Redblacks tie Esks but lose to refs (& 10 other thoughts)

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

It was an unremarkable game in an unremarkable season but that doesn’t excuse the fact that the referees (and command centre) screwed up.

We’ll never know if the Redblacks could’ve scored a late field goal or touchdown to beat the Eskimos, but the fact that the deck was tilted against them via a touchdown catch that clearly wasn’t and a terrible spot on a potential game-winning drive didn’t help matters.

Ultimately the Redblacks dropped their seventh game in a row, this time losing to Edmonton by a score of 21-16 at TD Place.

Here are all my thoughts on the game:

1) When head coach Rick Campbell announced early in the week that he’d be rotating Jonathon Jennings and Dominique Davis at quarterback, the decision was met with much derision. It didn’t make sense given that Jennings and Davis both had multiple opportunities to seize the starting role, but played their way onto the bench. Neither had done anything to deserve another shot over third stringer Will Arndt.

Nonetheless, Campbell did indeed rotate his quarterbacks against the Eskimos, with predictably ineffective results. Jennings led the game’s first two drives, netting 15 total yards. Davis then came in for his first bit of action since melting down in Regina and led one scoring drive (a field goal) on three possessions.

From there Jennings was back under centre for the final three drives of the half, all resulting in punts. In the second half Campbell’s experiment to flop quarterbacks like a fish out of water came to an end, as Davis led six straight drives before exiting with an injury. Jennings came in for Ottawa’s final possession with a chance for a game-winning drive but came up short with a turnover on downs thanks to a questionable spot.

On the night, Davis was clearly the better of the two pivots, going 15-of-23 for 215 with no touchdowns or interceptions. Not only does he see the field better than Jennings (which isn’t saying much), Davis also led every scoring drive and isn’t afraid of pushing the ball down the field, something that seems like Jennings he’s allergic to. Jennings completed 7-of-8 passes for 58 yards but failed to lead a drive that resulted in anything but a punt.

Hopefully for R-Nation’s sake, the bye week gives the coaching staff an extra week to prepare Arndt for his debut. A look at what might be the future is plenty more interesting than flipping between two players who likely won’t be in town next season.

2) How long did the Redblacks go between their touchdown in the fourth quarter and the one before it? 228 minutes and 48 seconds; 21 days; 15 quarters; 58 offensive possessions and approximately 9,000 elections ads. No wonder R-Nation erupted when the sound of the logger’s chainsaw (which surprisingly hadn’t rusted) revved up and cut a wood cookie.

Although the touchdown drought came to a merciful end against the Eskimos, the Joe Paopao-led offensive committee continues to produce an atrocious brand of attacking football. Ottawa averaged 4.9 yards per play against Edmonton, went 10-for-24 on second down (42 percent), lost the time of possession battle (again) and struggled to maintain drives.

After 30 minutes of play, the offence had generated only 77 yards of net offence. Over the game’s final 30 minutes, the unit as a whole was better, generating 80 in the third quarter and 134 in the fourth. Still, the Redblacks’ offence remains predictable, bland and unreliable.

3) Another forgettable game from running back Mossis Madu. Madu’s 13 carries resulted in 25 yards, for an average of 1.9 yards per carry. Much like the quarterback position, it’s difficult to comprehend why Campbell continues to start a very obviously unproductive player. Naming Brendan Gillanders or Greg Morris as starter risks nothing and will surely result in a higher level of production than what the Redblacks are currently getting out of Madu.

4) I touched upon it last week but after watching the all-Canadian offensive line get manhandled for the second straight week, it’s worth repeating the question. If he’s healthy enough to be on the game day roster, why was Stephane Nembot a scratch?

His absence meant a line of Mark Korte at left tackle, Philippe Gagnon at left guard, Alex Mateas at centre, Nolan MacMillan at right guard and Evan Johnson at right tackle. While Korte and Johnson are serviceable at tackle, they are best suited playing at an interior guard position. Having both at tackle means Gagnon draws in. And when he’s beaten like a dusty carpet as he was repeatedly against Edmonton, you see why Nembot could make a difference.

As a group, the offensive line failed to protect their quarterbacks, conceding six sacks on the night. They also couldn’t get the ground game going whatsoever, averaging only 2.4 yards per rush.

