Ottawa REDBLACKs storm back to edge Saskatchewan Roughriders, punch ticket to playoffs

REGINA — The Ottawa REDBLACKS completed an exciting comeback to clinch a home playoff berth on Friday night, defeating the Saskatchewan Roughriders on the final play of the game for a 33-32 victory at Mosaic Stadium. A one-yard QB sneak touchdown from Ryan Lindley sealed the comeback victory, and with the win Ottawa has now jumped ahead of the Toronto Argonauts to claim first place in the East Division.

The Riders’ passing game was on fire all game long in this one, and Duron Carter set a career high in receiving yards to help Saskatchewan maintain the lead for most of the night. Carter was quite simply uncoverable, reeling in 11 of 14 targets for an incredible 231 yards. Kevin Glenn threw the ball with precision all game long, finishing with 387 passing yards and two touchdown passes.

Ottawa’s late comeback bid began after a Greg Ellingson touchdown catch brought the score within a single touchdown, and Trevor Harris‘ 262 passing yards and two scores led the way to the crucial Week 17 victory.

The Roughriders struck first and took an early three-point lead thanks to an explosive 52-yard punt return from Christion Jones in the opening minutes. The big return set up a 33-yard field goal from kicker Tyler Crapigna a couple plays later.

Trevor Harris’ first big throw of the game came on a back shoulder pass to receiver Juron Criner for 28 yards, setting Ottawa’s offence up near the Riders’ 30-yard line. The REDBLACKS tied the game up as a result, with kicker Brett Maher knocking through a 38-yard field goal with just under five minutes to go in the opening quarter.

Riders quarterback Kevin Glenn moved the ball with efficiency early on through the air, completing nine of his first 10 throws. The veteran passer connected with receiver Caleb Holley for a 16-yard pickup before the end of the quarter, bringing the the Riders’ offense down to Ottawa’s 14-yard line.

Ottawa WR Diontae Spencer had 3 catches for 71 yards and 1 TD Photo: The Canadian Press

Ottawa’s defense stepped up on the next play, however, and linebacker Taylor Reed brought pressure with the blitz to sack Glenn for a loss of eight yards. The Riders were forced to settle for a 21-yard Crapigna field goal to take the 6-3 lead.

The REDBLACKS’ offense gambled on the following drive when they went for it on third down with a Ryan Lindley QB sneak. But Ottawa’s offensive line lost the battle at the line of scrimmage, and the Riders stopped Lindley to force the turnover on downs. The gamble cost Ottawa three points, as the Riders turned the solid field position into a 34-yard field goal to take the 9-3 lead.

Diontae Spencer reeled in a big over-the-shoulder grab for 32-yards on Ottawa’s next drive, securing the ball near the sidelines for his 60th reception of the season. But the REDBLACKS turned the ball over on the next play when Riders linebacker Henoc Muamba picked off a Harris pass for his second interception of the season.

An apparent miscommunication occurred for the Riders’ offense when they attempted to capitalize on the turnover, and Glenn’s throw into the end zone sailed directly into the hands of Ottawa defensive back Jonathan Rose.

The Riders were able to bounce back and break through on offense near the end of the first half, as Glenn threw a deep 38-yard pass to star receiver Duron Carter. Glenn found running back Kienan LaFrance on the next play for the six-yard touchdown strike, helping the Riders take the 16-3 lead. Glenn finished the first half with 177 passing yards and the touchdown.

Harris and the REDBLACKS’ offence came storming down the field after getting the ball back, and their biggest play of the half came when Harris found receiver Dominique Rhymes for 36 yards. Rhymes fought his way up the field for 27 yards after the catch, and the play set up a pivotal 12-yard touchdown pass to Spencer on the very next play.

The touchdown catch was Spencer’s sixth of the season, cutting the Riders’ lead down to six points with under a minute left in the first half.

Glenn and the Riders picked up right where they left off after the half, as the quarterback found Carter deep down the field once again for a 50-yard strike. The reception put Carter over 100 yards receiving on the night, and moved the ball into scoring territory. The Riders expanded their lead to two scores as a result, with Crapigna kicking his fourth field goal of the game to make it 19-10.

Ottawa responded with a scoring drive of their own after that, and a combination of Harris passes and rushes from running back William Powell led to a 48-yard field goal from Maher, bringing the REDBLACKS within a touchdown score.

The REDBLACKS continued to establish some major momentum on the following drive when Ottawa defensive back Antoine Pruneau made a phenomenal play to pick off a Glenn pass, taking it all the way to the end zone for the 46-yard touchdown. The score was Pruneau’s fourth interception of the season and his first career CFL touchdown, giving Ottawa their first lead of the game at 20-19.

The Riders struck back with Crapigna’s fifth field goal of the game, putting Saskatchewan back on top 22-20. Newly added running back Trent Richardson gained tough yards up the middle for the Riders on the drive, contributing a 15-yard rush to set up the 35-yard field goal.

Saskatchewan KR Christion Jones Photo: The Canadian Press

Carter’s big receiving night continued on Saskatchewan’s next possession when Glenn found the receiver for a 45-yard gain. Carter split two defenders and stretched out for the diving catch. Richardson converted a third down attempt on the ground after taking the direct snap a few plays later, and Glenn capped off the drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Holley, putting the Riders up 29-20.

The Riders’ defense quickly got the ball back for their offence, and another big return from Christion Jones helped maintain momentum for Saskatchewan. The Glenn-Carter connection continued to thrive for Saskatchewan, and the quarterback connected with his main weapon for another 37 yards on the drive. The drive led to Crapigna’s sixth field goal of the game, giving the Riders the 32-20 lead.

Ottawa rallied back with a touchdown drive near the end of the fourth quarter, and receiver Greg Ellingson made his biggest play on a quiet night with an 11-yard touchdown catch to help bring the score to 32-27 with just over two minutes remaining.

The REDBLACKS got the ball back after stopping Glenn from moving the chains, and Harris led the Ottawa offence all the way down the field. The REDBLACKS completed the comeback with a one-yard Lindley rushing touchdown, sealing the 33-32 victory.

The Roughriders will head to Calgary next Friday for Week 18 action against the Stampeders, while the REDBLACKS will have a bye week before they host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Oct. 27.

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