THAT WAS EMBARRASSING: Ottawa Redblacks collapse in loss to Toronto Argos
Argos 46, Redblacks 17
Looking for momentum Saturday afternoon at TD Place, the Ottawa Redblacks instead got slapped around by a one-win football team. Yep, it was an embarrassing effort by a team that has lost eight of its past nine games.
And now the Redblacks’ playoff hopes are on life support — they probably have to win six of their final seven regular-season games to have a chance at the CFL playoffs. And they may have to do it without safety Antoine Pruneau, who left the game in the first half and was later on the sideline on crutches with his right foot in a walking boot.
It was more of the same for the Redblacks, who slipped to 3-8 after being beaten 46-17 by the now 2-9 Toronto Argos. The East Division’s first-place Hamilton Tiger-Cats have nine wins, while second-place Montreal has six, with a game in hand on both Ottawa and Toronto. While the Redblacks don’t talk about it in these terms – the loss was crushing.
“It was disappointing,” said Redblacks coach Rick Campbell. “We were excited coming out of the half, a one-score game. Obviously the whole thing went sideways on us, especially in the fourth quarter. I told our guys no one is going to feel sorry for us. We have to keep going, keep fighting.”
Jonathon Jennings, who was given the starting QB job after Dominique Davis fizzled two weeks ago in Saskatchewan, completed 33 of 42 passes for 327 yards (with an interception and a touchdown pass).
“We had too many inopportune mistakes,” said Jennings. “Costly and timely — they got a lot of points off our mistakes. Each day is a day of work, each game is a competition. We’re all competitors, we’re not going to lay down, we have plenty of games to play.”
The Redblacks got early momentum after Argos QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson (who completed 26 of 39 passes for 411 yards with three touchdown passes) threw a pass into the big mitts of Redblacks defensive lineman George Uko. The interception (ending Bethel-Thompson’s streak of 179 passes without getting picked off) set the Redblacks up in great field position. It took three plays for Ottawa to find the end zone — passes of 13 and 11 yards to Mossis Madu and a Jennings touchdown toss of 12 yards to Brad Sinopoli. The convert by Lewis Ward gave Ottawa an early 7-0 lead. It was the first time all season that the Redblacks had scored on their opening drive.
After a 44-yard kickoff return by Chris Rainey, Toronto got a field goal by Tyler Crapigna (who’s from Ottawa) to make it 7-3. The Redblacks got that back on a 45-yard Ward field goal. Derel Walker scored a Toronto touchdown on a one-yard run.
In a bizarre series of events, the Redblacks gave the ball away, the Argos gave it back, then the Redblacks coughed it up again. It started with Jennings fumbling after being hit by Toronto’s Robbie Smith. Ottawa got the ball back on the next play when De’Andre Farris tipped a pass into the air and it was snagged by Gump Hayes, who returned it to the Toronto 48. The Redblacks drove the ball on a couple of passes to Dominique Rhymes — 12 and 14 yards — and a run of 11 yards by Jerminic Smith. But Alden Darby stepped in front of a Jennings pass for the interception.
Toronto took an 11-10 lead on a single when a 39-yard Crapigna field goal attempt sailed wide left, then made it 18-10 on a 24-yard touchdown catch by Rodney Smith and the convert. The Redblacks got three points back on a 16-yard Ward field goal and went into the half trailing 18-13.
Ottawa made a huge mistake on the opening drive of the second half. Sinopoli fumbled after being hit by Rob Woodson and it was picked up by Qudarius Ford, who ran 46 yards for a touchdown. With the convert, it was 25-13.
“It was frustrating because (the game) was there for the taking,” said Campbell. “We never responded from that fumble return for a touchdown. It was kind of a deflator, but those plays happen in football; you have to find a way to respond.”
The Redblacks got a 42-yard Ward field goal and made a big play on defence late in the third quarter when Avery Ellis hit Bethel-Thompson and knocked the ball out — it was recovered by Uko.
The Argos took a 32-16 lead on an 11-yard James Wilder Jr. touchdown catch. A single on a field-goal miss by Ward made it 32-17. Bethel-Thompson found Wilder Jr. wide open coming out of the backfield and he high-stepped into the end zone — the Argos had a 39-17 lead.
How bad was it for the Redblacks? A fourth-quarter punt return for a touchdown by Stefan Logan was wiped out by a penalty — there were five flags dropped on the play (two penalties against Ottawa, one on Toronto). After the flags were finally picked up, the ball was marched back to the Ottawa six-yard line. On the next play, former Redblacks DB Abdul Kanneh punched the ball out of Madu’s hands and Toronto took over on the 13, scoring a Wilder Jr. touchdown on the next play.
Will Arndt drove the Redblacks downfield late in the game, but Ottawa was stopped deep in Toronto territory.
SECOND AND LONG: QB Michael O’Connor, selected by the Argos in the third round of this year’s CFL draft, was listed on the team’s game-day roster, but was scratched. … Late in the second quarter, Rhymes was way behind Argos defenders, but Jennings overthrew him by a couple of yards. A couple of plays later (after a nice connection to Nate Behar for a 33-yard gain on a crossing route), Jennings, throwing off his back foot, tossed it just beyond the reach of a wide-open Madu in the end zone … Nice sack by former Carleton Raven Justin Howell on a safety blitz late in the first half. … Didn’t like check-down decisions by Jennings as time was running out in the first half, throwing to underneath receivers Sinopoli (twice) and Madu. He had to try to chuck it downfield at least once to give the Redblacks a chance to score. Oh, then Ottawa got a penalty for too-many-men-in-the-huddle. … Former Argos great Pinball Clemons was on the sideline … On third and long in the first half, the Argos pulled off a trick play, with former Redblacks punter Ronnie Pfeffer going outside left for 13 yards and the first down.
THE END AROUND: Receiver Jerminic Smith and defensive end Darius Jackson, both making their first CFL appearance, made an early impact, Smith with a 13-yard catch (he wound up with four catches for 38 yards) and Jackson (who wound up with four tackles) with a big hit on Bethel-Thompson. Still looking … and looking to figure out why the officials flagged Ottawa for a roughing-the-passer call that extended a drive late in the first quarter. Did Avery Ellis really go after the QB’s knees? … Maybe it was the ominous weather forecast (70 per cent chance of rain), but there were way too many empty seats on a not-bad-at-all late summer day. Attendance was announced as 22,489. … These guys go to war when they’re on the football field, but when linebacker Avery Williams was down early in the first quarter, opponents S.J. Green and James Wilder Jr. both kneeled nearby while the linebacker was being tended to. … Nice special-teams hit by Nigel Romick midway through the second quarter.
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