Seven weeks ago, the Ottawa REDBLACKS were rolling. On July 15th, they pulled off an incredible comeback, an overtime victory over the three-time Western champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers. A week later in Calgary, on July 23rd, they won in overtime again – this time a 43-41 western shootout victory over the Stampeders.
With that, they evened their record at 3-3 and seemed to have found their swagger. They also seemed to have found a gem in Dustin Crum, the former Kent State star who began the year as the club’s fourth string quarterback.
It looked for a moment like the REDBLACKS might actually get back to the playoffs this year for the first time since 2018. They just seemed to be finding ways to win games.
But in the six games since, they’ve been finding ways to lose them. Their 27-24 loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Friday night was especially frustrating and, whether the club is ready to admit it or not, it was probably the death knell for their playoff hopes.
The REDBLACKS should have had no shortage of motivation. They were at home, inspired to snap their five game losing streak, and facing the very team they needed to catch in the standings. Meanwhile, Hamilton was playing on only three days’ rest and had Taylor Powell, their third string quarterback, running the offense.
It was a game Ottawa absolutely had to have. It was absolutely there for the taking. And they absolutely couldn’t do it.
“There were times when we had to stop them, but we were unable to do that,” head coach Bob Dyce told TSN 1200 radio. “And conversely, offensively, when we needed to finish off or get that drive at the end of the game, we were unable to do that.”
That about covers it, all right.
And now, with the playoff drought about to hit a fourth straight season, it’s more than fair to ask, will the REDBLACKS even win another game this year? Their remaining schedule includes absolutely no games against sub-500 clubs.
Sept 16 at BC Lions
Sept 22 vs. Saskatchewan
Sep 30 vs. Montreal
Oct 9 at Montreal
Oct 14 at Toronto
Oct 28 vs. Toronto
Just to catch Hamilton, Ottawa would need to win three of those games and hope the Ticats lose every game remaining. And with the crossover, even that might not be enough.
But Dyce remains optimistic.
“We’re not eliminated from anything,” Dyce said. “I think maybe people on the outside look at it in a more negative light. (Our) guys look at it as they’ve got a fantastic opportunity this week to play a very good B.C. team and change our path for the future.
“We know it’s a difficult road in front of us, but we know that road isn’t closed.”
To help the cause, Dyce hinted that roster changes may be coming this week, and not just kind where players are coming back from injuries. Unfortunately, from the outsider’s negatively-lit view, that feels a bit now like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
Meanwhile, a tip of the cap to TSN 1200 radio for sticking to their guns and continuing to have the REDBLACKS head coach on every Monday morning, year after year, usually to explain what went wrong in the last game.
First, it was Rick Campbell’s weekly explanations of Ottawa’s 3-15 season in 2019.
Then it was Paul LaPolice’s explanations of Ottawa’s 3-11 season in 2021.
Then it was LaPolice and Dyce and their explanations of Ottawa’s 4-14 season in 2022.
Now it’s Dyce and his explanations of a 3-9 season so far in 2023.
Mondays must feel like Groundhog Day. And except for a couple of crazy summer nights in July, so have most of the recent REDBLACKS games.