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Ottawa defence delivers as Redblacks hold off the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 23-19

OTTAWA — Not even the pouring rain could dampen the spirits of the Ottawa Redblacks following a 23-19 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Thursday night.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Nick Hallett (21) dives for Ottawa Redblacks' DeVonte Dedmon (17) as Redblacks' Bennett Williams (14) looks on during first half CFL action in Ottawa on Thursday, June 13, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

OTTAWA — Not even the pouring rain could dampen the spirits of the Ottawa Redblacks following a 23-19 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Thursday night.

The season opener was one to remember for the Redblacks (1-0) with thunder and lightning forcing a 60-minute weather delay with 2:09 left in regulation and Ottawa leading 23-17.

“The vibe in our locker room was we wanted to get back out there,” said Redblacks coach Bob Dyce. “These guys wanted to win this game the way it should have been on the field for 60 minutes and so we were in there and we stayed mentally prepared to go out there and finish the game.”

The teams returned to the field with the rain still coming down.

The Blue Bombers (0-2) marched to the Ottawa seven-yard line in the final minute, but Damon Webb made a diving deflection on a Zach Collaros pass into the end zone.

“I was up against the line and I was like, 'Can’t let them score,'" said Webb. “I’ll do anything, lay out, just to make sure I make the play and do the job. That’s all it was.”

Lorenzo Mauldin IV then sacked the Winnipeg quarterback on the next play to turn the ball over on downs.

“We got down there pretty quickly, two plays,” said Collaros. “At first and seven from the seven we’ve got to get the ball in there.”

Collaros wasn’t happy with his own performance and said he needs to be better.

Ottawa conceded a safety with 14 seconds left and a Blue Bombers' Hail Mary at the buzzer was incomplete.

Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea felt his team had a lacklustre first half, but liked the squad's pushback in the second half.

“I’m just glad that we got a chance to get back out there and finish it for real,” said O’Shea. “It would have probably left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth if we didn’t get to finish it. We came up short.”

Ottawa led 16-10 at the half.

The Blue Bombers, who hadn’t lost the first two games of a season since 2016, managed to take the lead midway through the third quarter.

Collaros, who was 15 for 31 for 285 yards with two interceptions, connected with Keric Wheatfal for a 76-yard gain before he was pulled down at Ottawa’s five-yard line.

Chris Streveler completed the drive by pushing in a two-yard TD to take a 17-16 lead with 4:51 remaining in the third quarter.

The Redblacks stuck to their game plan and regained the lead.

With 7:09 remaining, Dru Brown - making his debut with the Redblacks - connected with Justin Hardy for a 42-yard gain to put Ottawa on Winnipeg’s five-yard line.

A short run put Ottawa on the two and with heavy rain falling, Brown found Hardy alone in the end zone. Ottawa fell short on the two-point conversion, but a single off a Richie Leone punt put Ottawa ahead 23-17.

Brown finished 20 for 33 for 238 yards and one touchdown.

“You always feel like you can do better,” admitted Brown. “But I have learned and I’m going to enjoy this tonight and I will be extremely critical on myself tomorrow.”

A decent start to the game allowed Ottawa to take the lead going into the second half, but Dyce felt his team lacked discipline at times and penalties cost them field position.

“One of the things we talked about is not beating ourselves and eliminating the preventable penalties,” said Dyce. “I didn’t feel we did a great job of that in the first half.”

On the game's opening drive, the Redblacks reached the five-yard line but settled for a 12-yard field goal.

Late in the first quarter, the Redblacks extended their lead with a drive sparked by Devonte Dedmon's 45-yard punt return to the Winnipeg 27-yard line. Four plays later, Dustin Crum punched in a one-yard touchdown.

Adarius Pickett intercepted Collaros at midfield early in the second quarter, leading to a 31-yard Lewis Ward field goal. Five minutes later, Winnipeg responded with a 45-yard Sergio Castillo field goal to make it 13-3.

Though Collaros struggled early, he redeemed himself with a 47-yard pass to Chris Demski, reaching Ottawa’s 35.

After a sack pushed them back 17 yards, a face-mask penalty gave the Blue Bombers another chance, resulting in Johnny Augustine's four-yard touchdown run.

With just over two minutes left in the half, Ottawa drove downfield but settled for a 34-yard field goal after a penalty nullified a promising drive.

The Blue Bombers finished the game without defensive end Celestin Haba, defensive back Deatrick Nichols and defensive tackle Miles Fox.


Redblacks: Will play the Montreal Alouettes on June 20.

Blue Bombers: Will meet the B.C. Lions on June 21.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 13, 2024.

Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press