Despite being short-handed, the Calgary Stampeders found a way to pull out a 17-3 win over the Ottawa Redblacks Friday night at TD Place.
The win allowed the Stampeders (5-2-0) to snap a two-game losing streak and keep pace with the B.C. Lions, who are second in the West Division and will be visiting Calgary Aug. 13.
Calgary was missing a number of starters, but did enough to beat a struggling Ottawa team.
Bo Levi Mitchell was far from his best, but on this night, he proved to be the better quarterback.
Mitchell finished the night 13-of-27 passing for 142 yards and one interception. He also happened to fall one yard short of becoming Calgary’s all-time passing leader.
“It wasn’t until the last two plays of the game that someone walked up and told me I was two yards away,” said Mitchell. “In my head I already knew we were running the ball so when he actually called a pass play I was surprised. But the beautiful thing is, we get to do it at home now in front of the fans.”
Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson was unable to make the trip to Ottawa as he was in COVID protocol, but assistant head coach Mark Kilam and the rest of the coaching staff filled in admirably.
“I thought it was a full team win,” said Kilam. “Each phase did some things. You could get down on the offence, but they were battling through injuries all night so they were rolling guys in and out.”
As for the Redblacks, who fell to 1-7-0, it was more of the same for how this season has gone for the team.
After picking up its first win last week against Toronto last week, there was a sense that maybe things had turned for Ottawa. However, the Redblacks just couldn’t find a way to generate much offence.
Caleb Evans started the game, but struggled right from the start. He went 10-of-21 passing for 66 yards and one interception.
Nick Arbuckle replaced him in the third quarter and hit on 17 of his 23 passes for 186 yards and two interceptions.
When asked why he hadn’t made the change sooner, Ottawa head coach Paul LaPolice said “that’s my call,” although he did later admit he considered making the change at halftime.
“I wanted to give (Evans) the opportunity. He’s been very successful two straight games and some of those issues weren’t his alone,” said LaPolice said. “You certainly don’t pull quarterbacks early, (that) is my experience at 20 years.”
Calgary opened the third quarter with Rene Parades connecting on a 24-yard field goal, his third of the night, to give the Stampeders a 16-0 lead. Ottawa then conceded a single to make it 17-0.
Ottawa had a brief moment of hope as Shaheed Salmon intercepted Mitchell and ran the ball back to Calgary’s 18-yard line. Two plays later, Evans fumbled and Calgary regained possession.
“That’s part of football,” said Salmon. “It’s not necessarily frustrating; we all signed up for it. If our offence isn’t doing too well, we know as a defence or special teams it’s our time to make a play.”
Upon entering the game, Arbuckle marched the Redblacks down to Calgary’s nine-yard line, but then fumbled the football. Offensive lineman Ucambre Williams was able to recover the ball and Ottawa settled for a 25-yard field goal by Lewis Ward to finally get on the board.
The score didn’t come easy, as it bounced off the goalpost before going through the uprights to make it a 17-3 game with under five minutes remaining.
With time winding down, Arbuckle looked poised to find the end zone, but was picked off by Titus Wall at Calgary’s one-yard line.
“What can you say about the defence?,” said Kilam. “They got their hands on a ton of balls … they sealed the win for us.”
Redblacks defensive back Antoine Pruneau believes the team is capable of more, but in the moment, the losses sting.
“It’s extremely frustrating what’s happening, especially in front of our fans” he said. “It’s not good enough.”
Calgary had opened the scoring with a 51-yard field goal on its opening drive and added a 36-yard field goal late in the second quarter to take a 6-0 lead.
Wall then picked off an Evans pass and ran it back 46 yards for the only TD of the opening half. Parades added the extra point to give Calgary a 13-0 lead.
Ottawa will head into its bye week and return to action Aug. 19 when they host the Edmonton Elks.