REGINA — The Edmonton Eskimos landed three staggering blows on Sunday, all of which helped to bring down the Saskatchewan Roughriders on their home field.
Kendial Lawrence, Mike Reilly and the Eskimos’ defensive unit all played pivotal roles in Edmonton’s second straight victory, a 24-19 triumph over the Riders at Mosaic Stadium.
It was Reilly and the Edmonton offence that delivered the knockout punch midway through the fourth quarter. Reilly orchestrated an 84-yard touchdown drive that proved to be the decisive points in the come-from-behind win _ one that improved the Eskimos’ record to 11-5. The veteran quarterback called his own number on the touchdown, a five-yard run that saw him dive across the goal-line for the score to make it 24-13.
“We didn’t execute all that well in the first half and (Saskatchewan) was giving us a bunch of different looks that they hadn’t shown all year and it confused us a little bit,” said Reilly, whose team trailed 13-4 at halftime. “But we started to execute our plays in the second half and started to figure out what they were doing.”
Reilly threw for 260 yards on the day, including 177 yards in the second half.
A late touchdown reception by the Riders’ Korey Williams brought the home team to within five, but the two-point convert failed and the Riders’ offence never touched the ball again.
The Eskimos’ special teams delivered the first punch of the second half in the form of a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Lawrence, a play that opened the third quarter. Edmonton’s defence quieted the Riders’ faithful and shut out quarterback Kerry Joseph and the Saskatchewan offence until the game’s final minute.
“It was huge,” Reilly said of Lawrence’s kickoff return. “It seems like every time we need a spark we’ve got it, whether it’s our defence causing a turnover, or special teams scoring for us or giving us good field position. We just feed off of each other, and when two of the three units needs a push then the third one usually provides it.”
The kickoff return for a touchdown was the fifth touchdown the Riders have allowed on special teams this season.
Joseph, playing in his first game in more than a year, started at quarterback for the Riders and provided a spark in the first half. The 42-year-old found slotback Brett Swain for a 17-yard touchdown. Swain made a pretty diving catch in the end zone for the only major score in the first half.
Chris Milo kicked a 17-yard field goal and the Riders, who have lost four straight games, enjoyed a rare lead at the half. The Riders occupy third place in the West Division with a 9-7 record.
“He gave us a shot (to win),” Riders’ head coach Corey Chamblin said of Joseph’s performance.
Joseph finished the day 17 for 36 passing for 213 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw a pair of interceptions.
Chamblin said Joseph will start on Friday in Calgary against the first-place Stampeders, but this is the week that injured quarterback Darian Durant is eligible to return from the six-game injured list. Durant had surgery about a month ago to repair a torn tendon in right elbow.
“You can’t just wait to turn it up when Darian gets back. That’s crap,” Foley added. “We had a chance to win today and you just have to make the plays.”
Saskatchewan’s offence again struggled to incorporate slotback Weston Dressler into their attack. Dressler managed just two catches for 31 yards on Sunday and has been limited to 10 receptions in his past four games.
Adarius Bowman caught six passes for 111 yards and broke the Eskimos’ single-season reception record, set in 1990 by Craig Ellis. Bowman leads the CFL in catches with 107. The CFL record for catches in a season is 160, set by Derrell Mitchell in 1998.
“He has taken a big step in his career in maturing this off-season and mentally understanding the big role he needs to play in this offence,” Reilly said.
“He has taken the initiative and it’s not me asking the receivers to get together to talk. That’s all on Adarius now. It’s nice to see him turn into that veteran playmaker.”
Edmonton has a bye this week.