Wow! I have never been more happy to be completely wrong guessing how a game will play out. The REDBLACKS came to play, but what I didn’t see was the Ti-Cats going blow for blow and being denied a win only by a Hail Mary pass that should never have happened (see below). It was an instant classic with lots to look at. With no further ado here are some thoughts and takeaways from the 28-35 Ottawa win…
Ottawa vs Hamilton
- Prior to the game I was struck by how important it was to see football back in the nations capital. I will admit that I am too young to know Ottawa football teams as anything other than examples of failure and an odd time when two franchises had the words “Rough” and “Riders” in their names. Yet even that couldn’t detract to the pride I felt that we finally had a team in Ottawa, and it was doing well. On a more practical note it bodes well for the CFL that an expansion team can make it work like the REDBLACKS have (but I still think it’s a terrible name for a sports team).
- Kent Austin and Offensive Coordinator Tom Condell did a magnificent job in calling their game plan for Jeremiah Masoli. They kept the REDBLACKS dominant pass rush at bay with screens and short passes that took advantage of Masoli’s mobility and Hamilton’s shifty receivers. Masoli also surprised me with his accuracy on throws down the field and outside the hashes, it likely helped that he had the freedom to run or get outside the pocket. Austin made it easy for his QB which in turn did wonders for his confidence as the game went on, it also likely made Masoli a lot of money this offseason when he becomes a free agent.
- The QB play for Ottawa was by contrast much more inconsistent. Burris started the game nearly perfect and then leveled off as his receivers dropped passes and he overthrew short routes despite having good protection. Yet Burris showed his seasoning as he kept at it and used his legs when his team needed a first down (or a score in one case). He also nearly killed his team with a head scratching throw right into Hamilton defender Gason Nadon’s hands late in the game but was given a second chance by blind luck when Nadon dropped it. Burris took advantage of that saving grace with a Hail Mary pass that showed complete faith in his receiver and was rewarded with a storybook ending to the biggest game (so far) in RedBlack history.
- Other quick thoughts… Medlock tested my proclamation that he was the leagues best kicker with some shaky punting and a crucial missed kick, he may have been the biggest reason Ottawa was able to fight back with great field position…Fantuz can’t outrun people anymore but he can make a clutch catch when he needs to… The big difference in the game? Special Teams. Ottawa allowed no room for Brandon Banks to get going, forcing the Ti-Cats to drive the whole field multiple times…I have yet to see a football game in Canada that didn’t have Rider Fans somewhere in the crowd.
The decision by Hamilton to give up a safety for better field position right before half baffled me. I have (almost) never seen the logic in giving up 2 points for field position. In a league where teams are REWARDED for a missed field goals and long punts with a single point giving up a safety should always just result in the other team booting it as hard as they can if the drive stalls and hope they can make it three points anyway (why don’t teams try that more often?). In this case a shaky Medlock punt let Ottawa kick a field goal and sparked an 5 point turn around, questionable call by Austin.