Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Redblacks show bounce-back ability in victory over Ticats

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The Ottawa Redblacks are trying to adopt a new identity.

They are attempting to put a second meaning to their ‘R’ logo.

They’d also like it to represent their character.

They want to be Resilient, with a capital ‘R’.

It matters not to them — if they’ve even realized it — that their two wins have come against teams that are a combined 0-8 this season.

They’re too busy proving they can bounce back from four seasons of brutal football.

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On Sunday, they had a strong answer to a weak outing in Montreal 10 days earlier.

After their defence had surrendered 47 points to the Alouettes, it cut that number by more than half against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

“The fact that we didn’t have our best game (in Montreal) and definitely people were kind of counting us out, we stepped up and did we had to do,” said linebacker Frankie Griffin, who led the Redblacks with 11 tackles. “Mentally I think we already knew that we were going to come in here and do it today. We just had a belief it was going to happen.”

Quarterback Dru Brown bounced back from a two-turnover night to lead two come-from-behind drives in the final three and a half minutes.

“We have a ton of guys that are obsessed with competition and improving themselves,” said Brown. “We care about each other, and I think that’s really important. Especially early on in these close games, when you really forge a bond between the team and you see what guys are made up of it’s time to make the play. We got a ton of guys that that are willing to step up and that’s very encouraging, exciting.”

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Including the oft-maligned offensive line, which gave up three sacks against the Cup champs but didn’t allow the Tiger-Cats near Brown.

Then there was Jaelon Acklin, who had been in concussion protocol all week and then returned to have his best game of the season, catching seven passes for 90 yards.

And running back Ryquell Armstead, who had an impressive opening night but was a non-factor against the Alouettes with six carries for 26 yards and two catches for seven, had more than 100 yards from scrimmage against Hamilton (51 on 10 carries and 53 on six receptions) and made the biggest plays on both touchdown drives.

And two special teams players who made costly errors early in the game wound up being stars in the 24-22 final.

DeVonte Dedmon, who fumbled away the game-opening boot with a gaffe that led directly to the Ticats’ first touchdown, redeemed himself by giving the Redblacks field position with 162 return yards the rest of the way — 99 on six punt bring backs and 63 kickoff returns.

So determined not to let Dedmon beat them as they set out to protect a one-point lead with 25 seconds left, the Ticats squibbed a kick to Tobias Harris, whose determined 27-yard return set the Redblacks up on their own 52.

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“When the ball was kicked my way I’m just thinking, get north, make a play,” said Harris. “That’s kind of my mindset. Someone’s gonna have to tackle me. When I was going I thought, I don’t care if i hit one blocker, they still have to tackle me. At this point it was about holding the ball and trying to get as far as I can.”

A couple of dozen ticks later, Lewis Ward, who missed a first-quarter extra point attempt that could have turned out costly, responded positively on the last play of the game when he nailed a 46-yard field goal through the very middle of the uprights.

“My confidence was pretty low, after that first extra-point miss,” said Ward. “But as the game went on, it was time for everyone to lock in, including myself.”

Head coach Bob Dyce had no doubts.

“A lot of kickers would say ‘oh yeah, Coach, I need another one to feel good that I’m going to do it right’ but that’s not Lew,” said Dyce. ‘Lew has the belief, he knows what he has to correct, and so when we’re lining up for (a kick from) 46 (yards away) I was sitting there … I may not have had a smile on my face, but I knew what the outcome was going to be.”

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Even in a lopsided loss to the Alouettes, Dyce talked about the resiliency his team showed by coming back with a decent second half.

The attitude carried over.

“The thing I’m so proud of those guys for is this: Throughout the whole game there was never a time where anyone was quiet,” said Dyce. “All game (linebacker) Jovon (Santos-Knox) was telling: ‘We’ve got your back, Coach, don’t worry about it.’ Even to the last drive, the last kickoff, he said: ‘Coach, we’re going to have a fantastic return, the offence is going to go, we’re going to score, Lew is going to hit the winning field goal’.

“The belief that they all had in each other. Just looking at it … I’m very proud, very proud of these guys to have the resilience. Yeah, very proud of these guys.”

Now that they’ve buried the monkeys on their back that were a 14-game losing streak to divisional foes and a home-field losing streak to East Division rivals that dated back to 2018, the Redblacks have to face different beasts.

Their next eight games are against West Division teams, starting with next Friday in Winnipeg and nine days later in Edmonton against the 0-4 Blue Bombers and 0-4 Elks — two teams that everyone knows are better than they have started.

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But the Redblacks hit the road with confidence that, in part, is born from going 2-0 at home.

“You always want to win your home games and it’s great for the guys in the room, after we’ve talked about bullies of Bank Street and being a physical team and taking care of our home turf,” said Dyce. “You have to continue to build upon that. At the same time, we want to have the same mantra, the same thought process as we work on the road.”

They were crushed in their only game as visitors this season.

They now have to show they have the resilience to bounce back from that.

To become road warriors as well as the Bank Street Bullies.

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