OTTAWA — Spot a team a 22-0 lead and turn the ball over half a dozen times, and your chances for success will be pretty slim. Just ask the Ottawa Redblacks.
The Redblacks turned the ball over six times on Saturday and the Montreal Alouettes made them pay with a 32-15 win.
The Alouettes (8-7) clinched a CFL playoff berth with the victory. The Redblacks (4-11) saw their playoff hopes take a hit with the setback, but not all hope is lost. They must win their final three games and get some help.
“Different things that we definitely have to clean up offensively. I felt special teams and defensively we played a pretty solid game. A lot of that offensively falls on my shoulders,” Redblacks quarterback Dustin Crum said.
“Turnovers can change games and a lot of those were on me. I take responsibility and I have to wear that as a quarterback.”
Cody Fajardo threw for 178 yards and a touchdown for the Alouettes, while William Stanback ran for 85 yards and a touchdown.
Crum threw for 247 yards but had two interceptions and a fumble. Nick Arbuckle took over for the final series of the game and completed seven passes for 85 yards.
Trailing 22-0 heading into the fourth quarter, the Redblacks finally got on the board 27 seconds into the quarter with a one-run quarterback sneak by Tyrrell Pigrome, who took over from Crum for the short yardage play. Matt Domagala converted the major and the Redblacks trailed 22-7.
The Alouettes responded with a 48-yard field goal from David Cote just over two minutes later for a 25-7 lead. With just over seven minutes to play Shawn Lemon returned a Crum fumble 30 yards for a touchdown and a 32-7 lead.
“That’s all we wanted was a win and an opportunity to compete in the playoffs,” Lemon said, adding the defence had a solid afternoon.
“That’s what we preach. It all starts with Coach (defensive coordinator Noel) Thorpe. He has a great game plan for us week in and week out. We have the easy job, we just come out and execute. We want to keep coming out and getting better. It was a great team win.”
The Redblacks showed perseverance though with a 73-yard drive that ended in a four-yard touchdown run by Devonte Williams. Crum then found Shaq Evens in the end zone to complete the two-point conversion and cutting the lead to 32-15 with four minutes to play.
After the Redblacks failed to accomplish anything on the opening possession of the game, the Alouettes took the ball 80 yards on their opening series and capped the drive with a 25-yard touchdown run by Stanback at 5:19. The Cote extra point put the Alouettes up 7-0.
The Redblacks tried to respond with a big drive of their own and got as far as the Montreal 10-yard line. Unfortunately Crum was intercepted in the end zone by Reggie Stubblefield.
That was the only time the Redblacks had possession of the football on the Montreal side of the field in the first half.
“Grace to God and I just appreciate everybody, coaching staff, front office. All of that,” Stubblefield said.
“Great team effort all around. It’s what we preach and what we execute on, so that’s what’s going to show.”
The Alouettes went ahead 8-0 at 10:55 of the second quarter on a 46-yard punt single and in the final minute of the half Fajardo found Tyson Philpot in the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown pass. Cote’s extra point gave the Alouette a 15-0 lead at halftime.
The Redblacks had a strong drive going that took them deep into Montreal territory late into the third quarter. Unfortunately for them, Crum had his pass intercepted by Marc Antoine Dequoy, who returned the ball 108 yards for a pick-six.
“We were down a couple of times in the score zone and turned the ball over, which was a little disappointing,” Redblacks coach Bob Dyce said.
“We talked about competing right from the opening whistle right through to the end of the game. I don’t have an explanation for the slow start. We made a couple of errors and it was certainly disappointing.”
The Cote conversion gave the Alouettes a commanding 22-0 lead after three quarters.
The Redblacks and Alouettes will play each other on Oct. 9 in Montreal.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 30, 2023.
Darren Desaulniers, The Canadian Press