Rick Campbell safety decision gifts Stampeders victory in Ottawa

Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Rick Campbell kneeled down and handed the Stampeders a win on a silver platter.

The Redblacks head coach opted to give up a safety after the sputtering Jon Jennings-led offence couldn’t managed a first down following a key turnover forced by the defence. That cut the Calgary deficit to two points and meant the Stamps needed only a field goal to win.

“I was debating on that one,” Campbell said after the game. “I was thinking we’re going to have to defend about 30 yards of field position either way, punting out of our own end zone.”

Terry Williams returned the ensuing kick-off 28 yards to the Calgary 50-yard line. Nick Arbuckle led a short drive to put the red and white in field goal range for the most accurate kicker in CFL history, Rene Paredes. He calmly split the uprights from 31 yards giving Calgary a 17-16 last-second decision.

“I’ll definitely look at it and reevaluate. It didn’t work out so it wasn’t the right decision. But I’m not too stubborn or too proud I will look at it and do whatever I can to give this football team the best chance to win,” Campbell said.

“Whether that was the right decision, I’ll look at it and go from there. Either way we were going to have to get a stop and we didn’t. It didn’t work out.”

Noel Thorpe’s unit forced four fumbles, the biggest of which could have preserved the game for Ottawa. Calgary was driving with less than two minutes left on the clock trailing by four points. Stamps receiver Richie Sindani dove for the goal line, but while in the air Redblacks defensive back Corey Tindal punched the ball out and Sherrod recovered. That halted a potential game-winning touchdown.

Campbell’s call to hand Calgary two points and field position instead of trusting his defence will certainly be questioned in the nation’s capital. Ottawa held the Stampeders out of the end zone for the entire game, but still lost the contest. The Redblacks suffered a fourth straight defeat for the first time since their inaugural season in 2014.

Along with the defence, Lewis Ward’s trusty boot had Ottawa tied going into the final minutes against the defending Grey Cup champions. Ward ran his field goal streak to 64 straight three-pointers made, including an impressive 21-for-21 from 40 yards or more. Those kicks kept Ottawa within striking distance.

Jon Jennings had his second straight game to forget, except for a 23-yard touchdown pass to Brad Sinopoli – Sinopoli had his best game of the season with seven catches for 76 yards and the lone major – which gave the Redblacks the lead to start the fourth quarter. Jennings completed 15-of-18 passes for 125 yards, one touchdown against two interceptions. Ottawa managed just 221 offensive yards and held the ball for only 22 minutes and 55 seconds leaving the defence on the field for long periods.

The Stampeders controlled the clock – 37 minutes and five seconds possession time – and rhythm of the game, but couldn’t break into the end zone. Arbuckle had an efficient outing completing 30-of-37 passes for a career-high 370 yards utilizing nine different pass catchers. Markeith Ambles (79), Reggie Begelton (78) and Eric Rogers (71) all had over 70 yards receiving.

Former NFL running back Ka’Deem Carey had his best outing in the CFL, recording 70 yards on nine totes – 7.8 yards per carry. Williams added 48 yards on the ground to provide balance on offence for the young starter Arbuckle. Calgary’s primary returner had 168 yards on seven touches in the return game.

Canadian Cory Greenwood led the Stamps on defence with nine tackles as the unit stymied Jennings and the Redblacks. Fellow linebacker Wynton McManis stuffed the stat sheet with seven tackles, one special teams stop, one sack and one fumble recovery. Brent Monson has the unit playing at a high level over the last four weeks.

But the focus is going to be on Campbell for the late-game choice.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.