It’s only week 6 of the CFL season, but the Ottawa REDBLACKS’ 31-28 overtime victory Saturday evening over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will surely go down as one of the most shocking, exciting finishes in team history.
Your unlikely hero was Dustin Crum, a man who began the 2023 season a month and a half ago as the club’s number four quarterback. The former Kent State star spent last summer with the Kansas City Chiefs, then came north to Ottawa after the Chiefs released him in August.
Crum got his first taste of CFL action last week after starter Jeremiah Masoli suffered an Achilles tendon injury in Hamilton. The news was extremely discouraging for the REDBLACKS players, who had not only watched their friend and teammate work so hard to get back after last year’s season-ending injury, but they also knew, with Masoli and Tyrie Adams both out for the season, things might now be a little thin at quarterback. Again.
But Crum looked pretty decent last week, almost rallying to tie the game in Hamilton. Down by eight points, Crum’s long impressive run with no time left on the clock fell agonizingly short at the Hamilton two yard line.
— CFL (@CFL) July 9, 2023
Despite the loss, the performance earned Crum another start this week at home against Winnipeg. It was a very tall order to have a rookie quarterback, with half a game of CFL experience, take the reins of a 1-3 team against a 4-1 perennial powerhouse.
Through most of the game, Ottawa’s offence simply couldn’t get on track. It almost felt like they were still reeling from the loss of Masoli. The fans felt it too. Many REDBLACKS fans had already left the park. Others at home were mentally starting to shovel dirt on another Ottawa football season.
Winnipeg had the ball with a 25-9 lead and two and a half minutes left in the game. Then this happened.
— Ottawa REDBLACKS (@REDBLACKS) July 15, 2023
The Ottawa defence had been excellent all afternoon, keeping the game close, so why wouldn’t they be the ones to finally get Ottawa into the end zone? The pick six by Brandin Dandridge and a two point convert cut the Bombers lead to eight points. The defence then held again, forcing Winnipeg to punt.
That set the stage for Crum. Exactly like last week, Ottawa was down by eight points as the clock hit zero and, incredibly, Crum got a chance at a do-over.
REDEMPTION IN OTTAWA!!!
— 3DownNation (@3DownNation) July 15, 2023
With a successful two point convert, it was off to overtime, where the defence shone again. They immediately stopped Winnipeg, forcing them to settle for a field goal.
And then Crum did it again with his legs, completing “The Crumback.”
— CFL (@CFL) July 15, 2023
Apparently, that disappointing game-ending play last week really stuck with Crum.
If you’re old enough to remember it, Ottawa head coach Bob Dyce looked like N.C. State head coach Jim Valvano after the thrilling end to the 1983 NCAA basketball championship, running around excitedly trying to decide who to hug first. As an aside, Dyce is featured in the latest issue of FACES.
“Some teams in some leagues may give up in a situation like we were in,” Dyce said. “But not these guys, man. These guys believe in each other. And they’re a great group of men. Now we’ve got to continue to get better for our next game.”
It’s only week six, but the Ottawa celebration was more than justified. Not only were the REDBLACKS massive underdogs and seemingly down and out in this game, but Crum’s performance and emergence as the new starter (261 passing yards, along with 103 rushing yards and two touchdowns) has now helped restore hope for an Ottawa football season that was beginning to look lost.