Asked early in training camp to predict the team’s win total, LB Antoine Pruneau drew more than a few skeptical looks when he said a dozen. But last night, in front of 24,459 rabid members of R-Nation, the Ottawa Redblacks became the only CFL team in the city’s 126 years of pro football to hit the 12 win mark. In a wildly exciting game that had a bit of it all, another whale of a performance from Henry Burris led the Redblacks to a win and the East Division title.

Pre-game:

– Nothing gets Ottawa buzzing like game day

– Safety Jermaine Robinson returned to the lineup for the first time since Week One

– One last time, the Redblacks come out sporting their plaid Signature Look

– Hamilton wins the toss and elects to receive

1st Quarter:

– With R-Nation roaring at full throttle, the Ticats quickly go two and out

– Henry Burris (#1) wastes no time in leading the offence down the field, hooking up with Greg Ellingson (#82) and Ernest Jackson (#9) for gains or 12 and 8 yards. After William Powell (#29) runs for 4, the Ticats are flagged for DPI. A 9 yard catch and run by Maurice Price (#7) and a QB sneak by Burris set up a 28 yard Chris “Money” Milo (#30) FG.

– On the ensuing kick off, Brandon Banks gets rocked and fumbles the football, which is recovered by Ottawa on Hamilton’s 19 yard line.

– After getting sacked for a loss of 12, Burris hooks up with a streaking Ellingson in the end zone for a 31 yard TD strike. Following the convert, the Redblacks lead 10-0.

– Jacory Harris can’t get anything going for the Ticats as they again go two and out

– Price picks up 23 in the air before getting 5 on the ground with a reverse. Following a Chris Williams’ (#80) drop, Milo’s punt pins the Ticats at their 14 yard line.

– A ball batted down by Shawn Lemon (#52) + an off target pass = a third Ticat two and out

– Williams makes a 9 yard catch before Powell moves the chains with a 4 yard run. On the next play, Ellingson makes a 9 yard catch before Burris sneaks ahead for a 5 yard gain. Following a 9 yard catch by Price, Powell moves the chains again with another 4 yard run. The quarter comes to a close as the drive is capped off in style by Ellingson’s 2nd TD catch of the night, this one from 3 yards out.

– After 15 minutes

2nd Quarter:

– After being sacked by Brandon Sermons (#21) for a 4 yard loss, Ticat coach Kent Austin decides he’s seen enough of Harris and inserts Jeremiah Masoli at QB. Using the read option, Masoli manages to drive Hamilton into field goal range and they finally get on the board with a 25 yard FG.

– The Redblacks move  the sticks once via a 17 yard Ellingson catch before Powell rushes for 3. On 2nd and long, Burris’ pass is dropped by Ellingson. Milo’s punt bounces out of bounds at the Ticat 13 yard line.

– Despite an Abdul Kanneh (#14) sack and a 2nd down incompletion, the Ticats manage to get a fresh set of downs when Hamilton’s challenge for DPI is successful. Nevertheless, two plays later they’re forced to punt.

– Ottawa gives the ball right back when Burris throws a rare interception that gets returned all the way down to the Redblacks’ 1 yard line.

– Masoli wastes no time in sneaking the ball into the end zone to make it a 17-10 game.

– Catches by Ellingson, Powell and Brad Sinopoli (#88) go for gains of 13, 5 and 3 yards but still lead to a punt

– The Ticats march down the field and tack on another FG, this one from 40 yards.

– On 2nd down Burris gets sacked when the pocket collapses. Milo’s ensuing punt is returned 63 yards to Ottawa’s 4 yard line. Antoine Pruneau (#6) makes the touchdown saving tackle.

– One Andy Fantuz TD catch later, the Redblacks find themselves trailing.

– After 30 minutes

halftime

Half-time:

3rd Quarter:

– The Redblacks get the ball to start off the half, and Jamill Smith (#84) returns the kick off to Ottawa’s 48 yard line.

– A couple of short runs by Powell fail to move the sticks, so Milo trots out to punt for the fourth time.

– Kanneh hammers Sinkfield and forces a fumble which is recovered by Jermaine Robinson (#32).

– Burris wastes no time in turning the turnover into points, leading the offence on a 5 play, 55 yard drive, highlighted by a 32 yard catch from Price and capped off with a 7 yard TD pass to FB Patrick Lavoie (#81). Following the convert, Ottawa leads 24-20.

– The Ticats continue to struggle, fumbling the exchange when they try to run the option. Damaso “On the Spot” Munoz (#45) recovers the ball at Hamilton’s 32 yard line.

– A violent downhill run by Powell gains 18 yards and two plays later Burris hits Ellingson for the hat-trick TD, this time from 14 yards out.

– Keith “I Like Hittin’ People” Shologan (#74) sacks Masoli for a 2 yard loss but the Ticats still manage to move the sticks. Eventually they get backed up when Bakari Grant head-butts Kanneh and gets flagged for unnecessary roughness. On 2nd and a mile, Pruneau knocks down the pass and forces a punt.

– Medlock’s pooched punt is recovered for a TD by Rico Murray, one of the three Ticats who lined up onside (and that everybody on the Redblacks’ return team somehow missed). The Ticats go for but fail to get two points, making it a 31-26 game.

– The ensuing kick off is returned by Williams to Ottawa’s 48 yard line.

– Ottawa completes a few passes and is marching down the field when a Smith fumble is recovered by the Ticats and returned all the way down to Ottawa’s 19 yard line.

