After the Ottawa REDBLACKS finished the 2021 CFL season with a record of 3-11, they went out and signed free agent Jeremiah Masoli to a big money, two-year contract. In doing so, it was a loud declaration their quarterbacks last year were either too raw or simply not good enough.
And three days after Masoli was injured in July, the team made that declaration again, acquiring Nick Arbuckle from Edmonton. With Arbuckle needing time to learn Ottawa’s offence, the club was forced to go right back to Caleb Evans, the only holdover from last year’s ineffective crew. In five starts, Evans had his moments. He was excellent in the club’s lone win in Toronto. But he and the offence remained plagued by inconsistency and the offence was awful in the two games that followed.
Evans led the club to a 1-4 record before Ottawa head coach Paul LaPolice, whose coaching hotseat was set to 10, finally turned things over to Arbuckle last week.
The former Georgia State Panther took care of the ball, moved the offence and delivered an Ottawa victory, completing 21 of 32 pass attempts for 219 yards.
Sneaky sneaky 😏 pic.twitter.com/L0Tv5UZMMv
— Ottawa REDBLACKS (@REDBLACKS) August 27, 2022
With the win, just Ottawa’s second of the 2022 CFL campaign, Arbuckle has now laid claim to the REDBLACKS’ starting quarterback role for the foreseeable future. At 2 and 8, that future begins in a giant hole. Normally, a record like that would sink a club, no matter what the new starting quarterback brings to the table.
But this is the CFL East.
With a win Friday night in Montreal, the REDBLACKS would move to within 2 points of the Alouettes for the second and probably final playoff spot in the division.
“The season really starts Labour Day weekend and going forward,” Arbuckle told TSN. “For the large majority of the league, everything is still up in the air at this point. Whether that’s going for second or third place or trying to go for the crossover, whatever it may be, now you’re going into the last eight games of the season, and this is where you build momentum or lose momentum.”
It’s a difficult position for Arbuckle. Even if he can overcome the odds and get Ottawa back into the playoff discussion, Masoli is expected to return and reclaim the starter’s role at some point this season.
Arbuckle did have a very good year in 2019, coming off the bench in Calgary for the injured Bo Levi Mitchell. Arbuckle then signed with Ottawa but didn’t play due to the cancellation of the season due to COVID. After that, he made stops in Toronto and Edmonton, where statistically there wasn’t really anything to suggest he’ll be able to rally the REDBLACKS this year.
Arbuckle can’t worry about the past or concern himself about Masoli’s return in a couple of months. He’s 1-0 as the starting quarterback in Ottawa and all he can do is focus on what’s right in front of him right now.
“We just have a battle,” Arbuckle said. “It’s an uphill battle because of the hole we dug ourselves early in the year. But it’s nothing we can’t get out of it and it’s definitely not too late for us.”
The REDBLACKS entered the 2022 CFL season with the motto, #FlipTheScript, because for the last two seasons, the script has been a horror story. Unfortunately, the script is exactly the same this season. But Arbuckle and company are hoping they still have time to write a happier ending.
By Steve Warne | Faces Magazine
Ottawa Redblacks (2-8) at Montreal Alouettes (4-6)
Friday, 7:30 p.m., at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium