OTTAWA — Seven days can feel like an eternity in football.
For the Ottawa REDBLACKS, the time between their 27-3 loss at the hands of the Calgary Stampeders last week and their upcoming date with the BC Lions this Friday (7:30 p.m. ET) will certainly have felt that way.
Ottawa’s offence failed to lift off against Calgary, while its defence was carved up enough in less than one half by Bo Levi Mitchell and co that the second one was rendered moot.
It’s a different story entering Friday’s contest for the BC Lions; bolstered by the return of veteran quarterback Travis Lulay, Wally Buono’s bunch stormed back to beat Winnipeg on a last-second field goal in Week 5 and will hope to build on that momentum this week.
The two squads will meet in a special #LiveMic edition of Friday Night Football this week in the nation’s capital.
Last week was a breath of fresh air for BC.
Not just under centre, where Travis Lulay threw for 326 yards and a touchdown, but in terms of the end result as well. In a season in which the Lions had struggled for positive outcomes — on individual plays, series and games at-large — they turned a 17-point deficit into a legitimate win on home turf.
“We’re trying to use that second half and take it onto the rest of the season,” Lions defensive back Otha Foster III told BCLions.com. “We gave up a lot of rush yards last week, but if we stop the run, we’ll be pretty good.”
Stopping the run will be markedly harder for BC this week without the presence of defensive captain and star linebacker Solomon Elimimian; the four-time CFL all-star was placed on the six-game injured list with a wrist issue, and will be unavailable for the foreseeable future.
“That’s real tough, any time you lose a guy like that it takes a team effort to replace him,” continued Foster. “They’ve got a good core of receivers, a good offence period. We’re gonna have to jump on them fast — the quicker we take the crowd out of it, the better it’ll be for us.”
The task of securing a road win in Ottawa will be made more difficult on offence, too, by the absence of Jeremiah Johnson; Brandon Rutley draws in and will likely split touches out of the backfield with Chris Rainey. Rutley featured extensively for Montreal in 2015 and 2016, rushing for 949 yards over two seasons with the Alouettes.
“I’m excited, just ready to do my job,” said the veteran 29 year-old. “It’s been a great week of prep. I think we’re prepared and it’s just time for us to go out there and pound the pavement man.”
Second-year pro Jordan Herdman will slot into Elimimian’s spot in the heart of the defence; the Simon Fraser product’s tutoring under Elimimian actually dates back to 2014, when the latter was helping coach linebackers at SFU.
“I learned a great deal from Solly. He coached me for a year at SFU and just being a teammate and seeing how he prepares in his work ethic, his hustle, it can’t do anything but just pass on to me and I embrace it,” explained Herdman. “It’s crazy how things work sometimes, you know? From him coaching me, to us playing together and now I get the opportunity to take over his role and try to fill his shoes.”
In Ottawa, all systems were very much not a go against Calgary last week.
The REDBLACKS managed a grand total of one first down in the entire first half against the Stamps, and Trevor Harris’s offence was booed off the field by the irked Ottawa peanut gallery.
Thus, the message throughout practice for the REDBLACKS this week was one of redemption: Back to basics, high-percentage plays and execution.
“We watched that game (on film) last week, it was seven days ago when we watched it,” Ottawa head coach Rick Campbell told OttawaREDBLACKS.com. “It’s been all eyes on BC and what’s ahead of us. It’s a big game. As you can see, the way things are working out, everybody’s stacked together. You’ve gotta cash out and win games. Our guys are looking forward to getting out and playing.”
Campbell was his usual non-committal self when asked about any added importance to Friday’s contest.
“We love this place, we love our fans, but if you get into that…” he trailed off. “Whoever we’re playing or wherever we’re playing, we’ve got to show up and play well.”
The matchup against BC will definitely have some added juice for REDBLACKS defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy; the outspoken 25 year-old spent the last two seasons with the Lions, and did not mince words on facing his former team for the first time.
“I’m just ready to go kill them, to be honest. I let bygones be bygones, but it’s personal,” he stated. “Lulay is going to make the right throws until he finds what he needs to find. You can show him something different, then you’re good. If not he’s going to know where he’s going with the ball every time.”
Like most of Ottawa’s key players, however, Wakefield was held at bay last week by Calgary: quarterback pressure will be key against Travis Lulay and a BC offensive line which has given up the second-most sacks (12) in the CFL.
0 — Times that BC QB Travis Lulay has thrown for 300-plus yards against Ottawa; the Lions pivot eclipsed the mark for the 20th time in his career against Winnipeg, and the REDBLACKS are the only CFL team he has not thrown for 300 yards against.
93 – Total passing yards for Trevor Harris last week against Calgary, the first time in his career he has been held under 100 yards in a game without being lifted due to injury.
229 – As Harris goes, so too do the REDBLACKS; the Ottawa pivot is averaging 343 pass yards in the team’s two wins, and just 114 per-game in the team’s two losses.
Believe it or not, Ottawa has won two in a row and four of its last six meetings against BC.
The difference this time around is the Lions have momentum with Lulay under centre — Jennings started and took the loss in both meetings last season — while Ottawa does not.
The REDBLACKS have some work to do to help erase the memory of last week’s dismantling at the hands of the Stamps; BC, meanwhile, will be hoping to tap into the same mojo that helped lead the Lions to a memorable fourth-quarter comeback last week.
– With files from BCLions.com/OttawaREDBLACKS.com
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