Ottawa REDBLACKS edge Saskatchewan Roughriders in a shootout

OTTAWA – In what many thought would be a defensive battle, turned into a shootout as the Ottawa REDBLACKS outlasted the Saskatchewan Roughriders Thursday with a 44-41 win at TD Place in their home opener.

The duo of Dominique Davis and Dominique Rhymes combined for 11 completions for 168 yards and a touchdown in the win.  Davis, who took some heat last week despite the win was stellar, completing 30 of 39 passes for 354 yards and three touchdown passes in the victory.

The matchup was made of two teams with two very different storylines surrounding the quarterback spot after Week 1.

Davis had an adventurous Week 1 but despite throwing four interceptions, was able to orchestrate a game-winning touchdown drive in the final minutes to upset the defending Grey Cup Champion Calgary Stampeders.

A stark contrast to the Riders who lost starter Zach Collaros after he was hit late by Hamilton’s Simoni Lawrence in a loss to the Tiger-Cats.  Both Cody Fajardo and Isaac Harker saw time in relief, with the former getting the nod versus the REDBLACKS.


Ottawa REDBLACKS WR Brad Sinopli Photo: Patrick Doyle


 

Head coach Craig Dickenson mentioned during the week that Harker could see some action despite Fajardo getting the start.  The best way to keep Harker pinned to the bench was to put points on the board early and that is exactly what the fourth-year pivot did.

On his second possession as a starter, Fajardo gave the Riders a 7-0 lead after delivering a strike to RB Marcus Thigpen on a post for a 19-yard touchdown.  The score was aided by a 41-yard pass interference call.

The lead – although critical for Fajardo’s confidence – was short lived however as the REDBLACKS promptly answered.  Davis completed a first down strike to SB rad Sinopoli and got a 15-yard run from RB Mosis Madu before laying in a perfect toss to Rhymes in the corner of the endzone for a 20-yard major.  A successful two-point conversion followed by a single on the ensuing kickoff gave the REDBLACKS a 9-7 lead as the first quarter came to a close.

The Riders would answer with massive 57-yard field goal off the foot of Brett Lauther to keep the lead swing going.  In doing so, his kick tied for fifth longest in Roughriders history.

As the second quarter got underway, the REDBLACKS offence came alive led by Davis who was absolutely locked in each possession of the quarter.

First, Davis went play-action and found JC Beaulieu in the endzone for a 23-yard major after Ottawa forced a turnover on special teams deep in Riders territory.

The next possession, the REDBLACKS got a 42-yard punt return from Ryan Lankford which allowed Davis to spot Seth Coate down the sidelines for a 43-yard gain before finishing the drive with an 8-yard TD to RJ Harris.

Before the Roughriders could catch their breath, they were down 25-10 and in need of an answer for the Davis and the Ottawa offence which was stretching the field and doing so at a rapid pace.

A 55-yard kick return from Marcus Thigpen helped flip the field and the Riders stopped the bleeding when William Powell dodged his way into the endzone for a 9-yard score.  Fajardo helped his cause by spotting Kyran Moore down the seam for a 39-yard gain to set up the score.

Somewhat lost in the leadup to the game amidst the Riders QB situation was Powell’s return to Ottawa for the first time since signing as a free agent in Saskatchewan. The former CFL rushing leader finished the night with 11 carries for 45 yards and a major against his former mates.

With the half winding down and the REDBLACKS having added another field goal, Fajardo showed some moxie headed into the locker room, completing another 20+ yard pass to Moore before throwing a ball over the top of the Ottawa secondary and connecting with Shaq Evans for a 44-yard major with four seconds remaining in the second quarter.

The teams combined for 55 points in the first half and the third quarter began with the REDBLACKS up 31-24.

They would quickly add to that lead as DL Avery Williams punched the football from Powell on the Riders first possession to set up a 30-yard Ward field goal.

The Riders would respond with a field goal of their own before Ward added another one – good for his 55thconsecutive make dating back to last season.

Despite facing a REDBLACKS offence that was rolling, the Riders continued to hang around however.  Down 41-27, with just over five minutes remaining, the Riders gambled on third-and-three and converted a 27-yard pass from Fajardo to Moore who set up a 6-yard Thigpen major.

Moore’s reception put him up over 100 yards receiving on the day and aided the Riders in cutting the Ottawa lead to 8.

As the game hit the three-minute warning, Davis and Rhymes once again took it upon themselves to put the game away, connecting on a 38-yard reception.  It not only set up a field goal to extend the lead to 11 but put the lid on what was an offensive showcase in Week 2.

The Riders return to Regina to host the Toronto Argonauts on Canada Day in their home opener next week.  The REDBLACKS will head into their first bye week before returning to host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Week 4.

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