CFL: Ottawa REDBLACKS hold on to beat Montreal Alouettes

OTTAWA – The Ottawa REDBLACKS defense forced four turnovers and held strong late in the fourth quarter over the Montreal Alouettes to secure the team’s first victory of the season.

With the Als threatening in the red zone with less than three minutes remaining, the REDBLACKS denied a third down rush attempt to secure the 24-19 win.

Ottawa’s Trevor Harris threw two touchdown passes to go with 376 passing yards. While Montreal quarterback Darian Durant had a strong second half, it was not enough to overcome some early struggles. He threw for 452 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in the loss.

Jerrell Gavins intercepted Durant on the first Alouettes possession, the first pick recorded by the REDBLACKS this season. Mixing it up on offence, the REDBLACKS used both the rush and the pass to chip away and move the chains to march downfield but it was not enough to get into scoring territory and Ottawa was forced to punt.

Getting the ball back on offence, Harris found a wide open Brad Sinopoli downfield for a 22-yard gain that put the REDBLACKS in the red zone. Brett Maher booted a field goal to give Ottawa an early 3-0 lead.

The REDBLACKS defence frustrated the Als again, forcing a Brandon Rutley fumble that was recovered by Jonathan Rose with 6:05 remaining in the opening frame. Dionate Spencer dropped a pass in the end zone but Maher recorded another field goal as the REDBLACKS doubled their lead.

Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Montreal responded on its next drive with a field goal of their own, cutting the deficit to 6-3. The REDBLACKS notched a single at the start of the second quarter.

Back-to-back catches by George Johnson pushed the Alouettes past midfield. Receptions by BJ Cunningham and Lewis kept the chains moving before Rutley found some room to get the near the goal line. The momentum ended on an Antoine Pruneau interception in the end zone, Durant’s second pick of the game.

Ottawa took advantage of the turnover and they did so quickly. Harris connected with Ellingson at midfield and the wideout took care of the rest, outrunning the defence 80 yards to the end zone to increase the REDBLACKS lead to 14-3.

With the three minute warning approaching, Cunningham took matters into his own hands, making a leaping grab on a deep ball from Durant for a 36-yard gain. The Als drive was halted by another turnover, the team’s fourth of the half, as Taylor Reed tackled Durant and forced a fumble which was recovered by the REDBLACKS. Maher added another field goal as the Ottawa lead grew to 17-3.

Unfazed and with less than a minute remaining in the first half, Durant used a series of short passes and worked the sidelines to get into scoring range. Boris Bede kicked a 30-yard field goal to add three more points for Montreal as the halftime whistle sounded.

A special moment kicked off the second half of the game. With 14:12 remaining in the third quarter, Nik Lewis recorded a nine-yard gain for the 1,000th reception in his career. He entered the game five catches shy of the milestone. From there, Ernest Jackson notched a 14-yard gain before Durant connected 51 yards downfield with Tiquan Underwood for the first Als major of the night. Montreal failed to convert on the two-point attempt and still trailed 17-12.

The REDBLACKS offence hit the field looking for a quick response and first down grabs by Spencer, Sinopoli and Joshua Stangby kept the ball moving. Sinopoli capped the nine-play drive with a touchdown and pushed the REDBLACKS lead to 24-12.

Montreal QB Darian Durant Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Looking to claw back into the game, Durant kept the REDBLACKS defence moving with passes across the field, using his full receiving corps. On his first touchdown grab of the season, Lewis scored on a 4-yard major. Bede missed the extra point kick as Montreal still trailed 24-18.

Both teams locked in on defence in the fourth quarter, not allowing many yards to be gained. The Als added a single halfway through, cutting the deficit to just five points.

A big 35-yard mark by Jackson pushed the Als to midfield. A key run on third down by Cunningham kept the drive alive as Durant worked with under three minutes left in the game. Trying their luck again on third down inside the red zone, the Als were denied and stuffed by the REDBLACKS defence on the eight-yard line to end the threat and secure the victory.

Jackson finished the game with eight receptions and 101 receiving yards in his first game against his former team.

Next week, the Als head west to take on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers while the REDBLACKS visit the Toronto Argonauts on Monday night.

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