Kierrie Johnson got a clean release at a critical moment, and gave Ottawa a release its football fans have not had in decades.
It was an oftentimes-chaotic opening night on the field — and off — for the Ottawa Redblacks, but the essence of the CFL is that everything can be vapourized by a big finish. For the Redblacks, for the sold-out TD Place stadium crowd of 24,326 and the once-was-lost generation(s) of fans in the nation's capital, the night was defined by Johnson's 43-yard catch over cornerback Jalil Carter in the final minute that set up Brett Maher's field goal that sealed an 18-17 win over the Toronto Argonauts. Who better to be a vessel for a city's renewed optimism about the CFL being back for good this time than a first-year slotback, whose dropped touchdown pass on a beautiful bomb from Henry Burris loomed large for much of the night?
"This feels great not just for the team, but the city and the owner, he put so much into this," Johnson said, referring to Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group president of sports Jeff Hunt. "We can actually celebrate. The last couple weeks we have been letting games slip away.
"We were messing up for a lot of the game and I knew I would have an opportunity coming my way — I didn't know when," the 26-year-old Johnson said. "It came at that time and I made sure by any means that I made the play. Hopefully we get momentum from this that will carry us for the rest of the season."
The game typified the CFL so far in 2014. Not enough touchdowns — one. Too many penalties — a combined 23 for 207 yards. Yet there was reason to watch to the end, with Maher's winning kick providing the fourth lead change of the fourth quarter.
The Redblacks (1-2) have a lot to clean up, as Burris being sacked five times on a night when his offence mustered a meagre 288 yards and was saved by Maher going 6-for-6 on field goals. Yet they banked a win. The coaches and players fed off the crowd's energy.
"We continue to do the things we're supposed to do as a team, this fanbase will come back," said Burris, who was 17-of-30 for 216 yards to fellow future Hall of Famer Ray's 21-of-37 for 298 with one TD and two interceptions. "We definitely have some winners in the stands. I know the people who didn't make it in for this game, they're going to be pushing to get in for the next game.
"This crowd was raucous tonight, they were loud and rambunctious," added Burris, whose offensive group has only one TD in 11 quarters since scoring on its first three drives in its opener. "They made it tough for those [Toronto] guys to operate communications-wise down the stretch."Read More »from Ottawa Redblacks’ first win ‘great not just for the team, but the city and the owner’