VANCOUVER — The Ottawa Redblacks confirmed Sunday that they are not a struggling CFL expansion franchise anymore.
Jeremiah Johnson rushed for two second-half touchdowns and Chris Milo kicked five field goals as the Redblacks came back to beat the B.C. Lions 31-18 at B.C. Place Stadium.
"A year ago, we (were) struggling and trying to figure out what was going on, and now we’re on top of our game," said Johnson, who has five touchdowns in his past two games. "I think, as a team, we understand that. We understand that we’re in a good place."
The second-year Redblacks improved to 6-4 and moved into a tie for second spot in the East Division with Toronto by winning in a place that has been unkind to Ottawa teams. The Redblacks became the first Ottawa squad to earn a win in Vancouver since Oct. 6, 1990.
"For us, the bigger thing for us right now overall that we’re all excited about (rather than being tied for second) is we won in the West," said Redblacks quarterback Henry Burris, who completed 26-of-37 passes for 317 yards.
"We knew, if we could get this done, it would definitely move us in that direction to become one of the top teams in this league, and in order for us to become a playoff team that can win anywhere in this league."
Johnson’s touchdown runs from two yards in the third quarter and 12 yards in the fourth quarter enabled the Redblacks to overcome an 18-14 first-half deficit. Ottawa’s remaining points came on two converts from Milo and a safety conceded by B.C. punter Richie Leone.
Burris said the Redblacks responded after they were upset with themselves for failing to score a touchdown in the first half despite getting in scoring range several times.
"Nobody ever panicked, our team believed in what we were doing and we mixed things up very well with the run and the pass, and really got things going in the end," said Burris.
Despite throwing a touchdown, Lions QB John Beck struggled to get much going in his first CFL start in place of the injured Travis Lulay (knee) and tossed two interceptions at critical points. Beck completed 20-of-29 passes for 207 yards. Ottawa racked up 464 yards in net offence while B.C. only managed 194.
"Things didn’t go like we wanted," said Beck, a 34-year-old former NFL journeyman who made his first professional start since November 2011. "It happens. We have a short week coming up against Calgary. We have to learn from this, get it out of our minds and move forward."
Austin Collie, on a 14-yard reception, and third-string quarterback Greg McGhee on a one-yard plunge on his first CFL play, scored touchdowns for B.C (4-6). Leone added a field goal and pair of converts, including a CFL-record 48-yarder.
Leone’s convert of McGhee’s touchdown on a third-down plunge gave the Lions a 15-14 lead. B.C. then moved ahead 18-14 as Leone kicked a 39-yard field goal on the final play of the first half. But Milo’s fifth field goal of the game, from 48 yards midway through third quarter, brought the Redblacks within a point, and Ottawa regained the lead for good late in the third on Johnson’s first touchdown and Milo’s convert.
Antoine Pruneau’s interception set up Johnson’s second touchdown. With the Lions threatening late in the fourth, Jovon Johnson picked off a Beck pass in the Redblacks end zone.
"Special teams played well and defence played well at times to keep us in it," said Lions linebacker Adam Bighill. "We gave up two drives at the end that (were) costly. Just, overall as a team, we need to be better."
Notes: The record convert distance resulted after the ball was snapped from the Redblacks’ 41-yard line, following the penalty, to the 48 for the kick. As a result of new convert rules introduced this season, the single-point attempt is usually scrimmaged from the 25 and kicked from the 32. â€¦ Beck’s father Wendell and mother Julie flew up from San Diego to watch his first CFL start.