MONTREAL — In a season where the Ottawa Redblacks have struggled to build any momentum, a short week coming off a win turned out to be advantageous.
The Redblacks (3-8) earned back-to-back wins for the first time this season courtesy of a 38-24 victory over the Montreal Alouettes at Percival Molson Stadium on Friday night. Quarterback Nick Arbuckle threw for 313 yards and one touchdown on 20-of-31 passing, in leading a focused Ottawa team.
“A short week coming off a win is always nice because you're going to continue to carry the momentum that we created,” said Arbuckle. “Sometimes bye weeks and long weeks can be detrimental to momentum that you're gaining, because you're away from it for so long and more off days.
“So for us to get back into it all week in the meeting rooms and walkthroughs that we had to prepare, the guys’ focus was on a ten. We were all ready to go and we didn't even look at this as a disadvantage.”
With the win, the Redblacks improved their away record to 3-3 and their East Division record to 2-2. Ottawa now shares the same record as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who hold the tiebreaker having won the lone meeting between the two sides.
“It's a four-point game,” said Redblacks head coach Paul LaPolice referring to the standings. “We get two, they don't get two so it's like four points. We're excited to get the win.”
The Redblacks defence manhandled Montreal in a winning effort. Defensive lineman Kene Onyeka had one sack, a forced fumble and fumble recovery, while fellow defensive lineman Davon Coleman scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery of his own.
“The reality is we didn’t show up from the start and we paid the price,” said Alouettes general manager and interim coach Danny Maciocia. “I don’t think we felt like we could come back in this game. That’s what disappoints me the most.”
“We lost because of turnovers. Turnovers and penalties, you're always going to lose the game,” added Montreal wide receiver Eugene Lewis.
Halfway through a four-game home homestand, Maciocia challenged his players after Montreal dropped to 2-3 record against East Division opponents.
“I hope that (the players) will take the next two days to collectively look at themselves in the mirror,” said Maciocia. “And the question they’ll need to ask is what type of football team we want to be.”
Montreal QB Trevor Harris threw for 244 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions on 22-of-29 passing.
Ward, who turned 30 on Friday, opened the scoring in the first quarter by placing a 19-yard attempt through the uprights for one of his five field goals on the night.
Alouettes kicker David Cote responded with a 33-yard field goal of his own to tie the game late in the first quarter.
The Alouettes (4-7) took a 10-3 lead early in the second when Harris found Lewis for an eight-yard touchdown.
Ottawa then responded with 15 unanswered points of its own. Onyeka forced Harris to fumble the ball and Coleman recovered it, running it in for a seven-yard touchdown around the midway mark of the quarter.
After Montreal conceded a single on an 86-yard punt by Richie Leone, Ottawa notched their second TD of the quarter as Arbuckle located Darvin Adams on a three-yard pass to put Ottawa up 18-10 at halftime.
The Redblacks started the second half with an interception by Ranthony Texada, putting Ottawa on Montreal's 10-yard line. The Alouettes limited the damage by forcing Ottawa to a field goal.
“To score right before the half and then get points (early) in the third to give us a cushion, that's always a good thing,” said LaPolice. “It's always one of the things we try to do.
“Our guys were focused too. You know, they want to control their destiny and we knew how important this game was. So hats off to them.”
Ward added another field goal with a few minutes remaining, while Cote made two field goals of his own. The Redblacks closed the frame up 24-16.
In the fourth, the Alouettes conceded a second single following an Ottawa punt, giving the Redblacks a two-possession lead.
After Onyeka recovered a Jeshrun Antwi fumble, Ward added his fourth field goal of the night from 15 yards out. QB Caleb Evans rushed in for a two-yard TD to put Ottawa up 35-17 with just over two minutes left.
On the following drive, Harris found Jake Weineke with an 11-yard pass for Montreal’s second touchdown of the night.
Ward closed the game with his fifth field goal to seal the victory.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 2, 2022.
Tristan D’Amours, The Canadian Press