Esks survive the elements, tame Lions for first win
THE CANADIAN PRESS
EDMONTON — Edmonton Eskimos president Rick LeLacheur can put his axe away for the time being.
Andre Talbot’s nine-yard touchdown catch with under five minutes to play was the difference Friday as the Eskimos got their first win of the season by defeating the B.C. Lions 28-25 in a game that saw a lengthy interruption due to a massive storm.
LeLacheur ripped his team earlier this week and promised changes if he didn’t see improvement. Not only did the Eskimos show life, they avoided matching their worst start in team history, an 0-5 run in 1965.
“We had a lot of urgency and heart out there,” said Eskimos head coach Richie Hall, whose job security likely hinged on Friday’s outcome. “Those guys all wanted to play today. With the storm and everything, they came back. (B.C.) hit us with a couple big blows and we came back.”
After Yonus Davis’ 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown gave the Lions a 25-21 lead with just over eight minutes to go, Eskimos receiver Kelly Campbell fought for a 46-yard gain down to the B.C. 15.
Edmonton quarterback Ricky Ray then hit a wide-open Talbot in the back of the end zone.
“We had to win this game,” Campbell said. “There was no other option at all. We talked about it all week. We had nothing else to lose. We just had to go out there and get it.
“We knew it was going to be a dogfight for both teams. We had to make sure we came out on top. It’s a big relief.”
Edmonton got the ball back on the next series at midfield when Eskimos defensive back Chris Thompson intercepted Lions quarterback Travis Lulay for the second time.
B.C. had one more chance, starting on its own 16 with 1:36 left and made it all the way to the Edmonton 39-yard line before the Eskimos defence came up big. Kenny Pettway hit Lulay and the ball popped loose to Kai Ellis, who jumped on it to secure the win.
Ray said it felt nice to get the win, even though his team struggled at times.
“We didn’t play our best game,” he said. “But it is good for us to feel that we don’t have to play perfect to win. That when we are not playing well, the defence can pick it up for us.”
The Eskimos and Lions now sit tied for last in the CFL’s West Division with identical 1-4 records.
“It’s crisis mode every week,” Lions head coach Wally Buono said. “The reality right now offensively is that we make too many mistakes. The quarterback is too inconsistent and it is difficult to win football games. Until that corrects itself it is going to be tough.”
The Lions took lead a 10-6 lead with three minutes to play in the second quarter as Lulay scrambled nine yards into the end zone shortly after a tremendous 69-yard run gain by Jamal Robertson.
A major storm system with heavy rains, wind and lightning moved in seconds later. With 2:55 to play in the half, the players were sent to the locker-rooms.
The storm also caused a blackout at Commonwealth Stadium and prompted an evacuation from the seating area as the game was suspended for close to 40 minutes.
It remained a four-point B.C. lead at halftime as Edmonton kicker Noel Prefontaine missed on a late 46-yard field goal attempt.
The Eskimos got back into scoring position to start the third after a 51-yard pass from Ray to Fred Stamps took them to the B.C. 25, but they had to settle for three points to make it 10-9.
The Eskimos got the ball back right away thanks to an interception by Thompson after a deflection. The turnover would see them finally get into the end zone as Ray hit Campbell from seven yards out for a 16-10 lead.
The Lions conceded a safety and it looked the Eskimos would add more points on their next possession after another big gain by Stamps, but Ray was stopped on a third-and-goal attempt from the one to keep the score 18-10 Edmonton after three quarters.
But that didn’t last long as Davis Sanchez cleanly picked off Ray’s pass on the first play of the fourth and took it 54 yards to make it 18-17.
Edmonton came back with a field goal on its next possession to lead by four, but were forced to concede a safety soon after to lead 21-19.
Yet another big play by the Lions would give them back the lead as Davis took the ensuing kickoff 88 yards to make it 25-21.
Edmonton got on the board with a 46-yard field goal from Prefontaine on its opening drive in the first.
Lulay struggled early on as the replacement for injured Casey Printers, unable to get a first down on the Lions’ first three drives.
B.C. finally got into scoring range with three minutes left in the opening quarter as Paul McCallum booted a 45-yard field goal to tie the game up 3-3.
Edmonton was unable to convert on a long drive, settling for a 16-yard field goal early in the second and a three-point lead.
The Eskimos host the Toronto Argonauts next Friday while the Lions return home to welcome the Calgary Stampeders on Aug. 7.
Notes: Eskimos defensive lineman Adam Braidwood played for the first time since tearing up his knee in a game way back on Oct. 26, 2007, requiring two major surgeries and more than two years of rehab. The first overall pick in the 2006 CFL Draft saw limited time in the final pre-season game in B.C. and started the season on the practice roster … It was the second meeting between the two teams this season. The Lions one the opening game for both teams 25-10 in Edmonton. … Both teams had trouble putting points on the board in their first four games as B.C. had 75 and Edmonton just 74, the lowest in the league.