Balanced Redblacks Offense Silences Doubters in Win Over Roughriders

Photo credit: Arthur Ward, CFL

After a two-game slump, the Ottawa offense put the CFL on notice with a methodical performance on the ground and through the air. Timely plays on both sides of the ball helped the Redblacks secure a 30-25 road victory against the Roughriders, snapping Ottawa’s two-game losing streak and Saskatchewan’s four-game winning streak.

William Powell was feeling it Saturday night. Assisted by a dominant performance from the Redblacks offensive line, Powell finished with 147 rush yards and two touchdowns. The first touchdown, a patient scamper from 19 yards out, opened the scoring while the second, a 69-yard run in which Powell out-ran multiple members of the Saskatchewan secondary, helped put the game on ice. Because of his strong performance against the Roughriders, Powell seized Andrew Harris’ spot as the league-leader in rushing yards.

Following two rough outings that brought league-wide criticism his way, Trevor Harris played a brilliant game against one of the league’s top defenses. Harris went 27/34 for 344 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Harris moved extremely well inside and outside of the pocket. On several occasions, Harris rolled out to buy his receivers time to get open for first down completions. But that isn’t to say that the pocket was not kept clean for Harris. The Redblacks had given up nine sacks in their last two games but clean-sheeted the Roughriders in the victory. It is the first time this season that Ottawa finished a game with no turnovers or sacks allowed.

Blocking defensive bookends Willie Jefferson and Charleston Hughes has been a monumental task for most Roughrider opponents this season. Hughes leads the CFL in sacks and Jefferson is fourth. The Roughriders lead the league in sacks as a team and have only been held without a sack in a game twice this season: the two games against the Redblacks.

The Redblacks focused on short and immediate routes, but the offensive line’s consistent protection gave Harris the time to drop back and unleash game-breaking throws downfield. Harris hit Diontae Spencer for a 64-yard pass that setup Ottawa’s first touchdown and later connected with R.J. Harris for an exciting 44-yard touchdown pass that was first bobbled and then secured by the Ottawa receiver. Spencer scored later in the game with a beautiful fade route catch in the endzone.

To say the Saskatchewan special teams unit played special Saturday night would be an understatement. The Roughriders accumulated 371 return yards and scored two return touchdowns. Marcus Thigpen returned the opening kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown and Kyrian Moore returned a punt early in the third quarter for a score.

The Roughriders defense and special teams have combined to score seven touchdowns in their last five games, the same amount as their offense. The Roughriders’ return yards actually surpassed the yards gained by the Saskatchewan offense against Ottawa (371 to 240).

The Saskatchewan offense was able to get a few ‘splashy’ plays, including two completions of 40 or more yards, but was unable to move the ball consistently. The Redblacks defense remained stout. Roughrider quarterback Zach Collaros finished the game with a paltry completion percentage of 37%, but was not helped much by young Saskatchewan receivers that dropped sure catches on several instances. The Roughriders were finally able to reach the endzone on offense down the stretch with a 34-yard pass from Collaros to Naaman Roosevelt that brought them within five points.

Minutes later, Saskatchewan received the ball with a chance at a late game-winning drive but Collaros was intercepted downfield by defensive back Jonathan Rose. Rose picked off Collaros twice in the game and now has five interceptions on the season, the most in the CFL.

With the win and Hamilton’s loss to Calgary, the 7-5 Redblacks are once again all alone in first place in the East division. The team will return home to host the Edmonton Eskimos next Saturday afternoon at TD Place.