Eskimos 22 Argonauts 19
TORONTO — Arkee Whitlock helped put the Toronto Argonauts out of their misery Friday night.
Whitlock ran for two second-half touchdowns as the Edmonton Eskimos beat Toronto 22-19, eliminating the Argos from playoff contention for the second straight year. Whitlock was a one-man show, rushing for 145 yards with an offence that came into the game averaging a league-low 93 yards per game on the ground.
“The key as a running back is to have patience,” Whitlock said. “You’re not going to break every run but you know the big plays will come.
“It’s all about being patient.”
The win, while ugly, was huge for Edmonton (7-8), which moved into a third-place tie with B.C. in the West Division. The Eskimos also went ahead of Winnipeg and Hamilton (both 6-8) in the crossover playoff scenario.
Edmonton registered its first win at Rogers Centre since 2005, a span of three games, before an announced gathering of 26,515.
“Anytime you win, it’s a pretty win,” Eskimos head coach Richie Hall said. “It was a defensive battle, a slugfest.
“This was like a playoff game. These are the type of games we’re going to have from here on out.”
Whitlock’s 53-yard TD run at 5:41 of the fourth put Edmonton ahead 22-12. He also scored on a four-yard scamper to give the Eskimos a 15-9 advantage at 11:45 of the third. It came one play after Andrew Nowacki recovered Jason Carter’s fumble on a punt return and put the Eskimos on the Argos’ four-yard line.
Toronto made it interesting with Kerry Joseph’s two-yard TD strike to Jeff Johnson at 12:55 — the home team’s first passing touchdown in seven games — to cap a smart 102-yard, nine-play drive. But a 23-yard run by Whitlock helped Edmonton drive to the Argos’ 38-yard line before punting and pinning the home team at its five-yard line with 12 seconds remaining.
“For me, that (23-yard run) was more important than the (53-yard TD run),” Whitlock said. “It put us in a position to get a fresh set of downs and run the clock down.
“We’ve struggled this year closing games out and it was big that we were able to do that tonight.”
Edmonton, which entered action averaging a CFL-high 297 yards passing, struggled with its aerial attack as quarterback Ricky Ray was 17-of-24 for 170 yards with a TD and an interception. But Hall said that, for the Eskimos to be successful in the playoffs, the team will have to be able to effectively run the football.
“We must have the confidence that we can do it,” he said.
Toronto (3-12) suffered its fifth straight loss and the game script was a bitterly familiar one for the club under first-year head coach Bart Andrus. The defence played well enough but showed signs of being overworked as the CFL’s worst offence (with Andrus serving as the offensive co-ordinator) again struggled to muster any consistency.
Being eliminated from post-season contention hadn’t fully sunk in with Andrus after the game.
“I haven’t thought about that,” he said. “I’m just thinking we had lost a tough football game. We’re not a good enough football team but we will be. We’ll eventually get there based on how hard these guys practise and play.”