The Ottawa Redblacks’ bold decision for an onside kick late in the third quarter proved to be a difference maker on Saturday night.
Ottawa recovered the onside kick inside Lions territory and receiver Diontae Spencer scored a touchdown two plays later as the Redblacks overcame a 19-point deficit in the second half to defeat the B.C. Lions 30-25.
“That’s what football is about. You can do a lot of good things and do a lot of the hard work, but those momentum-changing plays can obviously make a huge difference,” said Redblacks coach Rick Campbell.
It was initially ruled that Spencer was down at the one-yard line, but a review from a coach’s challenge determined Spencer got into the end zone for the score.
“We had to get back in the game somehow, so it’s a credit to the coaches to be able to have the nerve to do that,” said receiver Greg Ellingson of the onside kick. “After that, it’s just players making plays.
“I think in the second half, (we) kind of let it loose. We were a little conservative, maybe, in the first half and in the second half, we let Trevor (Harris) air it out and show that his shoulder is as healthy as it’s ever been.”
Harris threw three touchdown passes and finished the game 28 of 38 for 380 yards in his return from a three-game absence due to a shoulder injury.
The Redblacks trailed 25-6 late in the third quarter, but silenced a suddenly stunned crowd of 19,324 fans at BC Place Stadium with the comeback. Harris and the Ottawa offence had been held in check through the first half with only 122 yards passing and a pair of Brett Maher field goals, while the Lions seemed in complete control.
Lions quarterback Jonathon Jennings threw three touchdown passes, including two to veteran receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux and one to sophomore receiver Shaquille Johnson. Late in the third quarter, however, the Lions began to implode.
B.C. receiver Bryan Burnham fumbled the ball inside his own 30-yard line, giving the Redblacks excellent field position. Harris then connected with Ellingson for a 19-yard touchdown pass to cut into B.C.’s lead.
“I just thought we got more aggressive, offensively and defensively, with our calls. We finally started making the plays,” said Harris.
“I’m not going to try and be anybody else. If I change the way I play, then I don’t feel like I’ll give my team the best chance to win. Me going out there and having a sense of fear wouldn’t be a good thing.”
Harris and Ellingson connected once again early in the fourth quarter, this time for a 45-yard touchdown pass to even the score at 25-25. The single-point convert from Maher gave the Redblacks their first lead of the game.
“We need to make sure we play the game to win, be aggressive enough in the way we call the game as coaches and as the players play the game,” said Campbell.
Maher’s 15-yard field goal less than three minutes later increased Ottawa’s lead to five points. He made all three of his field goal attempts, with his longest from 45 yards out.
The Redblacks improved to 6-9-1 and are one point behind the Toronto Argonauts for first in the East Division. Their next game is Friday on the road against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“Every win is like gold,” said Campbell. “It’s going to be a tough stretch. We only have two games left (versus the Roughriders and then the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Oct. 27 so these last two games are going to be huge. We need to be ready to go.”
The loss delivers a devastating blow to the Lions’ playoff hopes. They remain fifth in the West Division, two points back of the fourth-place Edmonton Eskimos, who visit the Montreal Alouettes on Monday.