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Ottawa plays home opener against Toronto
Ottawa, ON (Sports Network) - The Ottawa RedBlacks will play their first official home game on Friday night, as they entertain the Toronto Argonauts at the refurbished TD Place.
The RedBlacks are the third Canadian Football League team to call Ottawa home, and despite dropping each of their first two games this season to Winnipeg (36-28) and Edmonton (27-11), respectively, there is an obvious air of excitement as professional football returns to Bytown for the first time since 2005.
By contrast, the Argonauts are the oldest professional sports team in North America, and they have won more Grey Cups than any other CFL franchise (16), with their most recent coming in the 100th installment of the championship game back in 2012.
This season however, Toronto has stumbled to a 1-2 start, sandwiching a 48-15 rout of Saskatchewan on July 5, between double-digit losses to Winnipeg in the opener (45-21), and at home to Calgary last Saturday (34-15).
This is obviously the first meeting between these two Eastern Division foes, and they will conclude the regular season against each other in Toronto on Nov. 7. However, when taking into account regular season matchups between teams from these respective cities, dating back to 1907, Toronto leads the series, 132-104-5.
The Ottawa offense, under the direction of veteran quarterback Henry Burris, was stymied for much of last Friday's bout with Edmonton, finishing with only 276 total yards. Burris was off the mark throughout, hitting a mere 13-of-25 passes for 134 yards, with no touchdowns and he was sacked five times. Chevon Walker led the rushing attack with 92 yards on 10 carries, although 65 of them came on one long touchdown run in the second quarter.
The RedBlacks actually played very well on defense in the first half of last week's tilt, permitting only a pair of singles, but the Eskimos scored 25 points after intermission to claim the victory. Edmonton quarterback Mike Reilly wound up going 22-of-33 for 256 yards, hitting slotback Adarius Bowman nine times for 140 yards and three touchdowns, much to the RedBlacks' dismay.
Burris, who in his 15th season is the CFL's all-time leader in rushing yards by a quarterback, threw for 241 yards and a pair of scores in the season- opening loss to Winnipeg. As for Walker, he tallied a pair of touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) while coming up with 62 yards on 15 carries in that contest.
Consistency from Burris, a complete game from the defense, and better discipline on both sides of the ball (28 total penalties for a loss 237 yards in the first two games) will be the keys to Ottawa picking up its initial win, and continuing to log them as the season moves along.
Toronto quarterback Ricky Ray completed 28-of-36 passes for 292 yards, but did not throw a touchdown pass and was sacked three times in last week's loss to Calgary. By comparison, his counterpart, Bo Levi Mitchell, threw for 267 yards and four TDs for the Stampeders, who rolled up 445 yards of total offense compared to 367 for the Argonauts. Toronto's Chad Owens led all pass catchers in the game with nine grabs for 102 yards.
Place kicker Swayze Waters booted through five field goals, including a 51- yarder in the third quarter, to account for all the team's scoring. Waters also averaged 48.3 yards per punt, dropping a pair inside the 20-yard yard line.
While clearly having issues stopping the pass, Toronto's effort against the run resulted in the Stamps needing five guys to reach an even 100 yards, and no Calgary rusher found the end zone.
After three weeks of action, Toronto is dead last in the CFL with regard to total defense (424.3 yards per game), but it makes up for it by pacing the league in total offense (446.0 yards per game). With Ray (.757 completion percentage, 982 yards, five TDs and zero interceptions) leading the way, the Argos are the top passing team, lighting up the sky for 351.0 yards per game. Owens ranks first in the league in both receptions (28) and receiving yards (339), but it was announced on Tuesday that he will be sidelined the next few weeks as he nurses a foot injury.
As was the case last week, the defense's Achilles' heel has been its inability to shut down the opposition's passing attack, as foes air it out for 308.3 yards per game. Despite the issues facing his teammates, defensive back Jalil Carter has recorded three sacks already, while linebacker Antwaun Molden has two picks, one of which he returned 108 yards for a score in the team's blowout win over Saskatchewan in Week 2.
07/16 11:29:16 ET