REGINA - The Ottawa Redblacks are heating up at the right time.
Quarterback Trevor Harris and the Ottawa Redblacks came-from-behind for an improbable 33-32 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday night that earned the defending Grey Cup champions a playoff berth for the third consecutive year.
Harris marched the Redblacks to two late fourth quarter touchdowns and Ryan Lindley's one-yard TD run with two seconds remaining secured the win.
"This league is about just getting into the dance and getting hot late,'' Harris said after his team improved to 7-9-1 and moved into first place in the East Division. "Tonight was not pretty. We didn't have our best offensively, defensively or on special teams. But we found a way to win.
"I'm sure Saskatchewan is sick right now because they outplayed us tonight.''
The Riders (8-7) had won six of their previous eight games after a dismal 2-4 start to the year.
Defensive back Ed Gainey said his team's performance late in the fourth quarter reminded him of the early stages of the season.
"We need to stop shooting ourselves in the foot,'' Gainey said. "This is just another episode of what we looked like at the beginning of the season. We keep getting penalties to keep drives going or penalties that back us up. We just have to do better.''
Saskatchewan assumed a 32-20 lead with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter. That's when Harris and company pushed back.
Harris hooked up with Greg Ellingson for an 11-yard touchdown with 3:09 remaining to cut the deficit to five.
The Ottawa defence forced a Saskatchewan punt on the ensuing possession, and Harris repeated his previous drive.
Three straight completions moved the ball to the Saskatchewan nine-yard line. Harris looked again for Ellingson deep, but Gainey was flagged for pass interference and the ball moved to the one-yard line to set up Lindley's score.
"We had the game right where we wanted it,'' Gainey said. "We just couldn't find a way to execute at the end of the game. They kept fighting, kept coming at us and eventually came out victorious.''
Harris completed 17-of-33 pass attempts for 262 yards and two touchdowns. He was without the services of Brad Sinopoli, while Ellingson - the league's leading receiver - was limited to just two catches for 13 yards.
Still, Harris was proud of the character his teammates showed on the road.
"It doesn't bother us where we play,'' Harris said. "We're a tight-knit group and I think we're getting better at the right time and hopefully we can go into the playoffs on a great note.''
On the flipside, Kevin Glenn responded with a solid performance after getting pulled from the previous game. Glenn threw for 387 yards on 29-for-39 pass attempts. Duron Carter enjoyed a monster performance with 11 catches for 231 yards.
With the loss, the Riders failed to clinch a playoff berth. Their magic number to earn a playoff spot is "1".
Now, they'll travel to Calgary next week with hopes of a road win over a team they're winless against this season.
"We're very frustrated. We get into situations like this that are supposed to propel us higher in the standings and we just need to take advantage of it,'' Gainey said. "We need to keep fighting.''
Tyler Crapigna kicked six field goals for Saskatchewan.
CHRIS JONES POSTGAME COMMENTS
- When you make enough mistakes to leave people in the game, have to kick field goals, take penalties to extend their drives, and leave their offense on the field, situationally we have to be better.
- Did our players think they had it won? You'd have to ask them.
- You watched the game. You tell me how it slipped away. We get a turnover with five minutes to go and the game's probably over. But we take a penalty, and then can't cover in man coverage. That's why we lost the game.