OTTAWA — The struggling Ottawa Redblacks have lost three of their last four games, and even their single win over that span win wasn't overly impressive. Still, the Redblacks find themselves in the thick of the CFL East Division title race despite their recent skid and a troubling 1-3-1 home record.
Working in the Redblacks favour is the fact that most of the other CFL teams range from mediocre to downright terrible at home this season. Only Calgary, B.C. and Hamilton have winning records in their own stadiums, and at 3-2 the Lions and Tiger-Cats haven't exactly been dominating their home turf.
While injuries have been an issue, the Redblacks (5-5-1) need to figure out how to put together wins at TD Place with four if their final seven games at home. They'll start to look for answers Friday when they host the Toronto Argonauts (5-7-0) in a game that will decide the season series between the teams.
"It's been a challenge, but it's not anything that other teams aren't experiencing in professional sport so we make no excuses," said offensive lineman SirVincent Rogers. "We know we've got to get on track. We know we haven't been playing up to our potential and we've been working on that in practice so hopefully Friday will be a product of what we've been putting on the field out here and we'll be ready to play."
Once again the Redblacks will be fielding a significantly different lineup than the previous week, which saw them fall 48-23 to the league-leading Calgary Stampeders.
"Obviously we're striving for continuity, but part of football is injuries so there's been a few more changes than we'd like," head coach Rick Campbell said. "The good news is I think we have guys who can step in and get the job done and we have our core group of guys that have been playing consistently. It's part of football and part of having good depth and get ready to play."
Mossis Madu gets the start at running back as Travon Van is still recuperating from a "stinger" from last week. While the Redblacks had hoped to see defensive end Arnaud Gascon-Nadon return to the lineup he tweaked another injury midweek and will be replaced by Connor Williams.
Nolan MacMillan comes off the six-game injured list and will be back on the O-line as J'Michael Deane was placed on the one-game injured list.
The 28-year-old Madu has been on the Redblacks practice roster, but hasn't played a game since 2014 when he played 15 games with the Ticats, rushing for 348 yards and two touchdowns on 75 carries.
The Oklahoma native says he's been working hard all season in preparation for the opportunity to play and feels confident he can contribute.
"I've got to do the same thing I did in Hamilton," said Madu. "I haven't taken a hit in a while so I'm looking forward to that first hit and then I'll be all right."
Perhaps no one is more affected by the numerous changes than QB Trevor Harris.
Last season the Redblacks had the luxury of starting the same five offensive linemen all season long and through the playoffs, while this year the changes have been numerous.
It's likely no coincidence the Redblacks have allowed the second-highest total of quarterback sacks (34).
"I really feel good about the guys that we have," said Harris. "The preparation that we've put in and the strides that we've made this week and I think you're going to see a team really hitting its stride soon.
Despite the new faces, Harris still has the best completion percentage of any QB in the CFL at 75.9 per cent.
Ernest Jackson, with touchdown receptions in six straight games, could benefit from that percentage as he can tie Ottawa Rough Rider great Tony Gabriel's 1978 record of seven consecutive games with a touchdown reception.
"I didn't even realize it until a cousin of mine told me about it," said Jackson. "Everybody started talking about it after that, but I'm not too worried about it. If my number gets called (Harris) will throw it up and I'll make the best of it."
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press