OTTAWA — Dustin Crum and the Ottawa REDBLACKS are in search of their third straight victory as they host Bo Levi Mitchell and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday.
Ottawa is coming off back-to-back overtime victories over West Division opponents in Winnipeg and Calgary, while Hamilton hits the field aiming to get back in the win column after falling 31-15 to the Toronto Argonauts in Week 7.
It won’t be the first meeting of the season between the two provincial rivals and ironically enough it was Hamilton who handed Ottawa their last loss on July 8.
Crum has played every bit the part of top tier pivot since taking over for the injured Jeremiah Masoli in Week 5.
Crum should be carrying plenty of confidence into this week’s contest after completing 23 of 29 passes for 257 yards and rushing for 63 more on nine carries against Calgary. He was able to rush for 91 yards on six carries in his teams visit to Tim Hortons Field earlier in the year.
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Head coach Bob Dyce’s running offence has been one of the most effective across the league. Crum – alongside runnings backs Devonte Williams and Ante Milanovic-Litre – will face a Ticats defence that ranks near the bottom of the league in rush yards allowed.
Hamilton’s defence held the REDBLACKS to 186 passing yards in their first meeting but are coming off a game in which they allowed 306 to the Argos.
Back in Week 5, the Ticats pass defence forced three interceptions while holding Crum’s top receivers to 126 yards.
Crum has seemed more comfortable in the pocket with each passing week but credits much of his success to his group of receivers. He’ll need big performances from them if Ottawa hopes to make it three wins in a row.
“It allows you to play your best when you have guys around you that you know are going to be in the right spots.”
The REDBLACKS defence continues to be the talk of the CFL, and for good reason. Defensive back Brandin Dandridge has taken the league by storm and added another interception last week.
Competition at the line of scrimmage is sure to be fierce and will play a factor in the outcome of the game as Ottawa’s pass rush faces a Ticats offensive line that has allowed 13 sacks over six games.
Hamilton’s offensive line will be protecting veteran quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell who’s returning from an injury suffered in Week 2 against the Argonauts.
Head coach Orlondo Steinauer’s team will rely on the return of Mitchell, combined with the recent strong play of receivers Terry Godwin II and Kiondré Smith and the star power of Tim White and D’haquille “Duke” Williams, to generate points in the passing game.
The Ticats will need to be efficient through the air as it’s uncertain what they will get in the run game after being held to just 26 yards from rushers not named Powell against the Argos.
Steinauer’s squad has been struggling at times to keep teams off the board, surrendering 195 points over six games. Hamilton’s defence performed well in the first encounter between the two teams, though, holding Ottawa to just 13 points and 276 net yards in Week 5.
Steinauer knows that the early trials of a long season don’t necessarily have to set a definite picture about his team, choosing instead to welcome them in order to improve going forward.
“We definitely need to be better in all three phases,” Steinauer told Ticats.ca.
“Put the first third of the season behind us, it is what it is. It’s not going to define us, it’s not our destination. It’s about welcoming that challenge and embracing it.”
There’s a lot on the line Friday night as the REDBLACKS can climb within two points of Toronto for first in the East Division, while the Ticats can move into a tie for second with a win.
Kickoff from TD Place is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET. International and U.S. audiences can watch the game on CFL+ while Canadian viewers can watch it on TSN/RDS.
— With files from OttawaREDBLACKS.com and Ticats.ca