1) I’d be willing to bet that you could count on one hand the number of times a CFL QB has thrown for 485 yards and lost. On a night when both teams’ offences marched up and down the field at will, Trevor Harris was surgical and looked to have recaptured some of his early season magic. Harris completed 71% of his passes while hitting 8 different receivers and finished the night 32/45 for 485 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT. Harris started out by completing 13 passes in a row and by half-time was over the 300 yard mark. It’s worth keeping in mind that if not for a trio of drops, his numbers would’ve been even better. Harris did a fantastic job answering each BC score with one of his own and until he got hit while throwing on Ottawa’s final drive, I don’t think anyone doubted he was going to move the Redblacks into position to attempt a last second field goal. For the record I don’t pin that pick six on the quarterback as he was hammered as he threw. Despite the loss, one big positive for the Redblacks is that if Harris can maintain this level of play, wins will surely follow.
2) Much has been made of Ottawa’s red zone struggles and while he coached a masterful game overall (how could you argue otherwise when the offence averaged 8.7 yards per play while generating 25 first downs and 539 yards), OC Jamie Elizondo’s unit ultimately finished the night at 50% in the red zone, which turned out to be the difference in the game. First the positives; Elizondo had the passing game humming, calling a good mix of slants, screens and deep passes. He also adjusted to the loss of his starting left tackle extremely well, compensating by keeping a FB/TE (Patrick Lavoie) in to help with pass protection and by calling more three step drops to get the ball out faster, as opposing to more traditional five or seven step drops. As for the negatives, after putting up 23 points in the opening half, the offence only managed 10 points over the final 30 minutes. Not to mention that the ratio of passes to runs called wasn’t exactly balanced, with only 11 runs dialled up vs 45 pass attempts. Lastly, moving the ball all the way down to BC’s 7 yard line with 6 minutes left in the game (when trailing by 4 points) and only coming a field goal is unacceptable. That 1st down call to FB Patrick Lavoie was simply a waste of a down. Overall, much like Harris’ play, if Elizondo can continue to get similar production out of his offence, the Redblacks will be in fine form over the last five weeks of the season.
3) Heading into the game, a lot of talk centred on how the Redblacks offensive line would survive the loss of LT SirVincent Rogers. While it’s much too early to make concrete proclaims, it looks like Ottawa will manage. Rookie Jason Lauzon-Séguin more than held his own at LT and the rest of the offensive line, perhaps buoyed by the return of RG Nolan MacMillan, gave Trevor Harris time to get through his reads and pick apart the Lions’ secondary. In 45 dropbacks, the unit conceded a single sack, which on paper, is simply phenomenal protection. The reality is that though offensive line as a whole only gave up one sack, as the game wore on BC began to put just enough pressure on Harris to rush throws. The biggest takeaway is that group was more than adequate vs a fearsome BC front and finished the game healthy, which bodes well for continuity down the road.
4) After an early drive killing drop, Chris Williams bounced back to lead all receivers with 5 catches for 155 yards and a touchdown. Williams’ speed continues to create headaches opposing defences and if he could only find a way to be more consistent, he would regularly be mentioned among the best receivers in the league. Ernest Jackson also had a big night against his former team, hauling in 6 passes for 122 yards. Brad Sinopoli and Greg Ellingson finished with 73 and 56 yards respectively, but each also struggled with uncharacteristic drops. Right before half-time Juron Criner nearly had the catch of night but upon review it was determined the ball bounced off the turf.
5) Hard to find positives on the defensive side of the ball when the unit gave up an average of 9.8 yards (basically a first down), every play. Mark Nelson’s group was shredded both in the air (348 yards) and on the ground (113 yards). To be fair, some of the deep shots Jennings took early in the game were extremely lucky to have been caught. DB Mitchell White and LB Taylor Reed were in perfect position yet both times the receiver came up with the momentum changing catch. As a whole, the unit failed miserably at putting any kind of sustained pressure on Jennings and could not generate a single turnover. Connor Williams notched Ottawa’s only sack of the night but it was the only blemish for a Lions’ offensive line that imposed it’s will on the Redblacks’ front seven. LB Damaso Munoz and DB Mitchell White lead the Redblacks with 7 tackles a piece and in general, the team tackled well, though individuals such as Jeff Richards notably missed some open field tackles.
6) Any time you play BC, returner Chris Rainey must be accounted for. And while the Redblacks didn’t exactly let him run wild, he still had returns of 42 and 26 yards. Ottawa countered with Jamill Smith who averaged 16.5 yards per kick return but who also lost a fumble for the first time in his career. As for the rest of Ottawa’s special team units, Chris Milo was perfect on the night, going 4/4 on FGs and 3/3 on extra points. In his first game back from injury, Canadian Nigel Romick made his presence felt with 2 special teams tackles.
7) Overall, the game was extremely well officiated and the Redblacks only took 8 penalties, three less than their season average. The one call that will rub R-Nation the wrong way is the 4th quarter chop block on Nolan MacMillan. The call killed a promising drive, cost Ottawa a down, and ultimately moved them out of field goal range. Worst of all, replays showed no chop block whatsoever; it actually looked like the defender simply slipped.
8) With one of the best looking home uniforms in the league, gotta wonder why the Lions chose to go with their creamsicle road jerseys in front of their home fans. While it’s by no means scientific, popular consensus on social media seems to prefer to the orange and black look. It’s a small thing but when you’re drawing less than 20,000 a game, why not do everything in your power to please the home crowd?
Shame that less than 20,000 were on hand in BC last night to watch one of the best shootouts of the year. Lots of work to be done there #CFL
— Redblack Renegade (@RedBlackGade) October 2, 2016
9) While some in R-Nation will chose to adopt a sky is falling mentality after this loss, the truth is there Ottawa has a lot of positives to build upon: The offence looked incredible and if Harris has truly regained his early season form than opponents are in for some long days. LBs Taylor Reed and Damaso Munoz are developing a dangerous chemistry and when John Boyett returns from injury, the linebacking corps will be that much more dangerous. Chris Milo seems to completely regained his confidence and hasn’t missed a kick in two weeks. The team seems to be playing with more discipline and as a result is being penalized less. All that being said, the defence absolutely needs to tighten up, figure out a way to make opposing QBs uncomfortable and to create takeaways . Whether that means GM Marcel Desjardins needs to swing a trade for a disruptive DE or sign an NFL castoff, or whether is means DC Mark Nelson needs to scheme new blitz packages, something has to give.
10) There’s no denying that Ottawa wasted a huge opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the East Division. With the 2nd place Ticats losing the game and QB Zach Collaros to injury, the Redblacks had a golden chance to move three points up on the rest of the East. Now, more than ever, the late season home and home with Hamilton looks like it will settle who finishes atop the division.
11) Lastly, it isn’t directly Redblacks related but still worth a mention. This alumnus was extremely pleased to see the Carleton Ravens capture their 3rd straight Panda Game win over the Ottawa Gee-Gees in front of the largest crowd in CIS regular season history (23,329). The Ravens offence was lead by 8th ranked CIS draft prospect WR Nathaniel Behar who finished the day with 9 catches for 118 yards and 2 TDs. The defence did its part by playing physical and throttling the Gee-Gees dangerous aerial attack en route to a 43-23 win. Everyone already knows that Ottawa supports its pro team, but it’s fantastic to see the city get behind its CIS teams as well.
— Carleton Ravens (@CURavens) October 1, 2016