The Ottawa Redblacks’ late fourth-quarter comeback attempt fell just short after they failed to convert an onside kick attempt with 30 seconds left after scoring a late TD with a two-point conversion to cut the BC Lions’ lead to three points. They would end up losing a close, back and forth battle by a score of 34-31 against the red-hot, undefeated Lions led by Canadian QB Nathan Rourke, who was just as effective with his legs as he was with his arms today.
Last week, the Redblacks outgained the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on the ground and through the air but could not find the endzone and only scored 12 points en route to a 19-12 loss. This week, the Redblacks were outgained 359 – 162 in the passing game and 150 – 91 on the ground but found the endzone three times while scoring over 30 points against the CFL’s best defense, who have only allowed nine points per game and 279 yards per game for the first two games of the season. The Redblacks only gained 253 offensive yards, however, significantly less than their two previous games’ totals. Masoli had over 330 pass yards alone in weeks one and two.
This is very impressive, considering the Redblacks only scored 14.5 points per game in the first two games of the season, despite moving the ball very well, recording 430 yards per game (355.5 pass yards per game and 77.5 rush yards per game). The Redblacks haven’t had any problems moving the ball and gaining yards this year, but have had trouble scoring points.
Both teams’ defenses started strong and forced the opposing offense to go two and out. A sack from Praise Martin-Oguike forced the Lions to punt on their opening drive, however, the Redblacks couldn’t do much with their opening possession either.
On BC’s ensuing drive, a phenomenal catch on a bobbled ball set up a 3rd & 1 at the Ottawa 50-yard line. The Redblacks applied a ton of pressure to Rourke, but he still managed to roll out of the picket and scamper for a 50-yard TD, the first of two big, game-changing plays for the Lions. The Lions had a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.
The next two drives from each team resulted in two and outs. The Redblacks’ defense was playing pretty well considering they were up against the best QB in the league this season who leads the league’s number one offense that scored 51.5 points per game and gained 526 yards per game (359 pass yards per game and 167 rush yards per game) in their first two regular-season games. Meanwhile, the BC Both teams were relying on the short run and pass game and both defenses were shutting it down before it could start up.
It wasn’t until near the end of the first quarter before the Redblacks strung together a drive with multiple first downs, using a nice mix of run and pass while also relying heavily on running back William Powell’s strength, speed, and agility. They moved down the field efficiently, however, could not advance past the 25. The Lions’ defense held them to a 35-yard field goal attempt, which Lewis Ward hit.
The Redblacks’ defense was playing very well up to that point. The secondary was playing with more confidence and the defensive line and linebackers did a better job containing Rourke, preventing him from rolling out of the pocket and applying pressure to give him less time to make a play.
On the next drive, the Lions responded nicely with a long, meticulous drive that took several minutes off the clock and ended in a three-yard touchdown pass from Rourke to running back James Butler after the two connected on a 24-yard screen pass to set up the first and goal. The Lions took a 14-3 lead only four minutes into the second quarter.
The Redblacks would respond with another long drive down the field. The Lions’ secondary was playing a near-perfect game, but once the Redblacks shifted their offensive game plan and started to more rely on Powell and their run game, their offense got a lot better and things started opening up for Masoli in the passing game. Masoli aired the ball downfield frequently in weeks one and two, but rarely this evening.
The Redblacks instead relied on their running game and multiple short and intermediate throws with yards after the catch potential to meticulously move down the field. They made it inside the red zone, however, they were stopped short of the endzone by the Lions’ defense that played great coverage and applied a ton of pressure to Masoli all game long. They settled on a 28 field goal attempt from Ward to cut BC’s lead to 14-6.
The Redblacks’ defense tightened up near the end of the second quarter and played on another level for the rest of the game, registering multiple pressures against Rourke and causing multiple sacks, interceptions, and fumbles. It would stay 14-6 for BC at the half. In the second half, the game would really get interesting.
The Redblacks’ first offensive drive of the first half saw another two-and-out, however, their defense would make the first of many big, momentum-swinging plays. The Redblacks got the ball to start the second half and went two and out after two incompletions from Masoli.
On the Lions’ ensuing drive, they drove down to around midfield before Redblacks’ defensive back Monshadrik Hunter picked off Nathan Rourke – who hadn’t thrown an interception thus far this season – and returned it all the way to the Blue Bombers’ 16-yard line. Immense pressure from the Redblacks’ defensive line forced Rourke to throw it quicker than he wanted to which led to the pick.
