for a gain of 5, his 2nd down pass falls incomplete and leads to a punt.

– Continuing his fantastic play, Whiteside sacks Sunseri for a two yard loss. On the next play, while rushing the passer, Whiteside plants his knee in the ground right as he gets hit, falling and twisting it in a way that knees are definitely not meant to bend. He goes down and needs to be carted off the field, a devastating loss to Ottawa’s pass rush.

– Williams picks up 10 yards but back to back incompletions lead to a punt.

– Saskatchewan choses to play it safe before the half and simply takes a knee to kill the clock.

– After 30 minutes, the Rough Riders lead the Roughriders 14-10.


– Defensive line coach Leroy Blugh is honoured for his induction to the Canadian Hall of Fame.

3rd Quarter:

– The GREENWHITES get the ball to start the half and quickly move down the field thanks to a 26 yard scramble by Sunseri and a 26 yard catch by Dressler. Despite being on Ottawa’s 32 yard line, Saskatchewan ends up punting following a holding call and another sack from Capicciotti, this one for a 7 yard loss.

– The Redblacks go two and out and Pfeffer’s punt goes 47 yards.

– Hopkins’ second sack of the game leads to a Saskatchewan punt.

– Jackson sweeps left for a gain of 12 yards before Johnson picks up 1. Saskatchewan does Ottawa a huge favour, taking three flags in a row (probably feeling guilty about stealing Ottawa’s name). Following a 29 yard catch from Jackson, Johnson punches it in from 2 yards out for his 2nd TD of the game. Following Milo’s kick, the score is 21-10

– On 2nd down, Damso Munoz (#45) nails Sunseri and forces a fumble that is recovered by Jackson at Saskatchewan’s 36 yard line.

Damaso Munoz Tino Sunseri

– The Redblacks offensive line does their best Moses impression, parting the GREENWHITES defensive line like Moses did the Red Sea, allowing Johnson to run untouched up a gaping whole in the middle of the field to the end zone. Milo continues to be perfect, making it 28-10.

Jeremiah Johnson
The Lansdowne Leap

– The ensuing kick off is fumbled by Saskatchewan and last touched by Ottawa before bouncing out of bounds, so the Redblacks take over on Saskatchewan’s 12 yard line.

– Jackson seemingly sweeps into the end zone but a holding call on Williams wipes out the score. On the final play of the 3rd quarter, Patrick Lavoie (#81) picks up 13 yards.

4th Quarter:

– Burris looks for Ellingson in the end zone but his pass falls incomplete. Luckily for the Redblacks, Saskatchewan is called for DPI and on the next play Burris sneaks in from the 1 yard line to make it 35-10.

– Capicciotti gets his 3rd sack of the day, this one good for a loss of 8 yards.

– The Redblacks go two and out

– A 45 yard catch by Dressler leads to a 28 yard Paul “Grandaddy” McCallum FG.

– Burris’ interception free pass streak ends at 198 when his play action pass is tipped and picked off.

– Saskatchewan gets to Ottawa’s 1 yard line, but instead of handing the ball off to their massive running back (who averages over 7 yards per carry), they drop back to pass three times in a row, and three times in a row Sunseri is sacked

– The Redblacks take over following the turnover on downs and kneel to seal the deal

Final score: 35-13 for the Redblacks over the GREENWHITES


Key Stats:

Burris completed 19 of 33 passes for 269 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT

Johnson had:


Jackson had 5 catches for 77 yards

Capicciotti made 6 tackles and 3 sacks

Pfeffer punted 7 times for 281 yards

Closing thoughts:

What a game. As a Redblacks fan, this has to rank as one of the team’s most satisfying wins in franchise history. Leading up to the game, much was made of the fact that many around the country believed that Saskatchewan would easily get its first win in Ottawa. That combined with the fact that big name players such as Chevon Walker and Brandon McDonald were released following a disappointing loss in Toronto, put the Redblacks under a lot of pressure to deliver, which they did.

Offensively, Burris had himself another very solid game. Aside from a slow second quarter, he was highly effective and led the team on multiple scoring drives, hitting 8 different receivers throughout the course of the game. Though his completion percentage wasn’t the best, Burris made every catch count, averaging 14 yards per pass. He also got the job done on the ground, sneaking the ball for a first down three times, including on the goal line for a touchdown.

In his second game as the Redblacks starting running back, Jeremiah Johnson proved that he’s more than capable of replacing Chevon Walker. Johnson’s aggressive North/South running style was on full display as he ran roughshod over Saskatchewan’s defence and he may have started a new end zone tradition with his “Lansdowne Leap”.

From the wide receiver group, Ernest Jackson and Brad Sinopoli both had strong games, making big catches and as we’ve come to expect, fighting hard for extra YAC (yards after the catch). Maurice Price finally scored his first TD of the year on a nice 36 yard catch and run in the first quarter but otherwise was relatively quiet.

On a day that the Redblacks honoured defensive line coach Leroy Blugh for being inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, it’s more than fitting that Ottawa’s defence racked up 10 sacks. The defensive line did their coach proud by manhandling Saskatchewan’s offensive line, applying heavy pressure on every single passing play. While Justin Capicciotti had a whale of the game, he wasn’t alone, as Moton Hopkins, Damso Munoz and Keith Shologan all had multiple sacks. In addition to the double digit sack total, the defence also forced two fumbles, both of which they recovered, and generated another red zone interception. Much was made of the decision to release DB Brandon McDonald, but Abdul Kanneh returned from injury and Ottawa’s secondary didn’t miss a beat.


In terms of special teams, Ronnie Pfeffer had an inconsistent first game at punter. Some of his kicks had incredible hang time but others were shanked. The fact that he only averaged 40 yards per kick isn’t promising but I’m inclined to hold off judging him off a single game performance. The blocked punt doesn’t fall on him, as he wasn’t the one blocking for it but it’s another black mark on Special Teams coach Don Yanowsky’s record. While Ottawa’s kick coverage was fantastic, limiting Saskatchewan to only short gains, their return game was non-existent. Travon Van looked good handling kick off duties, averaging 25 yards per return, but it’s pretty damning that the explosive Chris Williams still hasn’t managed a single big punt return at the half way point of the season.

As for penalties, Ottawa was only flagged 14 times for 125 yards, so I guess that’s a massive improvement over last week’s 20 for 228 yards.

With the win the Redblacks improve to 5-4 on the season, remain alone at 3rd in the East (two games ahead of Montreal), and head into their final bye week on a high. R-Nation will have to wait about a month before they can see their team at TD Place again, with road games in BC and Saskatchewan on deck following their bye.


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).