Ottawa Redblacks look to crank up offence against the No-Bighill Bombers
Even with the absence of all-star Blue Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill, the Ottawa Redblacks are going to have to crank their offence up another notch or two Friday night.
In a battle of the undefeateds — both teams are 2-0 — the Redblacks have a simple plan, one that wasn’t going to change much with or without Bighill, the CFL’s most outstanding defensive player of a year ago. Simply, the Redblacks will take whatever the Bombers are willing to give them.
There’s no preconceived notion to have quarterback Dominique Davis throwing 40 passes or handing the ball off 20-plus times to running back Mossis Madu. As Redblacks receivers coach and offensive playcaller Winston October says, the Redblacks are just going to try to get the ball to spots where the Bombers aren’t.
“I feel like whatever the defence is going to give us, that’s what we’re going to do,” said October. “You try to get your game plan according to what the defence gives you and then what’s within our skill set — can we do it? Against Calgary, they backed up in zone (pass coverage) so we were able to run the ball. Saskatchewan started off in zone, then said, ‘No, we’re not going to let you run the ball.’ So we had to make some plays.
“I’ve never been a guy to say we have to get something going. What happens is you pigeonhole yourself on your game plan or you back yourself into a corner with the players. We say we’re going to do whatever the defence allows us to do. I believe offensively sometimes your thought is to be the initiator of the action, but sometimes it’s OK to be the person that reacts. That’s kind of where we’re at right now.
“We’re going to throw something to the wall and see if it sticks; if we’re successful, we’ll keep running it. If we’re not, we’ll find other ways to try to be successful within that 60 minutes.”
As for Bighill, Bombers coach Mike O’Shea said, “He practised Day 3. He was able to run around out there, but probably the best decision was to give him a little more time. He probably didn’t have that final gear that he needs.”
“He’s a really good player, but one man does not make a football team,” said Redblacks coach Rick Campbell. “We were going to have to play well whether he was in the lineup or not.”
Friday’s game will be a good measuring stick for Ottawa on both sides of the ball. How good is the Bombers’ defence? They have not yielded a touchdown in the past 21 offensive possessions by their opponents.
“Their defence is pretty salty, they’re good,” said October. “There’s a reason why they’re 2-0. They’re a reflection of their coach. I remember how O’Shea was as a defensive player when I played. They play really hard, they try to get 12 hats on the ball. Bighill is an all-star player, he takes pride in it and tries to get everybody to play to his level. It’s a challenge to play them.”
Coming into Week 4 off a bye week, with wins over Calgary and Saskatchewan, October said the team still has much to learn.
“We’re 2-0, right? But all 2-0 means is you can go 2-16. We’d be fooling ourselves if we thought we’d won the Grey Cup after those two games. There are a lot of things we can be better at.”
On offence, the Bombers have a good quarterback in Matt Nichols, who has many weapons at his disposal.
“They’re very opportunistic, we’re definitely going to have our hands full,” said Campbell.
Asked about preventing all-star running back Andrew Harris from continuing to do what he does so well — churn out positive yardage carrying the football — Redblacks defensive co-ordinator Noel Thorpe said, “Andrew Harris is a big part of their offence, just like Matt Nichols is. They have a lot of talent at the skill positions. They have a lot of pieces that force you to cover the field both horizontally and vertically.”
Thorpe would like to see his defenders rebound from a sloppy effort in a 44-41 win over Saskatchewan two weeks ago.
“We have to be consistent and fundamentally sound — it starts with good tackling,” he said. “We have to be able to eliminate the big shots, the deep plays, that can lead to points. If you look at the performance we had in Calgary, that’s the standard and expectation we set for ourselves. We had the ability to overcome some adversity, some short fields, and we made timely plays and executed. Game 2, there were opportunities for us to make plays, the execution wasn’t at the same high level as it was in the Calgary game. We’ve corrected some of the mistakes we made. We’re moving forward. It’s very early in the season, we feel very good about where we’re at. We know there are some things we need to correct.”
SECOND AND LONG: The Redblacks are 4-7 coming off bye weeks since 2014. Asked about that, Campbell said, “On bye weeks, we’ve been really good and really bad — hot and cold. We played the East final last year and didn’t seem to have any problem with that bye week. We came back a few days early and had some practices. We didn’t even talk about Winnipeg, then we transitioned into a normal practice week.” … Asked about the buildup about both teams being 2-0, Nichols said, “It’s probably fun for all you guys to talk about. We know we have a good team, they’re a good team. It’s going to be a tough game. For us, it’s about finding whatever way it is tomorrow night we can walk out of here (with a win).”
THE END AROUND: Nate Behar, Greg Morris, Mickael Cote, J.R. Tavai, Philippe Gagnon, Jacob Scarfone and George Uko are listed on the Redblacks roster for Friday’s game. Out are Justin Howell, Brendan Gillanders, Kevin Francis (who’s on the six-game injured list), Nicolas Boulay, Seth Coate, Michael Klassen and Danny Mason (also on the six-game list). “We have some pretty good players that aren’t playing, but we have depth,” said Campbell. “We’re being cautious with some guys. We can afford to be cautious because we have other guys who can play well.” Asked about Coate, if he was out with an injury, the coach said: “We’re happy with Seth and what he’s been doing, but it ended up being a ratio thing.” … On the heels of the two-foot-long Doritos Mac and Cheese Dog, look for the Footlong Loaded Pigskin Potato — pulled pork, maple candied bacon, tater tots, queso cheese sauce and crispy jalapenos all in a potato skin — that will be available Friday at the Smoking Pig on the South Main concourse and the Glebe Grill on the North Upper Concourse.
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