Down eight points, starting their drive in the red zone, the Redblacks needed to convert for a touchdown. The Redblacks relied on their run game to get just inside the 5-yard line before Masoli threw a shovel pass to William Powell who juked around a defender before diving into the endzone. Caleb Evans ran in the two-point convert from the one-yard line after multiple penalties from both teams. With 10 minutes left in the third quarter, the score was tied 14-14.
After a two and out from both teams, Ottawa’s defense took the field again and made another big play. The Lions were driving down the field effectively and Rourke was connecting with Keon Hatcher, James Butler, and Dominique Rhymes. Rourke also used his legs to extend drives. The Lions made their way beyond the 30-yard line before Monsahdrik Hunter recorded his second interception of the night and took it all the way down to the Lions’ 4-yard line (a 76-yard INT return) before Masoli capped off the drive with a QB draw for a touchdown. Lewis Ward missed the extra point and the Redblacks took their first lead of the game, 20-14.
The Redblacks defense was shutting down the Lions’ number one ranked offense, with great secondary play and generating immense pressure against Rourke. The Redblacks only allowed the Lions to score 34 points, which is very impressive considering they scored 59 against the Elks in week one and 44 against the Argos in week two. The Lions did amass 509 total yards, only 17 yards short of their average of 526 yards per game in weeks one and two. It just shows how talented the Lions’ offense is, their QB, receivers, and running backs are all among the best in the league.
Their defense was playing a fantastic game, until the Lions’ next offensive drive when a huge defensive miscommunication in the secondary led to a 71-yard TD pass from Rourke to Hatcher who was as wide open as you can be. Kicker Sean Whyte hit the extra point and the Lions regained the lead, 21-20 with five minutes left in the third quarter.
Ottawa failed to respond on their next offensive drive and the Lions’ momentum continued and their offense showed why they are the best offense in the league. The Lions drove the ball down the field, methodically but efficiently using a strong mix of the run and pass. Running back James Butler was a key contributor through the air and on the ground, including a 24-yard catch on a screen pass from Rourke to set them up at the five-yard line, before capping off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run. Whyte hit the extra point and the Lions led 28-20 at the end of the third quarter.
The Redblacks got the ball back to start the fourth quarter and moved the ball down the field, but only got to around midfield before they were forced to punt.
On the Lions’ next drive, Monshadrik Hunter made another huge play in arguably one of the biggest games of his career. Defensive back Justin Howell came in on a blitz and forced a fumble against Rourke as he was rolling right out of the pocket before Hunter scooped up the ball and took it all the way to around midfield to start their next offensive drive.
The Lions’ defense bent but didn’t break and showed why they had the league’s best defense. They held the Redblacks to a 38-yard field goal, his third of the night on three attempts. The Redblacks cut the Lions’ lead to 28-23 with 8:30 left in the game.
The Lions scored two field goals on two consecutive drives to take an 11-point lead. With over one minute left, Jeremiah Masoli orchestrated an efficient 80-yard drive down the field after a good kick return from receiver Terry Williams who had 155 yards on six kick returns and 43 yards on three punt returns. Jaelon Acklin, Darvin Adams, and William Powell were key pieces in that drive each with several receptions.
Backup quarterback Caleb Evans found the endzone after a one-yard QB sneak after a defensive pass interference penalty against the Lions set up Ottawa at the Lions’ one-yard line. Masoli connected with Darvin Adams on a beautiful lob pass to get the two-point conversion to cut the Lions’ lead to 34-31 with just over 30 seconds to go. However, Ward hit the ball too far on the onside kick and the Lions recovered before kneeling out the clock.
The Redblacks made the game very close and interesting at the end but fell just short and they fell to 0-3 on the season and third in the East Division. Meanwhile, the Lions improved to 3-0 and sit in first place in the West Division, ahead of the Stampeders and Blue Bombers, who are also both 3-0, on point differential. The referees weren’t the greatest for both teams, however, they were harder on the Redblacks than they were on the Lions. The referees weren’t the reason why the Redblacks lost though. The Redblacks had some miscommunications on defense that led to two long touchdowns for the Lions and the Redblacks also took some undisciplined penalties after the play too.
There were a lot of positives from yesterday’s game. The defense played very well for the most part against a stout BC offense, the Redblacks finished most of their drives with TDs and not field goals and they made it interesting against the Lions, but a few mistakes throughout the game, a few key incompletions on offense, and multiple undisciplined penalties cost the Redblacks the game. They have the talent and potential, just have to put it all together with no mistakes to get their first win of the year.
The Redblacks visit another Western Conference rival, the Saskatchewan Roughriders next Friday and the Lions host the Blue Bombers in a crucial West Division battle on July 9.