The Ottawa Redblacks had never won at McMahon Stadium – it’s not an easy feat.
However on Saturday night the Redblacks slayed the beast and exacted revenge, defeating the Calgary Stampeders 32-28 in dramatic fashion.
The clubs look a lot different since their 2018 Grey Cup match up.
To name a few, Trevor Harris, Diontae Spencer, Greg Ellingson, and William Powell all left the nation’s capital. Receivers coach Winston October took over the play calling duties following the departure of offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo. Joe Paopao is back in the CFL as their running backs coach.
For Calgary, their defence has seen an overhaul. Alex Singleton, Micah Johnson, and Ciante Evans are three of eight defensive starters in the 2018 Grey Cup no longer with the Stamps.
Dominique Davis’ first pass as the Redblacks starting quarterback was an interception inside the shadows of their own goal post. Two defensive penalties kept the drive alive, and the Stampeders were up seven early with a Don Jackson score.
But in the next series Davis responded, marching 86 yards on 12 plays to score the way he did often last year – a one-yard plunge.
After Rene Paredes capped the ensuing drive with three points, Davis threw his second interception to Tre Roberson and Bo Levi Mitchell wasted no time in response. Mitchell connected with national Juwan Brescacin for a 50-yard major and a two-point convert later had the Stamps leading 18-6 at the end of the first.
Mitchell finished 23-for-39 with 275 passing yards and one touchdown and interception each. Davis countered with 29-of-44 completions for 276 yards and four interceptions.
Another Paredes field goal extended the lead, before a 13-play Redblacks drive aided by a face mask penalty and the legs of Mossis Madu snatched eight points back after another Davis plunge.
Madu had a strong outing as the new go-to running back, rushing for 112 yards on 24 touches.
Lewis Ward wrapped up the first half as he hit from 44 yards out and the Redblacks trailed 21-17. That followed a Jonathon Rose fumble recovery.
Defence stuck out early in the second half, it was highlighted by a third and most costly interception by Davis. The throw was well behind R.J Harris and Brandon Smith caught the deflection and burned down the field for a 59-yard pick six.
Ward hit his 50th straight regular season field goal from 26 yards on the next drive, and the Redblacks trailed by seven heading into the fourth.
The fourth quarter started out quiet enough until Roberson came down with a third Davis throw. The 26-year-old out of Illinois State completed the hat trick on a 50/50 ball downfield. The Stamps ended up punting with their six point lead standing after an early fourth quarter punt single.
Ottawa went two and out inside Calgary’s red zone after a fumble recovery following Terry Williams botched punt return, settling for a field goal and a three point deficit.
Their defence stood strong and gave them the opportunity to tie or win the game inside two minutes.
And that’s exactly what they did. Davis found Harris’ old safety valve in Brad Sinopoli for 24 yards to get the ball inside Calgary’s five and the quarterback did the rest, securing his third rushing touchdown of the contest and Ottawa had its first lead.
Mitchell was in rhythm but his one shot down the field fell into the hands of Jonathan Rose, who many were questioning his eligibility to play in Week 1.
Calgary will have a bye next week while Ottawa welcomes the Riders in their home opener.