OTTAWA — When opportunity knocks, Henry Burris says the Ottawa REDBLACKS must answer the call.
The veteran quarterback says the CFL expansion team has often been its worst enemy this season with bad penalties and an inability to consistently convert scoring chances into touchdowns. A case in point was Ottawa’s 33-23 road loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Saturday when the REDBLACKS put several solid drives together but either came away with no points or settled for field goals.
Burris said Ottawa must take advantage of whatever chances it gets Saturday night when it hosts the defending Grey Cup-champion Saskatchewan Roughriders at TD Place Stadium.
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“We’ve been able to get drives going against pretty much anybody we’ve played but we’ve found ways to shoot ourselves in the foot, whether it’s been mental errors, penalties or something like that,” Burris told reporters Friday.
“Those are things that are easily correctable but the problem is if you say they’re easily correctable then we can’t have those mistakes happening over and over again.
“When we have a chance to put the ball in the end zone, we’ve got to put seven points on the board, continually put the pressure on (the Riders) and make them one-dimensional.”
Saskatchewan comes off an impressive 37-9 home win over Toronto, with Will Ford rushing for 113 yards and three TDs in his Riders’ debut. The defence also registered four sacks — including two by defensive lineman John Chick — and two interceptions.
Chick has a CFL-high six sacks and Saskatchewan is second overall with 18, one behind league-leading Edmonton. But Burris said facing the Roughriders gives Ottawa the chance to not only prove itself against the defending champions but also make hay in the weak East Division.
Ottawa is currently tied for second as Montreal and Hamilton all have just one win on the season. The Alouettes lost to the Argos later Friday night, giving the Boatmen their second win of the season, so Burris would like the REDBLACKS to keep pace.
“Right now, it is what it is in the East,” Burris said. “This would be a great game for us to get some momentum behind us … and do something no other team in the East is trying to do right now and that’s string together a win after a win.
“This is a great opportunity to play against a team like Saskatchewan. It not only gives you a chance to make a statement to yourself as a team but your fans in the stands and also across the league.”
Darian Durant says he’s excited to play in front of what’s expected to be a hostile crowd in Ottawa.
The Riders will make their first CFL visit to Ottawa since Aug. 11, 2005 when the then-Renegades beat Saskatchewan 22-17. In that game, Ottawa quarterback Kerry Joseph threw for 168 yards and a TD and ran for two more against a team that two years later he’d lead to a Grey Cup title en route to being named the league’s outstanding player.
The CFL suspended the Renegades following the ’05 season due to financial instability.
“I think that’s going to be a challenge for us but I think it’s also exciting for the guys to play at a new stadium with a brand new team,” Riders coach Corey Chamblin said of his teams’ Ottawa visit. “It’s always new energy there and right now our record is clean there.”
Chamblin says it’s wrong to think of Ottawa as an expansion team because many of their players are CFL veterans.
“It might be new in terms of facilities and all that but these players on that team, they know how to play in this league,” Chamblin said. “I think those guys are ahead of the curve.
“I think a lot of people thought they’d struggle in all three phases but I don’t think they’ve struggled at all. They’ve done a very good job of putting together a good team.”
Durant is looking forward to seeing how many of the Riders’ loyal fans make the trip to Ottawa.
“I love night games, first and foremost, and being in a brand new stadium in that type of environment,” he said. “I’m really anxious to see what kind of green we can get.”
But the veteran quarterback also believes Ottawa’s defence is a very capable one especially under the watch of head coach Rick Campbell, the former Calgary Stampeders defensive co-ordinator.
“I see a defence that flies around,” he said. “They’re very well coached … so I know they’ll be fundamentally sound.
“They’ve got some good veteran players over there who played on other teams in the past. They’re not bad at all.”
Veteran slotback Chris Getzlaf, a 31-year-old Regina native, returns after missing three games with a leg injury.
“It’s very important,” Durant said of Getzlaf’s return. “He’s one of the better receivers in our league, not just Canadian, and he’s had a lot of success.
“He’s a guy who I know his body language and exactly where he’s going to be.”
It will be an extended road trip for the Riders, who’ll visit the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Thursday night.