In the second game of the season the Ottawa Redblacks kicked off against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. They began the game 1-0, and the Roughriders did so 2-0. Saskatchewan was coming off of a big win a week ago against the Hamilton Tiger Cats and it was going to be a big test for the Ottawa Redblacks and it was a big test.
Early on in the football game the Redblacks showed that they can play with the Roughriders. They were able to move the ball and get some first downs, even stretch the field with a long 42 yard throw to RJ Harris early in the game. The defence also began the game very well, starting exactly how they finished the last game against the Edmonton Elks but things started to catch up to the Redblacks. Their 2 or 3 first downs that they were getting early on in the game weren’t good enough to end drives with points, the defence’s stops only helped so much with the offence struggling to capitalize on them and most importantly the Saskatchewan Roughriders started to find the Redblacks weaknesses. Cody Fajardo was having success running the ball himself, running it 9 times for 47 yards and a score and also on intermediate passes, completing 85 percent of his passes for a total 321 yards on the night without a single sack or turnover.
The Redblacks only gave up the one touchdown on defence from Fajardo’s scrambling, held the Roughriders to 23 points which was great considering the defence was on the field for over 31 minutes and they won a lot of different battles throughout the game but as mentioned previously the offence wasn’t able to capitalize on the defence’s victories. Forcing the Roughriders to punt the ball 6 times and holding them to 5 field goals, the Redblacks offence was given a number of opportunities to put points on the board, but only did so twice throughout the entire game. The first points of the game came on a Lewis Ward field goal in the Redblacks third drive of the game and the next time they scored was courtesy of DeVonte Dedmon who filled in for the injured Timothy Flanders at running back in the second half.
Dedmon ended up being one of the Redblacks key contributors on the offensive side of the ball in the second half and proved to head coach and play caller Paul LaPolice that he can carry the rock too. He ran the ball 5 times for 31 yards, caught it once for 9 yards and had 97 return yards on 8 kickoff and punt returns along with his rushing touchdown. That is 137 all-purpose yards on 14 touches. It may not be anything close to Diontae Spencer’s 496 in 2017 but it shows promise moving forward. Another key player on the offensive side of the ball was RJ Harris. Harris caught just 2 passes for 20 yards in week one against the Edmonton Elks and as the number one receiver in the offence this year those are not super star caliber numbers but he put up good numbers and looked good on film in Saskatchewan this week. The number one receiver caught all 5 of his targets for 101 yards including a beautiful 42 yard diving catch early in the game which stands as the Redblacks longest play of the season so far. On the throw on that 42 yard completion was Matt Nichols who looked good against a good Saskatchewan defence at times. He completed 79% of his passes, 19/24 for 176 yards, improving a lot from his 71 yards in week one but the problems from Nichols this week came behind the line of scrimmage. He was sacked 6 times by the Saskatchewan Roughriders front seven and had trouble running away from the pressure, running the ball just once for one yard. Nichols also was intercepted once by Ed Gainey on a deep throw to Nate Behar but if the Ottawa Redblacks offensive line and Matt Nichols can limit the sacks and the team can also cut back the penalties having been penalized 11 times for 104 yards in week 3, the run game was there against Saskatchewan, while healthy Flanders ran 8 times for 35 yards, Dedmon had 31 yards on 5 carries, the receivers looked good, Harris leading the group with 101 yards, Ryan Davis catching 4 of 5 targets for 21 yards, Petermann and Behar combined for 5 catches on 8 total targets for 31 yards and the defence has only given up the one offensive touchdown all year, the Redblacks are a really good football team, they have proven it and can win a lot of football games moving forward.
This was a good test for the Ottawa Redblacks, and even-though they may have fallen to 1-1 and are not at the top of the division with the 2-1 Toronto Argonauts, they have 12 games left in the season, 7 home games and many more opportunities to prove themselves right. Don’t count out the Ottawa Redblacks just yet.