Friday, July 19, 2024

Ottawa Redblacks QB Dru Brown not caught up in storylines

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It’s Dru Brown’s first start as the Redblacks QB, against the team he spent the past three seasons with when he was learning the CFL ropes playing behind Zach Collaros.

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For Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Dru Brown, Thursday night’s showdown against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers has all the elements of a great story.

It’s his first start as the Redblacks QB, against the team he spent the past three seasons with when he was learning the CFL ropes playing behind Zach Collaros.

But Brown, who signed a two-year free-agent deal to play for Ottawa earlier this year, isn’t getting caught up in storylines. For him, it’s just Game 1 of his team’s CFL season — and the opposition just happens to be Collaros and the Bombers.

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“It’ll be fun. But competing every week is fun,” said Brown. “So, it’s not necessarily any different. A win feels really good regardless (of who it’s against). Would it feel better (to beat Winnipeg)? I don’t know. I’ve never really had a chance to play a former team.”

“I know (the Bombers), but they also know me. I just go out there, compete, sling it, execute and whatever happens happens.”

The Redblacks have had a long streak of losing seasons since Trevor Harris left following the 2018 season. They’re hoping Brown is the answer as their starting quarterback.

“I don’t have any concerns about the game being too big for Dru,” said Redblacks head coach Bob Dyce. “Dru’s had to start games. This is no different than any other game.”

Asked about expectations from the team and its fanbase, Brown said: “”I don’t really think about expectations, to be honest. I wouldn’t concern myself with something someone thinks I should do. It’s a game of execution and that’s at the forefront of my mind.”

Coming off a four-win season, the fourth straight year the Redblacks finished outside of the playoffs, the internal vibe is upbeat heading into Thursday’s game.

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“It’s important to learn from the past,” said Redblacks linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox. “But you don’t want to dwell on it. We took things we didn’t do well in the past and emphasized what we could do better. We want to win for our fans, they deserve it.

“This is a resilient group, we’ve got the right vibe in here. Momentum is everything. We’re emphasizing starting fast, getting out of the gate fast. You’re going to see a team that’s going to fight — all game.”

“I’m not into predicting, we’re just looking to get out and play our best football (Thursday),” said Redblacks defensive lineman Cleyon Laing. “We can’t dwell on the past — this isn’t 2022 or 2023, that doesn’t matter to us right now. This a new team. We want to develop a taste for winning.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Winnipeg. But our focus isn’t on them, it’s on us. We have to focus on not beating ourselves. if we play our brand of football and play smart, fundamental football, we can play with anybody.”

WHO’S IN, WHO’S OUT: For Ottawa, starting cornerbacks Brandin Dandridge (knee) and Alijah McGhee (foot) both start the season on the six-game injured list. Also listed on the six-game: Defensive lineman Kene Onyeka. Of note for Ottawa, running back Ryquell Armstead (quad) is listed as a game-time decision, with DeVonte Dedmon and Amlicar Polk behind him on the depth chart. Money Hunter and Deandre Lamont are starting at corner. Dariusz Bladek starts at right guard and Dontae Bull is at right tackle. Canadian rookie Nick Mardner, the second overall pick in this year’s CFL Draft, starts at one of the receiver spots. … The Bombers will start Johnny Augustine at running back, with Brady Oliveira (knee) sidelined. Receiver Kenny Lawler (arm) is also out, going on the six-game injured list. Linebacker Adam Bighill, who missed Winnipeg’s season-opening 27-12 loss to Montreal last week, returns. Asked if his team’s game plan would change with Oliveira out, Dyce said: “It’s a little late to change our defensive game plan. It’s a sound plan made by Coach (Barron) Miles and the defence is going to go out there an execute it.”

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LOOKING BACK: This will be the first time the teams have played since Ottawa’s stunning come-from-behind 31-28 home-field victory over the Blue Bombers last July.

Remember how it happened? Ottawa trailed Winnipeg 18-0 in the second quarter. It was 18-3 at halftime and 25-6 into the fourth quarter. It looked like yet another home-field setback for the Redblacks. But … it wasn’t over. With less than three minutes to go, Brandin Dandridge intercepted a pass and scored a touchdown. The two-point convert pass to Nate Behar got Ottawa within eight. Ottawa got the ball back on its 16-yard line with 57 seconds left and Dustin Crum ran into the end zone on the final play of regulation, with Behar catching another two-point convert pass. After a Winnipeg field goal, Crum ran in for the game-winning touchdown in overtime. It was Ottawa’s first win over Winnipeg since 2018, snapping a five-game losing streak.

THE END AROUND: Last season, 14 of Ottawa’s games went down to the final three minutes before being decided … The Redblacks were the CFL’s best in season-openers from 2015-21, undefeated at 5-0-1. They’ve lost their last two … All four of Ottawa’s wins last season came against West Division clubs; they were 0-10 versus the East … DeVonte Dedmon, who is expected to see some action at running back, along with returning kicks, played just two games last year due to injury. In 24 career CFL games, he has five career return TDs (three punts, two kickoffs) … The Redblacks have a couple of new concession partners: Shawarma Palace and Maverick’s Donuts.

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