OTTAWA — It was dicey towards the end, but the Ottawa Redblacks can breathe a little easy after ending a lengthy winless skid.
Dustin Crum threw a pair of touchdown passes and ran for another to lead the Redblacks to a 36-28 win over the visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday. The Redblacks led 36-14 late but held on for the win.
“Definitely relieved. It was good to see guys step up, take that growth and be able to finish off the game,” said Crum, who finished with 243 passing yards as the Redblacks (4-10) snapped a seven-game losing skid and kept their faint playoff hopes alive.
“Everyone says winning solves everything. It was frustrating more than anything.”
The Roughriders (6-8) suffered their third straight loss but remained third in the CFL West. QB Jake Dolegala threw two touchdowns and passed for 291 yards.
Ottawa got some breathing room under two minutes into the fourth quarter when Crum connected on a 32-yard catch-and-run touchdown that led to a 29-14 lead after the Michael Domagala extra point.
Crum ran for a 35-yard score seven minutes into the quarter that led to a 38-14 lead for the Redblacks after the conversion.
The final 90 seconds became interesting after Roughriders special teamer Mario Alford returned a punt 106 yards for a score cutting the Redblacks lead to 36-20 after a failed two-point conversion.
Saskatchewan then recovered an onside kick, and a few plays later Antonia Pipkin scored on a one-yard run with 60 seconds to play. The two-point conversion pass to Samuel Emilius was good and suddenly it was 36-28.
It would get no closer.
“A lot of the games we had the lead and let it get away from us, know that we were better than our record indicated,” said Crum of Ottawa nearly blowing its lead. “Being on the right side of this we’re relieved and hopefully it can motivate guys and get us locked into this playoff run.”
The Redblacks are chasing the Montreal Alouettes and Hamilton Tiger-Cats for a playoff berth after the CFL East-leading Toronto Argonauts clinched their spot.
“We won this game tonight and that’s what we were focused on” said Ottawa coach Bob Dyce. “Now we’ve got a chance to play Montreal twice, which is the team that is right in front of us, and we feel that we control our destiny in that regard.
“That’s what we’re focused on. We’re not looking at the past, we’re just looking to get better each week.”
It took only 22 seconds for the Redblacks to put up 11 points at the end of the first half and turn a 13-8 deficit into a 19-13 lead at the midway point of the game.
An interception by Deandre Lamont at midfield and returned to the Saskatchewan six-yard line led to a touchdown pass from Crum to Bralon Addison on the next play. The two-point conversion, a pass from Crum to Justin Hardy, gave the Redblacks a 16-13 lead.
On the ensuing series, a fumble recovery by the Redblacks led to a 42-yard field goal by Domagala at the buzzer sent the home team into the break with a 19-13 lead.
The game was tied 7-7 to start the second quarter but a 54-yard touchdown pass from Dolegala to Samuel Emilus just over a minute into the quarter put the Western Riders up 13-7 after a failed conversion.
“We are a resilient group and we showed that tonight when we didn’t quit. Obviously we have to build on this and come up with the same energy next week,” Emilus said.
“We just have to come out better in the second half better. We came out flat and we can’t do that no more. We’re trying to get the playoff spot so we just have to make the push, and I’m confident we can get it done.”
A 54-yard punt single by Ritchie Leone narrowed that lead to 13-8 with just over three minutes to play in the half before the defence allowed the offence to shine.
Saskatchewan opened the scoring in the first quarter on an 11-yard touchdown strike for Dolegala to Kian Schaffer-Baker nine minutes into the game. Brett Lauther’s extra point put the Riders up 7-0.
Ottawa drew even before the end of the quarter when Tyrell Pigrome scored on a one-yard run and Domagala converted the extra point in the final minute of the quarter.
The Redblacks outscored the Riders 3-1 in the third quarter. After Adam Korsak delivered a 55-yard punt single early in the quarter cutting the lead to 19-14, Domagala hit on a 32-yard field goal with three minutes to play in the quarter to send the Redblacks into the final quarter with a 22-14 lead.