Hey, it’s only two games in — two down, 16 to go in the CFL regular season — but the Ottawa Redblacks are finding out a lot about themselves and while doing that, they’re proving a lot of people wrong.
Following a 44-41 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders Thursday night at TD Place, the Redblacks will take a break for a bye week, but when they return to the field July 5 for a home date with the talented Winnipeg Blue Bombers, they’re going to treat it like it’s a clean slate. Forget the season-opening 32-28 win in Calgary, toss out the coming out party for quarterback Dominique Davis (who completed 30-of-39 passes for 354 yards and rushed for 43 more yards on five carries) Thursday.
“It’s a good feeling, but we’re on to the next one,” said Davis. “We’re going to get healthy and get ready for Winnipeg. It’s a long season, we want to just keep at it.”
“We’re going to celebrate this, check the film, relax next week and then we’re back to 0-0,” said punt/kickoff returner Ryan Lankford, who was electric with the ball in his hands against the Riders, setting the offence up with good field position with four punt returns for 100 yards (including one for 42).
“It won’t be bad to take a deep breath,” said Redblacks coach Rick Campbell. “We’re not going to overanalyze things — 2-0 is a big deal to start the season against two really good football teams and then we have to get back at it.”
While the defence bent and broke too often on Thursday, the offence rose to the occasion.
“The defence helped us out last week, we had to help them out,” said Davis.
“It shows the resilience we have as a team,” said linebacker Kevin Brown. “We believe we’re going to win, we never waver regardless what the scoreboard says. We have the mentality we’re going to push forward and leave the last play in the past. We have each other’s backs, we have that chemistry between offence and defence.”
The Dom Connection—Davis, the quarterback, and receiver Dominique Rhymes — produced big play after big play. Rhymes, who had 22 catches for 303 yards all of last season, wound up with 11 catches for 168 yards on Thursday.
“I’m not surprised (at what Rhymes did),” said Campbell. “He did some really good stuff for us last year. When you throw those 50-50 balls up, he’s got a great chance because he’s athletic and he’s big.”
“They were playing a lot of press-man (coverage) so I was going with the best matchup,” said Davis. “He was catching everything I was throwing at him. Last week wasn’t his best football game or mine —we made a promise to each other that we were never going to let each other down again.”
“Dom’s a great quarterback, if you’re a receiver he puts it on the money,” said Rhymes. “Each receiver that gets thrown the ball is going to make a play for Dom.”
Lankford, who came over from the Blue Bombers as a free agent in the off-season, made his presence known.
“It felt good,” he said. “Honestly, man, I’ve got the easiest job out there. I just catch the ball and run. I’ve got 11 other guys out there working their asses off to make my job easy.”
Davis, who had a rollercoaster of a game in the win over Calgary —throwing four interceptions, but running for three touchdowns — again tried to force some passes into tight pockets early against Saskatchewan. While there were no interceptions, there were a couple of close calls. Then Davis, who took over the starting quarterback job when Trevor Harris left as a free agent for Edmonton, seemed to find his groove. He was able to do things Harris was never able to do —bounce out of the pocket and buy extra time or use his legs to run downfield and get positive yardage.
“My main goal coming in this week was taking care of the ball. If we do that, we have a good chance of winning games,” said Davis.
“He just turned it on,” said running back Mossis Madu. “This is the Dom we know. This is the Dom we saw last year, the Dom we see in practice. We have full confidence in our QB.”
“He’s 2-for-2 at giving us a chance to win football games,” said Campbell.
The defence gave up 360 yards in passing, but was successful in holding former Redblacks running back William Powell to just 45 yards in 11 carries. But the defenders know they will have to be better.
“It’s pro football,” said Brown. “Every week, it’s not going to be easy. We have to come in with the same mentality no matter who we’re playing. Come out, knock heads, play physical and run to the ball.”
In their two wins, the Redblacks have established that they can survive and win through adversity.
“This is a team full of underdogs, a team full of dogs, we’re going to fight to that last whistle,” said Madu.
THE REPORT CARD
Let’s start with QB Dominique Davis. Coming off a week where he tossed four interceptions (it’s worth noting he also rushed for three touchdowns), Davis completed 30-of-39 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns (he also rushed for 43 yards). His primary target – Dominique Rhymes – had 11 catches for a whopping 168 yards. R.J. Harris and Brad Sinopoli each had five catches. The Redblacks are giving Davis a chance to do his thing – his mobility is a huge asset – and it’s paying off.
Hey, a win is a win. But there aren’t going to be many Redblacks defenders who are going to be satisfied with the numbers. Saskatchewan QB Cody Fajardo completed 27-of-34 passes for 360 yards. Former Redblacks running back William Powell was held to 45 yards on 11 carries, but Marcus Thigpen had 57 yards on nine carries. Chris Randle had six tackles, but he was also victimized a couple of times. Danny Mason had six tackles and a quarterback sack. Michael Wakefield had a sack. Avery Ellis caused a fumble that Avery Williams recovered.
Special Teams A+
It was good, good, good. Lewis Ward was good on all six of his field goal attempts. Richie Leone averaged a huge 50.7 yards on his punts, getting a single on both a punt and a kickoff. Ryan Lankford returned four punts for 100 yards, including one for 42 yards. On a punt, Antoine Pruneau caused a fumble with Brendan Gillanders pouncing on the ball in a pile.
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