Offense Struggles in Redblacks Loss to Stampeders

Photo credit: Larry McDougall (CFL)

Thursday night’s loss in Calgary was one the Redblacks offense will likely want to forget. Trevor Harris passed for only 135 yards and the Stampeders prevailed over Ottawa 24-14 on a rainy night at McMahon Stadium. It is a venue that an Ottawa franchise (Redblacks or Renegades) has not won at in 14 years.

Ottawa-Calgary has developed into a must-watch rivalry since the Redblacks’ inception four years ago. Their matchups have been defined by quarterback duels between Harris and Bo Levi Mitchell. Not on this night however.  

Last week against the Roughriders, Harris played near-flawless football. He threw for 345 yards and two touchdowns while avoiding taking a single sack. Against a stout Stampeder defense that is allowing less than 12 points per game, Harris completed only 13 passes and threw an interception. As it stands, Harris has still yet to defeat Calgary as the Redblacks’ starter. He now owns a record of 0-3-2 against the Stamps.

Both passing games struggled early on until a turnover helped get the Calgary offense out of its funk. Stampeders defensive tackle Micah Johnson is known for his pass rushing ability but intercepted a deflected Harris pass at the line of scrimmage in Redblacks territory. Calgary cashed-in with a touchdown pass from Mitchell to Eric Rogers to give them a 7-6 halftime lead.

The Redblacks were on the wrong side of big play after big play in the second half. A goal line stop by Calgary’s Alex Singleton, a long punt-return by Terry Williams and sacks of Trevor Harris led to a less than competitive finish. In a defensive slugfest, the Stampeder punches seemed to pile on late in the game.

“We just didn’t make the plays we needed to in key moments,” said Redblacks head coach Rick Campbell following the defeat. “It was a game in the fourth quarter and they made more plays than we did.”

While the passing offense struggled, William Powell was dominant for the Redblacks in the ground game. Coming into the game, the Stampeders only allowed an average of 66 rushing yards per game on the season. Powell surpassed that mark by halftime. He finished with 123 yards and has 217 through his first two games of 2018.

The story for Ottawa continues to be the early improvement for the Redblacks defense. The secondary forced Mitchell into a 54% completion percentage that helped keep Ottawa in the game. His longest completion in the first half was only 15 yards and defensive back Rico Murray tallied his second interception in as many games when he picked of Mitchell in the third quarter.

It was only a matter of time, however, until the Stampeders found their footing. Calgary scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to run away with the game and improve to 3-0 on the season.

“They’re a great team, but we’re a great team as well. We left some plays out there,” said William Powell. “I feel like we’re going to go back to the drawing board, make some adjustments and we’ll have a different outcome next time.”

CFL fans have become accustomed to the Stampeder force of nature the last five years. Since 2014, Calgary has accumulated an astounding record of 60-13-2 and has begun 2018 in a familiar position: atop the West Division standings.

Next week, the 1-1 Redblacks will head to Montreal for a Friday night battle with the Alouettes before returning home for a rematch with Calgary.