A major challenge
Harris, Redblacks face Blue Bombers’ tough defence on Friday night
Trevor Harris and the Ottawa Redblacks’ offence face a major challenge Friday night.
Harris threw for a seasonhigh 487 yards last week to rally the Redblacks to a 24-17 win over the Montreal Alouettes. But Ottawa (5-3) visits Winnipeg (5-3) to face a solid Blue Bombers defence.
The Bombers lead the CFL in sacks (21) and interceptions (11) and are tied with unbeaten Calgary for most turnovers forced (25). Winnipeg is also second in fewest offensive points allowed (19.5 per game) and passing TDs (five).
Linebacker Adam Bighill, first overall in defensive tackles with 49, anchors a unit that also includes defensive back Kevin Fogg (tied for first with three interceptions), linebacker Ian Wild (tied for first with two fumble recoveries) and defensive lineman Jackson Jeffcoat (tied for second with five sacks).
Winnipeg’s defence played a big role in last week’s 29-23 home win against Hamilton. After Justin Medlock’s 33-yard field goal with 1:22 remaining, Bighill and Co. held off a late Tiger-Cats rally to help secure the Bombers’ third straight victory.
Bighill finished with seven tackles, one sack and a forced fumble.
With Harris leading the way, Ottawa’s offence rolled up 601 total yards against Montreal. But after committing six turnovers (interception, four fumbles, once on downs), the Redblacks needed William Powell’s 10-yard TD run with 36 seconds remaining to break a 17-17 tie.
Powell finished yards rushing on (6.1-yard average).
Ottawa has a passing offence. It leads the CFL in attempts (315), completions (214) and completion percentage (67.9) and is third in yards (312.6 per game). Powell is second overall in rushing with 608 yards (4.9-yard average) but the Redblacks have the league’s second-worst ground attack (87.9 yards per game).
Yet a reliable kicking game has proved quite beneficial for Ottawa. Rookie Lewis Ward has hit on 25-of-26 field-goal with 104 17 carries attempts (96.2 per cent) and all eight converts he’s tried.
Running the football is certainly Winnipeg’s forte as it leads the CFL in rushing (152.6 yards per game) with Canadian Andrew Harris, last year’s rushing leader, atop the standings with 720 yards .
The Winnipeg native has three 100-yard rushing games this season and run for six TDs. He’s also registered 31 catches for 254 yards and two touchdowns.
With a staunch defence and dominant rushing attack, Winnipeg hasn’t needed quarterback Matt Nichols to be a one-man show. Nichols has completed 83-of-135 passes (61.5 per cent) for 1,053 yards his season high being 253 yards - in five starts with seven TDs against four interceptions.
Medlock has made 18-of-21 field goals and all 29 converts he’s attempted.
Prediction: B.C. Lions at Toronto Argonauts
At Toronto, McLeod BethelThompson makes his second career start after throwing three fourth-quarter TD passes to rally the Argos (2-5) from a 24-point deficit to a 42-41 home win over Ottawa on Aug. 2. Travis Lulay gets his fifth start for B.C. (3-4), which is coming off a 31-23 win over Edmonton. Defensive lineman Shawn Lemon faces his former team for the first time since being dealt to the Lions last month.
Prediction: Montreal Alouettes at Edmonton Eskimos
At Edmonton, the Eskimos (5-3) look to rebound after being outscored 21-3 in the second half against B.C. CFL passing leader Mike Reilly threw for 302 yards with two TDs and scored another. Johnny Manziel threw for 168 yards and no picks against Ottawa but Montreal (1-7) put him under concussion protocol Wednesday. Defensive backs Branden Dozier (13 tackles) and Tyquwan Glass (12) led the way against the Redblacks, which speaks volumes.
Prediction: Calgary Stampeders at Saskatchewan Roughriders
At Saskatchewan, Calgary (7-0) looks for a second straight win this season at Mosaic Field. Bo Levi Mitchell threw three TD strikes as the Stampeders took a 24-0 first-quarter lead en route to a 34-22 win July 28. Zach Collaros didn’t play then but will start for the Riders (3-4). However he won’t have Duron Carter to play catch with after the veteran receiver was released last weekend. Caleb Holley will take Carter’s spot. Both teams come off the bye.
Last week: Overall:
Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Trevor Harris throws a pass during CFL action against the Montreal Alouettes in Montreal, Friday, July 6.