OTTAWA — With just one win in eight games, the Ottawa Redblacks are running short on time to turn things around this season.
If Ottawa has any hope of keeping a post-season berth within its grasp it needs to start with a win Friday night when it hosts the Edmonton Elks in the first half of a home-and-home series.
“As crazy as it sounds, we still control our own destiny,” said Ottawa quarterback Caleb Evans. “Guys are still hungry, still ready to play and still ready to get a 'W.'"
While the Redblacks have struggled against West Division counterparts, having lost all five contests, the Elks (2-7-0) might be the team to break the trend. But both of the Elks's wins have come on the road against East Division teams.
"I don’t care what their record is,” said Redblacks head coach Paul LaPolice. "We’ve got to go perform ourselves and put ourselves in position to win a football game."
Redblacks defensive back Justin Howell said players are confident they can salvage this season if all aspects of their game can come together.
"That’s kind of been the struggle for us all year," said Howell. "We haven't complemented each other. Whether it’s offence doing their job and our defence might be in a big situation and let them down or a special team or whatever it might be. We’re just focused on playing all three phases."
Both teams are 1-3 in their last four games, but Edmonton has given up 324 points in nine games and Ottawa’s offence is due for a breakout game after a disappointing outcome against Calgary in a 17-3 loss two weeks ago.
Evans struggled, going 10-for-21 passing for 66 yards and one interception before being replaced by Nick Arbuckle.
Arbuckle posted decent numbers and was able to move the ball well, but Ottawa will be going back to Evans.
LaPolice felt it was unfair to place the blame for the loss against Calgary solely on Evans considering he had been named a top performer in Week 8. LaPolice said everyone needed to play better around him.
"After evaluation and what Caleb has done the last couple of games, Caleb should be the starter," said LaPolice. "We’ve got to give him the chance to win and he’s got the ability to use his legs, which helps at times."
Evans was happy to get the vote of confidence.
"I’ve always just tried to prepare as if I’m starting whatever week so it’s kind of the same approach for me," he said. "I guess it feels pretty good to have the confidence to get the nod again."
Arbuckle did get a fair number of reps in practice this week, and Ottawa could turn to him should Evans struggle early.
Despite the Redblacks' record, LaPolice said the team's situation isn't desperate just yet.
“(Friday) shouldn’t be a must win until it’s at the end of the year or whenever that situation happens, because there’s still 10 games of football left,” he said. “For us we want to focus on playing our best game this week and we want to play great.
"We want to perform at home and kind of rectify what has happened here the last couple of years at home and give our home fans a win.”
Ottawa will be without running back William Powell, who is dealing with a back issue, and will be replaced by Devonte Williams, who looked good when he started the first two games. Ottawa DB Money Hunter will also miss the game as he deals with a hamstring injury.
Edmonton has ruled out offensive lineman David Beard due to illness.
EDMONTON (2-7-0) VS. OTTAWA (1-7-0)
Friday, TD Place Stadium
MILESTONE WIN: Ottawa has posted 299 victories in front of their home fans since 1907, and will be looking to pick up number 300 Friday night.
PROTECT ME: Through his last three games Edmonton QB Taylor Cornelius has been sacked 14 times and will be facing Lorenzo Mauldin, who has recorded six sacks in his last five games and has a league-leading seven.
SECOND QUARTER WOES: This game could be won or lost in the second quarter, when both teams tend to struggle mightily. Ottawa is -59 in second quarters, while Edmonton is -86.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published August 18, 2022.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press