Friday, July 19, 2024

Redblacks ready for last game against a division rival until September

Must read

Article content

Some trends are impossible to ignore.

They just have to be dealt with and buried.

When the Ottawa Redblacks host the Hamilton Ticats Sunday night (7 p.m.), they will be attempting to halt a 14-game losing streak against East Division opponents that dates back to a 24-18 victory in Montreal on Oct. 18, 2022.

Even worse, they haven’t defeated an Eastern foe on home turf since bumping off the Ticats 46-27 in the division final on Nov. 18, 2018.

Advertisement 2

Article content

“I’m sure the fans know that and they’re the ones who deserve our complete performance, a great performance from us because they’ve stuck with us through some tough times,” middle linebacker Jovon Santos-Knox said on Saturday. “We want to get that monkey off our back.”

Especially because if they don’t do it now, they’ll have to carry the thing around for another two-plus months.

The quirky CFL schedule doesn’t have the Redblacks seeing a divisional rival again until the Toronto Argos visit on Sept. 7.

“All games against Eastern opponents are very important,” said Santos-Knox. “You want to dive in a little extra just because you know that the seating and all that stuff matters down the road.

“Not playing another Eastern opponent until September is kind of weird, but it’s also something we want to embrace and leave the east on right note.”

To help the players get past last week’s 26-point loss to the Alouettes, coach Bob Dyce has used professional golfers in an analogy.

“They probably hit 1,000 balls a day,” said Sherrod Baltimore, who is coming off the practice roster to start at cornerback against the Ticats. “But (on the course) they still go in the drink sometimes, hit it left, hit it right. They need to have a next-play mentality. It’s a great mentality.”

Advertisement 3

Article content

After much deliberation, Dyce and his staff go with Baltimore rather than former Argo Tarvarus McFadden this week as a replacement for the injured Money Hunter.

“Right from day zero both those guys knew they were competing for the the opportunity to start,” said Dyce. “And obviously, as we go through a week of practice, they’re continually evaluated through the meeting room and obviously, most importantly, what they do on the field. Our final evaluation was that Sherrod had a greater comfort level there and was performing at a high, high level. And so that’s a decision we make.”

What may or may not have come into the equation was Baltimore’s history against Ticats quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.

As QB of the Calgary Stampeders, Mitchell was the MVP of the 2018 Grey Cup game, completing 24-of-36 passes for 253 yards and couple of TDs in the 27-16 victory over the Redblacks.

But he also threw a pair of picks, including one to Baltimore.

“He’s a legendary quarterback,  probably gonna be like a Hall of Famer and stuff like that,” said Baltimore. “Good with his feet, he can move around in the pocket, got a strong arm. You gottta respect your opponent.

Advertisement 4

Article content

“We just got to make sure we come out and just execute our calls, be in the right place at the right time and the ball will come to you. Just gotta make sure you catch it.”

A couple of injuries limited the 34-year-old Mitchell to just six games games last season, his first with the Ticats.

In Hamilton’s 0-3 start this year, he has thrown six TD passes and five interceptions, but has also shown glimpses of his old self.

“Bo makes some really good decisions and looks like he’s a lot more comfortable in their offence,” said Dyce, adding that its apparent Mitchell and Scott Milanovich, the Ticats head coach and offensive coordinator, are on the same page. “It looks like he’s playing with more confidence than I would say maybe he did last year. When he’s getting the ball out quick he’s very, very effective. He seems like he’s built a good relationship with some of the receivers over there and he just seems a lot more comfortable in what he’s doing, and we all know the type of quarterback he is.”

Said Santos-Knox: “I think he’s back to sort of his old form. He looks very mobile back there. He’s able to escape things he wasn’t really escaping last year. He just looks like he came into the season a lot more prepared and ready and we know that we’re going to get the best of him. He can read every defence, he’s seen every defence so with him, we just got to be really assignment sound and know that he’s a great player still.”

Advertisement 5

Article content

In his CFL career, Mitchell has played 174 games and completed 2,657 passes for 34,547 yards and 200 TDs.

That gives him more than a slight experience edge on Redblacks QB Dru Brown, who is about to make his fifth start.

“I don’t really think about it, to be honest,” Brown said when asked about this week’s QB matchup and if he’ll feel pressed to keep pace with Mitchell. “I have a lot of respect for Bo and what he’s done and what he’s continued to do. I appreciate the way he plays the game and how he competes. But no I don’t ever really consider the other quarterback.

“I typically just want him to to stay healthy and play slightly poor on that day.”

Brown believes the Ticats winless start means nothing now.

“I think that goes out the door in high school,” he said when asked if he thinks they’ll be extra ornery for that first win, “because you’re dealing with highly talented, highly motivated individuals. You know, you can’t just show up and win a game based on your record, right? People aren’t intimidated by guys. They’re professionals and anyone can win on any given day. So you need to show up and compete and do what you’re supposed to do.”

Advertisement 6

Article content

Brown also isn’t dwelling on his his or the team’s poor performance in Montreal.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a super seasoned vet, but I’ve been around long enough to know how long the season is,” he said. “And  that it’s important for us to stay together. A lot of times, teams experience at least one game like that. Even the good ones. So we obviously looked at it and improved and then we flushed it because it doesn’t matter anymore. Moving forward, we got full confidence in one another to do what we need to do.”

And confident that they can end two losing streaks at once – the two year drought against East opponents and the six-year slump against East opponents at home.

“We talk about that a lot, just how it pertains to us moving forward,” said Brown. “Winning is what we’re here to do. Competing is what we’re here to do. Any chance we get an opportunity to do that, we’re going to go in and try our best.”

Recommended from Editorial

Article content

Latest article