Jon Jennings wasn’t going to be outdone by his counterpart where it mattered most.
Jennings, who finished with 348 passing yards in a game that had 998 yards total offence overall, said the offensive fireworks were new to him.
“It’s funny because I don’t remember being in a shootout in college,” said Jennings, who played at Saginaw Valley State. “It was kinda crazy in the first half. They were attacking us. We were attacking them. The score was running up pretty quick.”
The win gave the Lions (9-4) a two-point edge as they begin a crucial home-and-away series with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on the road next week. It was their seventh win in eight tries against East Division opponents.
Ottawa (6-6-1) failed to increase its lead in the East Division despite 485 yards passing and two touchdowns from Harris.
The two quarterbacks spent the first half marching their teams up the field, earning a well-deserved breather at the break after a furious offensive pace that featured four lead changes and the Lions holding a 27-23 lead.
Harris fired the first punch, leading Ottawa to an opening-drive touchdown on a 12-play drive capped by a three-yard scoring toss to Brad Sinopoli.
However, Jennings responded with a touchdown on the Lions opening possession in two plays, finding Chris Rainey behind coverage for a 30-yard score.
Rainey then turned in a 42-yard punt return that set up the first of two field goals by Richie Leone of the Lions in the first half. Harris, who completed his first 13 pass attempts, returned fire later in the half with a 66-yard scoring strike to Chris Williams. Ottawa kicker Chris Milo connected for three field goals.
The teams combined for three touchdowns in just 2:07 in the second quarter as Jennings threw a short scoring pass to Emmanuel Arceneaux and Travis Lulay ran in from a yard out, sandwiched around Williams’ major for the Redblacks.
Harris had 302 yards passing in the first two quarters, part of a first half which featured 608 yards of combined total offence by the teams.
However in the third quarter the Redblacks tightened defensively while Harris was still effective for Ottawa, which began to establish an edge in field position.
Tailback Mossis Madu capped Ottawa’s second possession of the second half with a six-yard scoring run to give the Redblacks a 30-27 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Jennings responded to open the fourth, hitting Terrell Sinkfield from 31 yards out to regain the lead for B.C. Leone’s convert attempt was wide but he reclaimed the point on the next possession with a 70-yard punt single, giving the Lions a 34-30 lead.
Ottawa’s next possession resulted in a short field goal by Milo two plays after Harris hit Williams for a 62-yard pass reception to get the Redblacks within a point. However the Redblacks could not complete the comeback as defensive back Anthony Gaitor of the Lions picked off a Harris pass with three seconds remaining to seal the win.
“That was playoff football. They were a tough team. They wanted it but we wanted it too,” said Lions linebacker Solomon Elimimian, who had 13 tackles and came within one takedown of his own franchise record.
Redblacks coach Rick Campbell said despite the loss his team is improving and is setting itself up well for a divisional playoff run.
“We showed that we’re pretty good at times,” said Campbell . “We didn’t get it done but if we work at this the next five weeks we can throw our hat in the ring with anyone.”