September 13, 2023

REDBLACKS seeking urgency after loss to Ticats

Hamilton Tiger-Cats vs Ottawa REDBLACKS September 8, 2023 PHOTO: André Ringuette/Freestyle Photography

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats sullied the night the Ottawa REDBLACKS were hoping to have, taking a 27-24 win under the lights at TD Place on Friday night.

Following their second bye week of the season, the REDBLACKS came into the night looking to draw level with the Cats in the standings. The defeat drops them to 3-9, four points behind Hamilton.

“We’re obviously frustrated,” said REDBLACKS’ Head Coach Dyce. “Some of the things we talked about is making sure that we finish, play physically, and have great focus. At times, we had all three of those, but right now, we’re not a good enough team not to be locked in at all times.”

A search for positives turns up a couple of results. Dustin Crum was effective once again, throwing for 265 yards, as his protection held up, allowing only a single sack on the final play of the game. Khari Jones called an aggressive game, mixing in screens, draws, and even some trickery, tasking Justin Hardy with throwing a pass, which fell incomplete.

The biggest positive, however, was clearly Devonte Williams, who rushed for 146 yards, while picking up another 69 through the air.

“You don’t rush for the yards that Devonte did without being physical,” Dyce said. “He did an outstanding job not only running the ball, but catching it, as well. It was great to see, but that’s the challenging part. We executed a lot of things we wanted to do offensively.”

Despite the outstanding performance, Williams wasn’t in any kind of celebratory mood.

“I was feeling it, but we didn’t achieve the ultimate goal, which is to win,” Williams said. “That’s the frustrating part of everything.”

Much of the good was washed away in a handful of moments, particularly through turnovers. An interception, a pair of fumbles, and a turnover on downs in a key spot hurt, while a couple of missed field goals added to the misery.

A trio of opportunities to push the ball in from the one-yard line sticks in Dyce’s mind, marking it as a potential turning point.

“In the first half, when you have first and goal from the one, you should be able to score if you want to be a physical team,” Dyce said. “It’s just that simple. You have to move people and make space for the quarterback. But at the same time, if you don’t get it, you’d like your defence to be able to make a stop.”

The culprit isn’t rust, Dyce says.

“I don’t think there was rust,” Dyce said. “When you look at what happened, really, if we would have scored [from the one], and we make the two field goals, it’s 13 points, and we’re up significantly at the half. It’s not a matter of rust, it’s about executing when in the important moments.”

With six games remaining on the schedule, the REDBLACKS have no choice but to bear down and figure things out. Heading to Vancouver, they’ll face a stiff test against the 8-4 B.C. Lions.

“We have to have a great sense of urgency,” Dyce said. “We’re going to play a strong B.C. team that’s doing very well in the West, and it’s a longer trip than we normally take. We all have to realize where we sit right now. For us to [get where we want to be], we have to go on a big run here.”

Many are writing the REDBLACKS off right now, but inside the locker room, there’s still hope.

“They are going to believe until there isn’t a chance,” Dyce said. “It’s certainly not an easy path, I’ll tell you that, but we have to lock in and be ready to go. All we can control now is our week of practice until we play B.C.”