– Lemon wastes no time in getting the ball back for his offence, sacking Masoli and forcing yet another fumble, which is yet again recovered by Munoz. While celebrating the turnover, Munoz throws the ball into the stands and gets flagged for objectionable conduct.

– Jackson makes a 13 yard catch before Powell gets 18 on the ground and 9 in the air. The quarter comes to a close when Burris sneaks ahead for a gain of 7 yards on 2nd and 1.

thirdquarter

4th Quarter:

– The offence continues to roll as Powell gets another 9 on the ground before Burris sneaks 4 yards for a fresh set of downs. Consecutive 16 yard catches by Lavoie and Sinopoli move the ball down to the Ticat’s 10 yard and on the next play Burris throws his 5th TD of the game, this time to Sinopoli.

– Milo misses the convert which is fielded by the always dangerous Brandon Banks who weaves his way 127 yards through shoddy tackling for a two point score, making it a 37-28 game.

– The Ticats move the sticks a few times but are eventually forced to punt.

– OC Jason Maas dials up the flea flicker and Burris ties the 480 completions in a season mark (set by Ricky Ray) by hooking up with Ellingson for a 43 yard gain.

– Two plays after a 34 yard run in which Powell displays speed, strength and agility, Burris hits a streaking Williams for a 24 yard TD strike. Burris’ 6th touchdown pass makes it 44-28.

– The teams trade two and outs

Brandon Sermons Tiquan Underwood

– Facing 3rd and long, Lemon knocks down Masoli’s pass to force a turnover on downs and Burris and company take over with 1:46 left in the game.

– Two Powell runs and three Burris knees later, HC Rick Campbell gets a Gatorade shower, R-Nation roars in delight and the Ticats take over with enough time to run two plays.

– Following two Ticat quick runs, the clock hits zero and pandemonium ensues.

Final score:

finalscore

Key Stats:

Burris completed 28/37 for 368 yards, 6 TDs and 1 INT

burrisstats

Powell had 17 carries for 119 yards

Ellingson hauled in 8 catches for 152 yards and 3 TDs

Hinds make 8 tackles

Milo was 1/1 on FGs and punted 6 times for 239 yards

Closing Thoughts:

What a difference a year makes. Though many in R-Nation believed things would be better in 2015, nobody (aside from Antoine Pruneau) predicted a 10 win improvement.

Offensively, Burris was masterful, orchestrating an attack that racked up 29 first downs, 482 total yards and averaged 8.3 yards per play. If there was any doubt remaining about who the league MOP is, Burris emphatically erased it, torching the Ticats secondary for half a dozen touchdowns while completing 75% of his passes and hitting 8 different receivers. In a season full of records and career bests, Burris added another notch to his belt, setting the record for most completions in a season (481). The offensive line deserves a ton of credit for protecting Burris and conceding just 2 sacks on the night and they were also the main reason Burris averaged 3 yards per QB sneak.

Speaking of the ground game, with the way William Powell is playing, even if Jeremiah Johnson is healthy in time for the East Final, there’s no guarantee he gets his job back. Powell averaged 7 yards per carry as he rumbled, darted and spun his way to another 100 yard game. As with any successful running back, much of Powell’s success started up front with his offensive line’s effective blocking, but it’s worth mentioning that a significant chunk of his yardage came well after first contact was made.

Heading into the game, Greg Ellingson was 81 yards away from being Ottawa’s 4th receiver to hit the 1000 yard for the season. By half-time, he was in the club. On a night when Ottawa’s three leading receivers (Williams, Jackson and Sinopoli) were each held to 3 catches or less, the Redblacks’ arial attack ran through Ellingson and Price. After being an afterthought for nearly the entire season, Price finished the regular season on a strong note, making 5 catches for 77 yards.

Defensively, the Redblacks held the Ticats to under 300 yards of offence and shut the Ticats out for 3/4 quarters. Led by a strong effort from Hinds, the lone blemish on the defence was a horrible 2nd quarter that allowed Hamilton to put up 20 points and claw their way back into the game. Ottawa added three QB takedowns to their league leading sack total and forced and recovered 3 fumbles. Shawn Lemon in particular deserves mention for the clinic he put on, pressuring the QB, forcing turnovers and knocking down passes.

As has come to be the norm this season, Ottawa completely lost the special teams battle but still managed to get the W, winning in spite of allowing a 62 yard punt return that set up the Ticats inside the 5 yard line, in spite of failing to notice an onside punt that went for a TD and in spite of allowing a missed convert to be returned 127 yards for a two point scoring play. Though Hamilton has the best special teams unit in the CFL, that’s no excuse for sloppy tackling and failure to have basic situational awareness.

With the win, the Redblacks finish atop the East Division for the first time since 1978, meaning that in the first playoff game at Lansdowne since 1983, a trip to the Grey Cup will be up for grabs. By snagging the East Division crown, the Redblacks have earned a much needed bye week that will allow players to rest up and heal any lingering nicks or bruises. Though some might be wary of losing momentum during the bye, the reality is that the Redblacks head into the playoffs on a 4 game win streak, the first streak of its kind in Ottawa since 1991. As magical as this season has been, it’s still hard to fathom that the only thing between the Redblacks and a trip to the Grey Cup is a game in front of a fervent home crowd that’s been waiting 32 years to do their part.

Is it November 22nd yet?

@RedBlackGade

Comments

Born and raised in the 613, Santino has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know.)