OTTAWA — That’s two for two for the Edmonton Eskimos
Grant Shaw’s five field goals and Matt Nichols’ fourth-quarter touchdown pass was enough to lead the Eskimos past the Redblacks 23-12 Friday night, giving Edmonton two victories in its home-and-home set with Ottawa.
It was a far better effort from the Redblacks, who were humiliated 46-17 in Edmonton eight days earlier.
“They’re a good football team and they’re going to beat some other people,” Eskimos coach Chris Jones said of the Redblacks.
“They’ve got a Hall of Fame quarterback and a lot of guys to throw to, their defence never says die and they’re tremendously well coached.”
Neither team could reach the end zone for the first three quarters, but that changed in the fourth as each side scored touchdowns on their opening possessions.
The Redblacks got a one-yard run from quarterback Henry Burris on a drive that started in the third quarter. Ottawa took a 12-11 lead after its two-point conversion failed.
Slightly less than two minutes later, Nichols connected with Kendal Lawrence on a 63-yard catch-and-run score to give the Eskimos back the lead at 17-11 after the two-point attempt also failed.
Shaw’s 39 and 37-yard field goals closed the scoring.
“The guys did a good job sticking with it and battling against a great front four and a great front seven,” Burris said of his offensive line.
“We were taking what they gave us and we were able to march the ball down field and get the ball in end zone, but we had multiple opportunities where we should have done that and we just didn’t finish our jobs.”
In the first three games of the season the Redblacks failed to score a point in the first quarter. Friday they failed to register a single first down in the opening frame.
In fact, they not only failed to record any first-quarter points for the fourth straight time, they also conceded a safety on their first possession to give the Eskimos a very early 2-0 lead.
A 23-yard field goal from Shaw before the end of the quarter put the Eskimos up 5-0, but it could have been worse had Jerrell Gavins not intercepted Nichols in the end zone on the Edmonton possession prior to the field goal.
“We didn’t finish some of our drives and we had three turnovers that could have resulted in some kind of points, whether it be a field goal or a touchdown but we didn’t finish those drives,” Jones said.
It was the first of two picks the Redblacks had off Nichols in the end zone in the first half.
Jovon Johnson also had one in the second quarter, but the Eskimos followed that up with three points on their next possession thanks to Shaw’s 22-yard field goal.
The Redblacks finally put a string of offensive success together late in the second as they moved the ball 73 yards in a minute and 38 seconds. The drive ended with Delbert Alvarado booting an 18-yard field goal as time expired in the half.
The Redblacks intercepted Nichols for a third time, albeit not in the end zone this time, when Brandon McDonald pulled the ball in at his own four-yard line.
That play came after the teams traded 30-yard field goals, with Alvarado hitting first on the Redblacks opening drive of the half.
Following an Ottawa fumble off a punt, Shaw collected his third field goal of the game seven minutes into the third quarter to give the Eskimos an 11-6 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t play as well as we can,” Redblacks receiver Chris Williams said.
“We have to keep working. It’s a long season so we have to keep playing and there are little things to get better at. Not turning the ball over would help us a whole lot.”
The Redblacks host Calgary next week while the Eskimos are home to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.