Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Caleb Evans says every week is a big week when you’re still looking for your first win.
The Redblacks (0-5-0) will host the Montreal Alouettes (1-4-0), who are coming off a disappointing 32-31 loss to Edmonton, for a Thursday matchup of two teams eager for a win.
With starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli on the sidelines with an injury, the Redblacks will be turning to Evans once again this week.
“It’s a big week, like every week, especially you’ve got losses every week is a big week,” Evans said. “We’ll just come with that same focus trying to get that win, trying to really lock in on a short week and execute it.”
Evans went 18-for-30 last week and had a passing and a rushing touchdown in a 25-23 loss at Hamilton, but was also picked off twice and knows Nick Arbuckle will be waiting in the wings.
Arbuckle, who was acquired last week, will see action as well, but how much will likely depend on Evans’ performance.
“I don’t know if there will be a rotation, but Nick’s going to do some of our wedge package,” said Redblacks head coach Paul LaPolice. “Nick will handle our short-yardage package.”
Arbuckle spent some time in Ottawa’s system a couple years ago, and LaPolice said that has probably helped him adjust a little more quickly. Arbuckle was on the squad in 2020, but didn’t have the opportunity to dress for as the season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Evans said getting a few starts under his belt last season has helped in his preparation the past two weeks.
“I was a little more comfortable back there,” Evans said. “It’s a different team, different O-line, different circumstances so I was able to trust the guys on the O-line and feel more comfortable.”
Despite the winless season Ottawa has shown it can be competitive. Aside from the 28-13 loss against Saskatchewan two weeks ago where Masoli was injured, the Redblacks have not lost by more than seven points.
The issue is Ottawa struggles to finish in the red zone, and penalties have proven costly as well at times.
“We’ve talked a lot about making sure we hold each other accountable and we have to have a response,” LaPolice said. “I’m not saying for the whole season, but we need to respond this week to play our best game. That’s what we need to do because all phases affected our loss last week.”
The Redblacks held the lead last week against the Tiger-Cats only to see Hamilton come back and score a late touchdown. Ottawa attempted a 54-yard field goal to steal the win, but fell just short yet again and remain the only winless team in the league.
Montreal’s Chris Ackie is listed as questionable for Thursday’s game, while Ottawa will be without DB Justin Howell.
DE Bryce Carter will play for the Redblacks, and LaPolice says he’s looking forward to seeing him rush the quarterback off the pass.
MONTREAL (1-4-0) at OTTAWA (0-5-0)
Thursday, TD Place Stadium
NOT SO SWEET AT HOME: The Redblacks look to end a 1-16 run in their last 17 home games. They are 3-27 in their last 30 games.
JUST KICK IT: Thursday’s game features the league’s top two punters in Montreal’s Joseph Zema and Ottawa’s Richie Leone.
OH SO CLOSE: Despite a winless record to this point the Redblacks still have an opportunity to make ground in the East Division as first-place Toronto only has two wins.