|Justin Tang/Canadian Press|
The Ottawa Redblacks and Calgary Stampeders settled for a 31-31 in the season opener for both teams - the second straight year the two clubs played to a tie in their first meeting of the season.
"It feels very, very eerie like last year,'' said Stampeders coach Dave Dickenson. "We came in here and fought back and both teams probably think they could have and should have won. Opportunities were there for both teams and then you finish with a tie, which probably doesn't taste well for anybody.
"Ties, no one's real happy with those.''
Overtime has been a common theme for the two teams recently.
The Redblacks and Stampeders played to a 26-26 tie last season in Ottawa's home opener. The Redblacks scored a 39-33 overtime victory against Calgary to clinch the Grey Cup.
The tie didn't sit well with the Redblacks for a number of reasons.
Ottawa led for the entire game, but kept giving Calgary enough chances to keep things close, took far too many penalties for its liking (13 for 126 yards) and struggled at times with the officiating.
"It's disappointing,'' said Ottawa quarterback Trevor Harris, who was 33 for 45 for 300 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. "It's hard to see the positives right now.''
"From our point of view we have a lot of stuff to work on as a football team,'' said Redblacks coach Rick Campbell. "We took too many penalties. There's things we need to get better at so the (officiating) is the least of our worries.''
Ottawa led 28-14 with just over six minutes remaining when Bo Levi Mitchell, who was 31 for 48 for 376 yards and two TD's, connected with Lemar Durant for a 24-yard touchdown.
Calgary was able to take advantage of a questionable call when Kamar Jorden appeared to fumble the ball. Ottawa challenged the play, but the call on the field stood to the dismay of the sellout crowd of 24,565, and the Stampeders went on to score four plays later when Jerome Messam ran in a three-yard TD. A convert tied things 28-28 with two minutes remaining.
In overtime the Stampeders could have won the game on a field goal, but it went wide forcing double OT. On Calgary's ensuing possession Rene Paredes was able to connect for a 14-yard field goal. Ottawa's Brett Maher made a 37-yard field goal of his own to tie it up again.
"The challenge thing's hard and I know everyone's trying to figure it out and get better at it from all fronts, the coaches, the replay guys and all that, but it's really unpredictable and it's hard to know how things are going to be ruled on a replay,'' said Campbell.
Players were leery to comment on the officiating for fear of being fined, but were clearly frustrated with the lack of consistency.
Tied 11-11 to start the second half Ottawa regained the lead midway through the third with a 27-yard Maher field goal, but the Stampeders answered right back with Paredes kicking a 20-yard field goal to make it 14-14.
Harris connected with Juron Criner for an 11-yard TD and followed it up with a 32-yard pass to Josh Stangby to take a 28-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.
"We were down by 14 with eight minutes to go so that's good fight,'' said Dickenson. "Wasn't our best game, we'd like to correct some things and we'll get that opportunity again in six days.''
The two teams meet again next Thursday in Calgary. The Redblacks are anxious to get right back at it.
"This is just round one and we got round two next week,'' said Ottawa's Taylor Reed. "It's nice to be able to go right back at them and not have to wait a few weeks. We had them by 14 points in the fourth quarter and we let them off the hook. Everybody's upset in here.''
Trailing 11-3 in the second quarter Calgary tied the game on another questionable play.
Mitchell found Jorden for a nine-yard TD pass, but the Redblacks thought he fumbled the ball prior to crossing the goal line and newcomer Khalil Bass ran it back for what was believed an Ottawa touchdown.
Officials on the field ruled it a Calgary touchdown and upon review the CFL command centre declared "the replay official did not see clear evidence the ball carrier lost possession prior to the ball breaking the plane of the goal line, ruling of a Calgary touchdown stands.''
Mitchell connected with Marquay McDaniel for the two-point conversion to knot things up with just over three minutes remaining in the half.
Ottawa jumped out to an 11-0 lead on a 40-yard field goal and a six-yard rushing TD by William Powell, but Calgary got on the board with an 11-yard field goal of its own to make it 11-3.
Notes: Prior to the start of the game the Redblacks held a brief ceremony with Henry Burris on hand to raise the Grey Cup commemorating last year's victory over the Stampeders.
(The Canadian Press)