Saturday, August 28, 2010

Edmonton comes to life, beats Riders by 3

The Edmonton Eskimos, losers of 6 of their first 7 games and trailing 14-0 in the first quarter, said enough is enough, stopping the Rider offense stone cold the rest of the night, rallying for a 17-14 win over Saskatchewan in front of the largest crowd in the CFL this season, 47,829 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta.

Saskatchewan scored first, as James Patrick intercepted a Ricky Ray pass and returned it 35 yards for a major score. Luca Congi converted with 8:59 remaining in the opening quarter and the Riders had a 7-0 lead. They doubled the advantage 7 minutes later, going 81 yards in 5 plays, culminating in a Wes Cates 10 yard touchdown run. Congi converted again with 1:54 to go in the first for a 14-0 lead.

Edmonton caught a break near midfield early in the second quarter, when Saskatchewan's Eddie Johnson first fumbled the snap on a punt, then had his kick blocked by Corbin Sharun. Johnson got the ball back, then fumbled at his own 39 after being belted by Sharun. Jason Barnes scopped up the loose ball and ran to the 8 where, on the next play, Jared Zabransky tossed an 8 yard scoring strike to Arkee Whitlock. Noel Prefontaine's convert made it a 14-7 game in favor of the Riders, with 11:40 left in the half. The Eskimos had two chances to tie the game in the closing moments of the first half, once on a goal line stand and once again on Patrick's 2nd interception of the night (He would finish with 3 picks, giving him a league-best 6 on the season) with just over 2 minutes remaining, leaving the Saskatchewan lead at 14-7 at two quarters time.

Edmonton would march into scoring position late in the third. Zabransky and Whitlock had 12 yard runsw, then Zabransky completed a 40 yard pass to Andre Talbot, setting up the Eskimos at the 12.  Zabransky scrambled out of pressure on 2nd down at the Saskatchewan 7, but had to throw the ball away under heavy pressure. Prefontaine came on to boot a 14 yard field goal with just 47 seconds left on the clock, cutting the Rider lead to 14-10 at the end of three quarters.

Edmonton moved the ball across the centre field stripe early in the final quarter, but the Rider defense stiffened, holding the Eskies to a 64 yard punt single by Prefontaine and with 13:10 remaining in regulation time, the Saskatchewan lead was down to 3, at 14-11. The Riders, who struggled mightily after building the 14-0 lead, turned the ball over for the 5th time in the game, giving Edmonton's Prefontaine the opportunity to pound one through the uprights from 52 yards out, tying the game 14-14, with just 3:27 to go in the final quarter. The Eskimo defense held Saskatchewan to a 2-and-out, getting the ball back at their own 35 with 2:12 to go. Ray would lead his team to the Rider 30, where Prefontaine would drill the game-winning kick from 37 yards out with 41 seconds to play. Edmonton put the final stamp on the win, forcing three Durant incompletions then running out the clock for the 17-14 win.

For the Eskimos, Ricky Ray was 6-of-11 passing for 63 yards and 1 interception and Jared Zabransky was 8-of-17 for 109 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Arkee Whitlock caught a touchdown pass and Noel Profontaine kicked 3 field goals, 1 convert and 1 punt single. For Saskatchewan, Darian Durant, who completed 9-of-his first 13 passes, finished 19-of-39 for 211 yards, with 3 interceptions. Wes Cates caught 1 pass for 8 yards and ran the ball 14 times for 58 yards and 1 touchdown. James Patrick had an interception return for a touchdown and Luca Congi kicked 2 converts. Edmonton had 296 yards total offense, 14 first downs(7 in each half), allowed 1 sack, turned the ball over 4 times and were penalized 4 times for 25 yards. The Riders had 258 yards total offense with 17 first downs, but just 4 in the second half. They allowed 2 sacks, turned the ball over 6 times and were penalized 3 times for 40 yards. The Eskimos, with their first win since beating BC 28-25 on July 30th, improve to 2-6 while Saskatchewan, after starting the season 3-0, falls to 5-3.

Next up for the Riders is a Labour Day matchup on Sunday, September 5th against the 2-6 Winnipeg Blue Bombers, with kickoff from Mosaic Stadium in Regina set for 4:00pm EDT, then travel to Winnipeg for a 1:00pm EDT kickoff on Sunday, September 12th. Edmonton plays their next two games against West Leading and  7-1 Calgary, on the road Monday, September 6th at 6:00pm EDT and at home on Friday, September 10th at 9:00pm EDT.

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