OTTAWA — It will be back to the drawing board for the Ottawa Redblacks following a 24-12 loss to the B.C. Lions Saturday night at TD Place.
There was no denying the frustration from Ottawa head coach Paul LaPolice, who again watched his offence sputter, this time in his home debut.
“We’re moving the ball we felt, but we’re not creating explosive plays, whether that’s breaking a big run and exploding, or we had a couple of drops, a possible one in the end zone," he said.
"We’re just not executing well enough and then when you don’t get an explosive play, it’s hard to score touchdowns.”
Matt Nichols finished the game 23 for 37 for 206 yards for Ottawa, which dropped to 1-2-0. While Nichols was disappointed with the result, he still felt the team made some improvements overall.
“We had some great drives going on offence, but we just keep finding ways to not end up in the end zone,” he said. “All of us need to be better and get back to work. I think we’re still taking steps in the right direction. This was a step up from last week and that’s what you want. We’re just not finishing drives, not good enough.”
The game also marked the return of Rick Campbell, the Lions' new head coach, who spent five seasons leading the Redblacks before choosing to step down in November 2019.
“Once the game got started I was just focused on the game and getting the win,” said Campbell. “It’s always big to get a win on the road, but I definitely appreciate my time that I had here.”
Mike Reilly finished the game 23 for 32 for 301 yards with two touchdowns to help the Lions improve to 2-2-0.
The Lions have chosen to go with a number of young players and as such have struggled with consistency, but Reilly was pleased with the progress the team made on Saturday.
“I thought we came out with better urgency,” said Reilly. “I do think that we had better urgency throughout the game more consistently, but it didn’t result in the points we wanted, especially in the first half.”
Reilly is still looking for his team to finish when they’re in the red zone, which was an area both teams struggled with on Saturday. They both relied on their field goal kickers as a result.
Lewis Ward picked up all 12 of Ottawa’s points.
The Lions led 12-6 at the half and it felt like it could be anyone’s game with one big play, and in the end that proved to be the Lions.
B.C. had taken a 15-6 lead early in the third on a 12-year field goal by Jimmy Camacho, who was 3 for 3 on the night. Ward responded with 47 and 38-yard kicks to make the game 15-12, but that was as close as Ottawa would get.
With the rain pouring down, Reilly was able to connect with Jevon Cottoy for a 46-yard touchdown pass to extend the Lions' lead to 22-12 early in the fourth and send many of the Redblacks faithful to the exits.
Ottawa went on to concede two singles as footing became difficult in the rain.
Both teams struggled to find their offensive game in the first half as they exchanged field goals in the first and second quarter, but a late touchdown allowed the Lions to end the half leading 12-6. Ottawa was called for pass interference, allowing Reilly to punch in a one-yard TD.
While it would be easy to let frustration set in, receiver Nate Behar says the Redblacks can ill afford to feel sorry for themselves, especially with another game just six days away.
“When things aren’t going right it’s very easy to let that frustration set in, but I trust the vets we have in the room, I trust Matt and guys on the o-line to keep things reined in,” said Behar. “It’s all that idea of keeping things in perspective and knowing there’s a lot of time to get things right.”
Ottawa hosts Montreal Friday night, their first match-up against an Eastern Conference opponent.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 28, 2021.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press