Ward’s streak boots Redblacks to victory (& 10 other thoughts)

Thanks to some impressive accuracy from their rookie kicker, the Ottawa Redblacks defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 21-15, earning their third consecutive win at Tim Horton’s Field. 

Here are all my thoughts on the game:

1) While Trevor Harris put up solid numbers (completing 65% of his passes for 228 yards), the fact of the matter is he was merely pedestrian in his 48th career start. He probably should’ve been picked off once but that was balanced out by R.J. Harris’ wide open end zone drop. Of Harris’ 23 completions, only two were for gains of 30 or more yards. Until Harris starts pushing the ball (and completing passes) down the field, the Redblacks’ offence will struggle to generate points with consistency. On the evening as a whole, Harris only had one drive in which he completed more than three passes. Talk about struggling to find a rhythm. 

2) As easy as it would be to pile on Harris, his offensive coordinator isn’t doing much to help him out. Jamie Elizondo’s play calling in recent weeks has been bland, with the run game in particular suffering. Of Ottawa’s 14 offensive possessions, nine lasted five plays or less. The offence gained just 315 net yards (averaging 5.4 yards per play) on the night. The unit converted only 10-of-25 second down opportunities (40%) and went 0-for-2 in the red zone. It’s rare to win a CFL game when held out of the end zone, but Elizondo can thank his kicker for bailing him out. It’s fair to say the offence has tons of room for improvement.

3) After averaging 6.5 yards per carry over Ottawa’s first three games, it seems as if William Powell has hit a wall. Since starting off on a torrid pace, a combination of poor blocking up front and predictable run plays have resulted in Powell’s ground production slowing to a halt. In the last three games, Powell has gained 114 yards on 37 carries, good for an average of 3 yards per touch.

But even as Powell’s rushing totals have diminished, he remains an important cog as a safety outlet for his quarterback. Against the Ticats Powell caught three passes for 61 yards, including a fourth quarter 50-yard catch and scamper that set up a crucial field goal.

4) Brad Sinopoli continues to carry the load among the Redblacks’ receiving corps. No. 88 made it look easy as he shredded the Ticats’ secondary to the tune of nine catches for 82 yards. Most importantly, four of those catches came on second down to keep drives alive. In his last four games, Sinopoli has hauled in 35 passes for 438 yards and two touchdowns.

5) As for the rest of Ottawa’s receivers, anyone not a former CIS quarterback continues to underwhelm. Greg Ellingson was targeted 10 times, but turned that into three catches for 34 yards. Diontae Spencer caught all four passes thrown his way, but having your fastest receiver average 4.5 yards per reception is hardly ideal. R.J. Harris caught a long jump ball, nearly completing a Hail Mary, but later dropped a surefire touchdown. 

Nice to see fullback J.C Beaulieu involved in the passing game. His two targets turned into a pair of catches for 17 yards. Jamie Elizondo would be wise to take advantage of his battering ram’s soft hands.

6) Another game, another strong defensive performance from Noel Thorpe’s unit. For all the struggles on the offensive side of the ball, at least the Redblacks know they can always bank on a strong effort from their defence. Led by Anthony Cioffi’s five tackles and two sacks, A.C. Leonard’s five tackles and one sack, Loucheiz Purifoy’s six tackles and a group effort that left four other players with four tackles apiece, the Redblacks kept a potent Ticats’ attack under wraps for the majority of the night. 13 Hamilton possessions resulted in six punts, an interception, a blocked field and two missed field goals. The Redblacks sacked Masoli five times, held Hamilton to 31 rushing yards and only gave up a single (late) touchdown. Thorpe’s unit cemented the win with back to back sacks on the game’s final drive.

7) Lewis Ward will always have fond memories of his first trip to the Hammer. By going 7-of-7 in field attempts, Ward has strung his streak of made kicks to 17 in a row. Ward is now 20-for-21 on the season and has not missed from inside the 47-yard mark. On a night when his offence failed to score a touchdown, Ward was responsible for every point his team scored. Shoutout to long snapper Louis-Philippe Bourassa, Ward’s success is a testament to his skill.

8) Speaking of special teams, Ottawa’s other kicker also had himself a night. Punter Richie Leone smashed six punts for 267 yards, averaging a net field position flip of 41 yards. A big part of that is great down field coverage, which is reflected by the fact that the longest Ticat punt return of the game was nine yards. 

9) Local Hamilton man takes in the game featuring his former team playing his home town team. 

Awesome moment for those lucky fans and a reminder that Russ Jackson is timeless, amazing and a legend to generations of CFL fans.

10) It wasn’t always pretty, but by earning the win, the Redblacks improve their record to 4-2 and create some separation from the rest of the East. Ottawa is now 2-0 vs Eastern opponents and 2-0 vs Western teams not named Calgary. Given how tough their opening six weeks looked on paper, Rick Campbell’s squad has gotten off to a respectable start. Up next is a Thursday night date at BMO Field against a struggling Argo team. A trip to Toronto to face a leaky defence could be exactly what Ottawa’s offence needs to right the ship. Either way, it’ll be all hands on deck as the Redblacks look to steal another two points from a divisional foe.

Must Read