5) Despite a handful of drops, it was a strong showing from Ottawa’s receiving corps. Dominique Rhymes had game-high seven targets which resulted in five catches for 104 yards. R.J. Harris and Caleb Holley made six and five receptions for 71 and 36 yards respectively.

Be it by design, negligent quarterbacking or due to being locked down by the defence, Brad Sinopoli’s underwhelming season continued. No. 88 was targeted exactly twice and hauled in one pass for seven yards.

6) All things considered, it was a gusty effort from Noel Thorpe’s defence. After being blown out in three straight games, it was nice to see a defensive unit that battled to the very end.

Led by ferocious efforts from J.R. Tavai (five tackles and a sack) and Anthony Cioffi (six tackles), Ottawa’s defence limited the Eskimos to 271 yards of net offence and just 2.9 yards per second down play.

Edmonton converted just 7-of-23 second down opportunities (30 percent) yet avoided turning the ball over and went 2-for-2 in the red zone.

In his return to the field, defensive back Sherrod Baltimore was noticeable. Although he finished the game with a single tackle, he brings a visible energy that picks up his teammates and rarely blows a coverage. Like Nembot, it’s difficult to comprehend why Baltimore has been a regular healthy scratch.

7) The CFL does a lot of things on social media quite well. But promoting a dubious touchdown catch isn’t one of them.

To respond to the tweet in question, you do that by having the referees on the field miss a call and then video replay officials in Toronto’s command centre decide to ignore the evidence in front of their eyes.

Not only is the ball coming out, but it’s clear the receiver never has control of the ball until it hits the turf. Given that the command centre is supposed to correct obvious mistakes, it defies logic that this blown call was allowed to stand.

Furthermore, the spot the Redblacks got on their final possession as they drove down the field trying to score a late touchdown to take the lead was atrocious. Madu definitely looked like he had crossed the first down line but thanks to a spot that seemed half a yard short, there was a turnover on downs which allowed the Eskimos to run out the clock.

Now this isn’t to say that the command centre or referees cost Ottawa the game, after all, they had all game to make more plays. Or perhaps if the touchdown call was overruled Edmonton would’ve kicked a field goal that Ottawa would’ve failed to match. But for a team desperate for a win, having a couple of obvious missed calls late in the game hurts.

8) With both Stefan Logan and DeVonte Dedmon out nursing injuries, Ottawa’s return duties fell to R.J. Harris (who handled punts) and Greg Morris and De’Chavon Hayes who split kickoff duties. Of the three, Harris was the most effective, averaging 9.8 yards per punt return. Morris busted off a 34-yard return and Hayes had one for 17 yards.

As for the rest of the special teams, Lewis Ward was 2-for-3 on the night, missing from 48 yards out but nailing kicks from the 42 and 52.

Shout out to Kevin Francis and Kevin Brown, both of whom finished with three special teams tackles. Special teamers are too often overlooked but play such a crucial role in every game. Francis and Brown’s efforts might be overlooked by many fans but will surely be noticed in this week’s film study.

9) Some in R-Nation were surprised by the lack of video tribute to receiver Greg Ellingson, who was making his first appearance back in the nation’s capital since signing with Edmonton in the off-season.

Although some may argue that Ellingson’s exceptional play during his time in Ottawa merited some acknowledgement from the Redblacks (four 1,000-yard seasons, 30 touchdowns and a legendary East Final catch), the reality is that Ellingson is not retired or retiring. He’s a visiting opponent capable of taking over a game and a reminder of an off-season of calculated gambles that failed to pan out. It’s no surprise OSEG didn’t want to draw attention to him.

And that’s without even getting into the fact that no one knows how much of a role his being charged for failing to provide a breath sample during a RIDE stop last November factored into how things played out. Lastly, the CFL is a transient league, it’s extremely rare for video tributes to happen simply because there’s so much movement.

10) Heading into the game, the Redblacks’ playoff hopes were a pipe dream. With the loss, despite being mathematically alive, Ottawa’s post-season aspirations are dead and buried. Even still, after a series of blowout losses, it was good to see a much higher compete level from the team in all three phases of the game.

With the remaining four games of 2019, Campbell would be wise to give some of his younger players long looks in order to gauge what he has for the future. There’s nothing to play for but pride and jobs but given the turnover on the average CFL roster every off-season, that should be plenty of motivation for whoever takes the field wearing red and black.

Santino Filoso is originally from Ottawa and has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know).