Just call them the first-place Renegades now. Quarterback Kerry Joseph scored his second touchdown of the game on a 13-yard run with 3:18 left to lift the 'Gades to a heart-stopping 22-17 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in front of a season-high crowd of 20,607 at Frank Clair Stadium.
The victory was Ottawa's third staight, equalling a franchise record, and improved the team's record to 5-3 -- two points better than the second-place Toronto Argos in the CFL East.
"(First place) sounds good," said coach Joe Paopao. "I don't think we've had that around here since I've been here.
"Winning breeds confidence, and our guys are thinking that it doesn't matter, whether we're up or behind, they're getting the job done."
On the decisive drive, Joseph ran the ball himself three straight plays from the Saskatchewan 30 for the go-ahead major. And, as has become the custom in these parts lately, the Ottawa defence came up with more big stops to seal the win.
Defensive back Korey Banks intercepted an errant pass from Saskatchewan backup QB Marcus Crandell and returned it 26 yards to the Roughriders 30, setting up Joseph's winning TD. It was the seventh interception of the season for Banks, the league leader in picks.
Quincy Coleman and Bo Rogers also had interceptions for the Renegades.
"It's a huge win for us, but we can play better," said Joseph who completed 16-of-26 passes for 168 yards and led the team with 83 rushing yards on 13 carries.
The game wasn't decided until the final moments, with Saskatchewan driving into Ottawa territory.
Crandell, who started the second half after Nealon Greene suffered a neck injury late in the opening 30 minutes, lofted a pass into the end zone intended for 6-foot-3 receiver Jamal Richardson.
But diminutive cornerback Greg Moss, all 5-foot-7 of him, covered the lanky Saskatchewan receiver closely and managed to distract Richardson enough to make him drop the ball in the end zone.
"I'm a fighter, and that's all I can say," said Moss. "When the ball's in the air, it's anybody's ball. I was fortunate to make it, but it feels great to be part of this organization and make plays to help this team win."
It was the second victory by Ottawa over Saskatchewan this season, making it just the second time in franchise history the Renegades have swept a West Division foe. The sweep could be crucial should the divisional crossover come into effect at the end of the season.
Meanwhile, the Riders are reeling with their fourth straight loss, which dropped them to 3-5.
It looked like the Renegades were going to run away with this one early. They scoried three plays after Jason Armstead returned the opening kickoff on a nine-yard touchdown grab by rookie fullback Cory Hathaway, his third major of the season.
Ottawa got another chance quickly after Riders kick returner Corey Holmes fumbled a Pat Fleming punt which rookie Cam Yeow recovered at the Riders 44. But Joseph was picked off in the end zone by Omarr Morgan, ending the threat.
After Pat Fleming gave up a safety later in the quarter, the Riders struck back early in the second.
The big play came on a penalty when Ottawa linebacker Kai Ellis got nabbed for a late hit on Greene after Kyries Hebert sacked the Riders' pivot for a 10-yard loss.
That costly penalty gave Saskatchewan an automatic first down. Three plays later, Greene walked into the end zone from four yards out.
The Renegades regained the lead on their next possession, driving 75 yards in 11 plays.
Joseph capped the march with a one-yard touchdown plunge.