Thursday, July 18, 2024

“All right” doesn’t cut it against winless Winnipeg

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If Dru Brown was a veteran quarterback – or at least one with more than a half dozen starts under his belt – he might have eventually been pulled out instead of knocked out of Friday night’s game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

While completing just two of six passes for 24 yards, the Redblacks went two-and-out in four of the six series he directed and managed just four first downs, including one on a penalty, before Brown was nearly decapitated by defensive back Redha Kramdi 28 minutes and 38 seconds through what would become a 25-16 final and Winnipeg’s first victory of the season.

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Under Brown’s guidance, Ottawa was going nowhere fast.

But you have to know that the 27-year old will again stand behind centre when the Redblacks play their next game, July 14 in Edmonton, and not just because they’re paying him starter’s money.

He’s been far from spectacular to date, but they see Brown as a true leader and it sure feels like they’re going to give him every chance to gain experience and succeed.

Even Dustin Crum, who started 14 games last season but was relegated to backup when Ottawa signed the ex-Blue Bomber, said he “hated” seeing Brown go down.

“I care a lot about Drew,” Crum told TSN1200’s AJ Jakubec after game. “He’s a great guy. He’s a competitor. He gets after it. He puts hours into it like like nobody else. So to see him take a hit like that and to go down  …  it motivates your teammates almost. You want to play for a guy like that. You want to perform for a guy like that when he’s down and out.

“So to not be able to pull it out for him kind of stinks.”

Given the importance of a good quarterback to a football team, the CFL really does have to take a harder stand against head shots than a 15-yard penalty and whatever token fine that will be levied on Kramdi.

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“It seemed to me to be someone leading with their head on a player who was defence-less,” head coach Bob Dyce told Jakubec right after the game.

The good news is Dyce said Brown was “functioning normally”, but that’s the only update he could provide.

“When it’s something like this, you have no idea,” said Dyce. “When it comes to concussion protocol or anything like that, you go through the process. You’re never going to try and predict what the situation is  …  if it is a concussion. Everyone handles them differently, so I can’t tell you anything on that.”

Crum, who entered the game with Ottawa behind 13-3, was not the sole reason for the loss.

The Redblacks are now 2-2 because they couldn’t stop the Blue Bombers from churning up real estate along the ground – running back Brady Oliveira and quarterback Chris Streveler combined to carry the ball 36 times for a whopping 208 yards – and because they couldn’t keep Sergio Castillo on his own side of the field.

The former Redblacks kicker was good on 6-of-6 field goal attempts, including a pair of 53-yarders and another from 49 out.

Lewis Ward had a good game, going 3-for-3, but the extra nine points Castillo made proved to be the difference.

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Crum, however, was responsible for two of Ottawa’s three turnovers (although Dom Rhymes gets some blame for the interception) and that was especially key when Winnipeg had none.

“Definitely the turnover battle is a big thing in this league,” defensive tackle Mike Wakefield said to Jakubec. “You got to make some turnovers and you got to win the turnover battle if you want to win the game.”

Said Dyce: “It’s tough to come on the road and turn over the ball. Penalties kind of bit us in the rear end. We lacked some discipline today.”

The penalty that hurt most was taken by backup linebacker Davion Taylor, who was called for tugging at Steveler’s facemask while temporarily filling in for a dinged up Frankie Griffin, on a late drive that effectively killed any chance of an Ottawa Crum-back.

Also costly was back-to-back gaffes by running back Rock Armstead, by far the Redblacks most effective player on the night.

Armstead, who had his first touchdown and his first 100-yard game in the CFL, let an easy Crum lateral through his grasp and then failed to jump on the loose ball.

The Blue Bombers recovered the fumble on their own 28 yard line, ending Ottawa’s chance at getting at least another three points and taking some momentum into the second half.

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Dyce blamed the unacceptable mistake on “teaching” and called it a “failure of us as coaches”, but he also pointed the finger at himself for the Redblacks not starting fast enough in the blowout loss to Montreal.

“This game came down to us taking care of the details,” Dyce told Jakubec. “And we didn’t.”

Armstead had an interesting reply when Jakubec asked him if getting into the end zone and the drive-killing fumble made for a “bittersweet” night.

“I played well, I ran for over 100 yards, I put a touchdown on the board and I was able to help my team,” he replied. “I don’t look at the bad, I look at the good and positive, and I’m only going to grow, I’m only going to get better.”

So there.

Also candid was Dyce when Jakubec asked him about Crum’s performance.

“Obviously, he’d like to have that interception in the middle of the field back, but he offered different things (like) the ability to run with the ball and provided a little bit of a spark for us,” he said. “You know, he’s had limited reps, but we take away the turnover and I thought Dustin was all right.”

Crum was also all right last year, when he started camp as fourth string and became the starter because of injuries, and the Redblacks won just four games.

Whether it’s Brown or Crum at the help, all right likely isn’t going to cut it next week in Edmonton, against an Elks team that is coming off a bye and, at 0-4, has lost one game by eight points and each of the rest by three.

No, if their quarterback is just all right a week from Sunday, the Redblacks could very well be gifting another western team its first win of the season.

View more photos from the game

Redblacks
CFL Winnipeg Blue Bomber quarterback Chris Streveler during game action against Ottawa Redblacks, Streveler scored on the play. Photo by Chris Procaylo /POSTMEDIA
Redblacks
CFL Ottawa Redblacks linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox takes a hit during game action against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, in Winnipeg. Photo by Chris Procaylo /POSTMEDIA
Redblacks
CFL Winnipeg Blue Bomber defensive back Brandon Alexander making a play against Ottawa Redblacks running back Ryquell Armstead during game action, in Winnipeg. Photo by Chris Procaylo /POSTMEDIA
Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky
Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky tries to shake off an Ottawa Redblacks receiver during a CFL game on July 5, 2024. Photo by Chris Procaylo /Klein Media

dbrennan@postmedia.com

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