OTTAWA — Jeremiah Johnson took full advantage when opportunity came calling.
Johnson scored three rushing touchdowns as the Redblacks downed the Saskatchewan Roughriders 35-13 on Sunday, three days after Ottawa released international running back Chevon Walker, who he replaced in the starting lineup.
“I did what I was supposed to do. This is nothing different for me,” said Johnson, who has now doubled his number of rushing touchdowns this season to six. “The organization gave me an opportunity and I’m ecstatic with my performance.
“Those guys up front did a tremendous job. They went out there and hit everybody in the mouth and I just made the necessary plays to make things happen.”
The Roughriders, who had their second lowest point total in a game this season, fell to 0-9. They scored just five points in a 35-5 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos on July 31.
After a tight first half that had Ottawa (5-4) in front 14-10, the game took a huge turn in favour of the Redblacks over a span of three minutes and 44 seconds from the end of the third quarter and into the fourth.
Ottawa scored 21 points in that span to take a 35-10 lead and control of the game.
It started with 3:09 to play in the third quarter when Johnson scored a one-yard touchdown run that once converted by Chris Milo, gave the Redblacks a 21-10 lead.
On the ensuing series, Ottawa recovered a Saskatchewan fumble and Johnson scampered in from 36 yards out on the next play for another score and a 28-10 lead.
Another Riders’ fumble late in the third quarter was converted into points on a one-yard run from Ottawa quarterback Henry Burris 35 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Milo then converted his fifth touchdown of the day and the Redblacks were cruising with a 35-10 lead.
Paul McCallum kicked a 28-yard field goal with less than seven minutes to play, cutting the Saskatchewan deficit to 35-13.
The Redblacks defence recorded 10 sacks. They also forced two fumbles and intercepted one pass.
“It was a team effort on our defence and coach (Mark) Nelson called the game really well and the defence played very well,” said Justin Capicciotti, who led the charge with three sacks and six tackles.
“That’s the best time, when you’re up and you know you get to pass rush because you know they have to throw the ball. You get to go after the quarterback.”
The Redblacks scored on their opening two drives to take a 14-0 lead while allowing the Riders to just five offensive plays over their first two series.
Ottawa covered 89 yards in five plays on the opening drive of the game that ended with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Burris to Maurice Price. The conversion by Milo gave the Redblacks a 7-0 lead.
After forcing the Roughriders into a two-and-out situation, Ottawa moved the ball 78 yards in just under three minutes and took a 14-0 lead on a seven-yard touchdown run from Johnson.
The rest of the half featured only punts for the Redblacks as the Roughriders possessed the only offensive punch before the break.
They got punt singles of 48 and 70 yards from Ray Early and a nine-yard touchdown pass from Brett Smith to Naaman Roosevelt. Smith then carries the ball in himself on the two-point conversion to complete the eight-point scoring drive.
“We talked about winning the penalty battle and we talked about winning the turnover battle. That was the tale of two teams right there,” Roughriders coach Corey Chamblin explained.
“We came out in the second half and just played losing football in all three phases. (Ottawa) played good football, don’t get me wrong, but we just didn’t have it and we weren’t together. We looked more like individuals than a team in the second half.”
The Redblacks head into their second and final bye week of the season while the Roughriders host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Sept. 6.