EDMONTON _ The Calgary Stampeders likely wish that they still had a few more games left against the Edmonton Eskimos this season.
Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell rushed for two touchdowns and passed for two more as the Stampeders continued their dominance over their provincial rival, winning their fifth game in a row with a 41-34 victory in the Labour Day rematch on Saturday.
It was the 11th consecutive win over the Eskimos dating back to 2011 for the Stampeders, who improved to 9-1 and padded their lead atop the West Division.
Calgary running back Jon Cornish said he has no specific answer as to why his team has owned the Eskimos in recent years.
“We just get fired up for these games against them,’’ Cornish said. “I wouldn’t say that we have some innate advantage over them. We just get fired up and we understand how much these games mean to the inhabitants of Alberta, especially in Calgary. It means a lot to win this series.
“Edmonton is going to be a good team and we are going to have a lot of struggles with them. It means a lot to have these three wins and put some space between us and them.’’
With the win, Mitchell became the first quarterback to have a 12-1 start to his CFL career, leaping past former Eskimo Jackie Parker (1954-55) and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Jim Van Pelt (1958-59), who both lost their 13th games to go 11-2.
“We’re 9-1 and in first place, that’s all I care about,’’ Mitchell said.
“I’ve been blessed to have a good team around me. Obviously I am glad about the record, although I don’t think it is something people are going to be talking about in a couple of years.’’
Calgary coach John Hufnagel said Mitchell deserved his fair share of praise for the win.
“I thought he was outstanding,’’ he said. “It wasn’t all smooth sailing, but a trademark of Bo is that he is going to go out there the next series and do the best he can. I thought he saw the field very well and took great care of the football.’’
It was the second straight loss for the Eskimos, who fell to 7-3 on the season. All three of their losses this season have come to Calgary.
“We don’t care about the last couple seasons, we care about this season and we feel like we’ve done some things to hand these games over to them,’’ said Eskimos quarterback Matt Nichols. “Obviously, they’re a great football team, we give them a ton of credit, but whether it’s a bad snap or a penalty here or there, they’re just the difference in the game.’’
Added Edmonton coach Chris Jones: “It’s disappointing. The one good thing is we didn’t ever quit, it didn’t look like we ever stopped playing. We took it to the wire and, again, just came up a little short. We’ve certainly got a lot of things to work on in all three phases.’’
Calgary took a 3-0 lead just past the mid mark of the first quarter on a 41-yard Rene Paredes field goal that came on the heels of a high snap on a third-and-three gamble at midfield by the Eskimos.
Edmonton’s offence finally woke up from a tepid start to put the Eskimos in front 7-3 with eight minutes remaining in the second quarter as long passes to A.J. Guyton and Adarius Bowman set up a 26-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Nichols to Guyton.
Calgary responded just a few minutes later as a face-masking penalty put the Stampeders in range for a 30-yard TD pass from Mitchell to Simon Charbonneau.
The Stamps took a 17-7 lead with two-and-a-half minutes left in the opening half as a 38-yard passing play to Marquay McDaniel set up a one-yard quarterback keeper into the end zone by Mitchell.
The Eskimos countered with a 25-yard Hugh O’Neill field goal as time expired to make it 17-10 at the half.
Calgary’s defence came up big to start the third quarter as it knocked the ball out of Nichols’ hands four minutes in. Corey Mace recovered on the Edmonton 10, setting up a TD pass to McDaniel on the next play.
McDaniel factored in on another touchdown with five minutes left in the third as his 32-yard catch led immediately to a 20-yard TD run by Mitchell, who danced across the goal-line to put the Stampeders ahead 31-10.
Edmonton went to its bag of tricks to try and get back into the contest to start the fourth quarter as Guyton took a handoff before then completing a 32-yard pass to Fred Stamps. However, the Eskimos then took a procedure call on a third-and-one gamble on the Calgary eight and were forced to accept an O’Neill field goal.
The Stampeders responded with a 35-yard Paredes field goal with seven minutes left in the game.
The Eskimos finally found their way back into the end zone with just under five minutes to play as Nichols hit Bowman for a 21-yard strike.
The play seemed to give them some new life as they came right back with a 38-yard pass to Stamps, leading straight to a two-yard TD run by Nichols to make it 34-27 with 2:34 left on the clock.
Calgary quickly put thoughts of a comeback out the picture, though, as Mitchell found McDaniel on a 43-yard passing play, eventually setting the stage for a 10-yard Cornish touchdown run.
Edmonton closed to within a touchdown again with 21 seconds left to play as Nichols hit Nate Coehoorn for a 24-yard major. A short kick attempt was recovered by the Stampeders, allowing them to run out the clock.
The Eskimos remain at home to face the Montreal Alouettes next Friday, while the Stampeders return to Calgary to host Toronto next Saturday.