Worst chapter in Redblacks’ history comes to a close (& 13 other thoughts)

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

It was fitting that in a season filled with disappointments, given one last chance to surprise their fans with a win, the Ottawa Redblacks shot themselves in the foot and ensured their 11th straight defeat with a pick-six.

It was the Redblacks’ eight consecutive home loss, dropping their record to 3-15 on the season. If one was looking for bright spots they could point to the fact that the game was (relatively) entertaining, a one score contest before a couple of late turnovers sealed a 42-32 victory for the visiting Montreal Alouettes.

Here are all my thoughts on the game:

1) If Dominique Davis isn’t on the receiving end of an un-flagged headshot near the end of the first half, the outcome quite likely is different. Until he was forced to exit the game for precautionary reasons, Davis had been on fire, at one point even completing 15 straight passes. In his first action in weeks, Davis was decisive with his reads and delivered his passes with zip. He’s got a strong arm and when he’s in a rhythm it’s a pretty thing to watch. Davis’ final stats read 16-of-18 passes completed (89 percent) for 155 yards.

It might not be a popular opinion in Ottawa but I for one hope Davis is brought back for another season. He’s at the very least a capable backup but with a real offensive coordinator who game plans around his strengths, could improve and surprise.

2) Will Arndt should be credited with a passing touchdown, but the Command Centre continues to watch something no one else sees. Calling R.J. Harris down by contact at the one, despite crystal clear HD replays showing him not being touched by anyone as he rolled into the end zone.

Arndt replaced Davis in the second half of the game and while he made a number of good throws (such as the above mentioned strike to Harris), he also had an equal number of inaccurate ones. His last pass of the evening came with 45 seconds left, down three and the length of the field to go, a high pass that snuffed out any chance of a comeback or upset win.

*Side note, as per TD Place policy, air horns are banned, but apparently nobody cared to enforce that rule.

3) For the first time since August 2nd, the Redblacks managed to score more 30 points in a game. Seemingly, Joe Paopao, play-caller and head of Ottawa’s offensive committee, saved his best for last. In his swan song, Paopao directed an offence that scored its first touchdown in 40 possessions.

The Redblacks finished the night with 362 net yards of offence, averaged 5.5 yards per play, converted 63 percent (17-of-27) of second down opportunities and went 3-for-5 in the red zone.

The unit still lost the time of possession battle and seven of their thirteen drives lasted five plays or less.

With the season in the books, it’s unfathomable that Paopao or the offensive committee comes back next season. When Jamie Elizondo left in the spring, concerns were immediately raised about the concept of a committee and how it was likely to go wrong. Those fears turned out to be well founded and hopefully such an experience is never again carried out in the nation’s capital.

4) Nice to see John Crockett back on the field looking like himself. Crockett ran with authority, averaging 5.1 yards per carry and 6.2 per reception. He finished the night with 51 yards on the ground and 37 in the air, 33 of those coming after the catch.

By not finding the end zone, the Redblacks achieved a truly bizarre stat. Not one running back on their roster scored a touchdown in 2019. Until Jonathon Jennings found the end zone against Montreal last night, nobody other than Dominique Davis had scored a rushing touchdown for the Redblacks this season.

5) Fitting that on the night his two-year extension is announced (more on that in a bit), the offensive committee remembered Brad Sinopoli existed. Sinopoli was targeted 10 times against the Als and responded with a vintage performance, making eight catches for 100 yards, 48 of those coming after contact and three of his receptions moving the chains on second down.

Last week Sinopoli passed the legendary Tony Gabriel for most receptions in Ottawa history. This week, he passed Stephen Jones for fourth all-time in reception yardage.

6) As for the rest of the receiving corps, R.J. Harris made a number of contested catches, finishing the night with seven for 65 yards. Caleb Holley hauled in five passes for 43 yards, Nate Behar had a pair of receptions for 18 yards and Jeremic Smith four for 49.

7) Despite playing against backups for most of the game, Noel Thorpe’s defence was again pushed around. Montreal averaged 5.8 yards per rush (finishing with 128 yards on the ground) and 7.8 yards per pass (finishing with 227 yards in the air). The Als converted 14-of-24 (58 percent) of second down opportunities and went 3-for-3 in the red zone.

Avery Ellis and team award winner Jerod Fernandez (Most Outstanding Rookie) led the way with seven tackles each.

8) Antoine Pruneau is one of the last original Redblacks left on the team and a fan favourite — it’s easy to see why. Pruneau has missed significant time this season and it would’ve been easy for for him to sit out the team’s final games, a meaningless contest that ultimately counted for nothing and simply headed into the off-season. Instead, Pruneau insisted on playing so he could do his part to try and help earn a win.

Sometimes it’s obvious that a player hates losing and truly loves the game. That’s the case with Pruneau and that’s why he’s someone Ottawa will continue to build around.

9) Not a terrible night from Lewis Ward but it also wasn’t the automatic, robotic performance R-Nation has been spoiled to expect. Ward made kicks from 18, 27 and 47 yards out but shanked a convert and missed a 46-yard kick in the fourth quarter.

Ward’s contract is expiring but bringing him back should be a no-brainer. Even in a “down” season, Ward made 86 percent of the field goals he attempted (43-of-50) and 9-of-11 converts.

10) Most surprising news of the day might have been Canadian defensive lineman Michael Klassen’s pre-game retirement announcement. The best mullet in the CFL broke the news via an Instagram post.

View this post on Instagram

Well it’s been a ride…gave 11 years of my life to this sport! On this last day of our season I am officially announcing my retirement from football! 2 Vanier cup loses, 2 Mitchell bowl losses, 1 eastern final loss and 2 grey cup losses! You can look at it two ways.. either I’m a big loser, or I was very fortunate enough to play and contribute with a lot of great teams that almost finished lol. I prefer the latter! I want to thank all my coaches for both giving me an opportunity and instilling great qualities that will hopefully help me along in this next chapter of life! I was fortunate to play beside so many great football players and even better men that I consider some of my best friends, so I thank all my teammates for your friendship as well as putting up with all my locker room antics! To my friends and family for the continued support throughout the years! You guys make the pain and suffering of this rough sport all worth it! Love you guys! And finally to my #1 fan, ex-gf, current fiancé and future wife @k_immy_ you are the most supportive, caring and loving person I have ever met(obviously) and for you to be able to live apart from me for months at a time, I know it’s not easy so you Kim are the real MVP. . . If you somehow are still reading this, I am fortunate enough to strap on the pads one last time tonight for our team warmups so hopefully you can tune in and watch your @cflredblacks finish this season on a high note! . Love you guys! ???????????????? and never forget to just “live your story!”

A post shared by Michael Klassen (@mikeygunz90) on

It’s bittersweet for fans in the nation’s capital as Klassen was a class guy on and off the field, but it’s always nice to see players end their careers on their own terms.

11) During a break in the play in the first quarter, the Redblacks surprised those in attendance by sharing that they’d re-signed a good chunk of their Canadian core to two year extensions. Obviously it’s only one step, but it’s an important one in re-establishing trust with the fan base.

12) With the book now closed on the ugliest chapter in Redblacks’ history, the good news is that there’s no where to go but up.

Although the team has experienced a high level of success in recent years, fans (and especially management) can’t keep looking back and point to previous achievements. Truly great franchises compete year in and year out. That should always be the goal and the Redblacks have a ways to go before they can be considered such an organization.

Even though Rick Campbell and Marcel Desjardins’ futures are not yet clear, the Canadian re-signings likely indicate the general manager will return. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been given the green light to start building a roster for 2020 that he wouldn’t be around to manage.

And it’s only a gut feeling but I believe Campbell returns as well and in my opinion he should be back. Between the lack of a proper coaching staff, the regression of certain second-year players and the injury bug, Campbell was never coaching with a full team. Given his track record, he deserves another shot to right the ship.

13) I want to use this last point to thank you, the reader. It’s been a long season and a grind for many in the nation’s capital, but I always appreciate that you take time out of your day to read and comment. Even though the team is heading into their off-season, here at 3DownNation the content won’t stop. I’ll have a full slate of articles to keep your Redblacks fix going strong all winter and spring long. Cheers and thanks once again.

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).