EDMONTON — Kerry Joseph threw three touchdown passes, while Fred Stamps broke out in a big way as the Esks scored a flurry of points in the second half en-route to an impressive 35-20 win over the Ticats at Commonwealth Stadium.
Joseph finished with 359 yards on 24-39 passing, while Stamps had his first 100-plus yard receiving game of the season with 204 yards on nine catches, including a 48-yard touchdown catch that put the Esks ahead by two scores late in the game.
Joseph and the Eskimos looked to open the game with a big play, looking for Stamps deep along the sideline in double coverage. But after a deflection, defensive back Armando Murillo came up with the ball for the interception on the game’s first drive.
Hamilton couldn’t capitalize on the early momentum though, as on the very next play, a Burris throw was tipped and intercepted by defensive lineman Brandon Lang.
That set the Esks up with favourable field position for their second drive, and after a two-and-out from Joseph, non-import kicker Grant Shaw booted a 48-yard field goal to open the scoring.
Midway through the first quarter, the Ticats moved into striking distance for the first time thanks to a 44-yard punt return from Chris Williams. But on second and long at the 25, Burris paid for a big risk on second and long, getting picked off by Chris Thompson.
It was Thompson’s fourth interception of the season, and the second of the game on Burris.
Despite setting the Esks up with a pair of turnovers the Ticats’ defence failed to give up ground, keeping the game close heading into the second quarter.
That’s when the Esks ran into penalty trouble, assisting a Hamilton drive with two 15-yard penalties. A long completion to Williams and a big catch on second down by Andy Fantuz gave the Ticats first and goal at the five-yard-line.
But the Eskimo defence flexed its muscles with some impressive red zone defence, holding Avon Cobourn in his tracks on first down and forcing an incompletion on second, leading to a chip shot from Congi to tie the game at three apiece.
The Ticats quickly got the ball back and went to work, converting on a long second down on a completion to Bakari Grant. But the drive stalled again, forcing Congi out to kick a 39-yarder for his second of the game and 23rd straight successful field goal.
After a long delay on an injury to Ticats offensive tackle Eddie Steele, the Esks came out and found their tempo quickly, as Joseph hit Stamps on a long completion down the sideline.
After being shut down through most of the first half, the Ticats came out flying in the third quarter. Cobourne found some room on the first offensive play of the half and turned up the jets, going for a 37-yard run to set the Tabbies up in Edmonton territory.
Making his mark
Henry Burris’ 14-yard touchdown pass to Andy Fantuz marked his 34th of the season, moving him past Kevin Glenn for most touchdown passes in a single season in Ticats history. » Video: Burris hooks up with Fantuz
After both teams exhanged punts, the Esks found themselves with the ball back at their own six-yard-line.
A 15-yard personal foul moved the offence out of the shadow of its own goal posts, and Joseph did the rest from there. He first hooked up on a 42-yard completion down the sideline to Stamps, before Hugh Charles ran three times in a row and finished the drive off with a 15-yard touchdown run.
That capped off an impressive eight-play, 102-yard drive, giving the Esks the lead back 17-13 on the game’s fourth lead change.
After a quick two-and-out for the Esks defence, momentum appeared to be shifting heavily in Edmonton’s favour. But on the ensuing punt, Joe Burnett lost the ball on his way to the ground, and in the pile Cobourne was able to jump on the loose ball to give his team possession at te 14-yard-line.
On the very next play, Burris quickly hit Fantuz on the outside hashmark, and the non-import receiver ran it into the end zone untouched to give Hamilton the lead right back on the third touchdown of the quarter, making it 20-17.
With his second touchdown pass of the game, Burris moved ahead of Kevin Glenn as the Ticats’ record-holder for most touchdown passes in a single season at 34.
The first-year Ticat wouldn’t get time to celebrate though, as Joseph and the Esks responded quickly. The 39-year-old pivot, who just celebrated his birthday on Thursday, hooked up four times with Fred Stamps to eventually set up at the seven-yard-line.
From there, Joseph hit Matt Carter on the inside for the touchdown, making it 24-20 Eskimos.
The Esks would add a short 17-yard field goal from Shaw to give the Esks a seven-point lead and put pressure on Burris with seven minutes left un the game.
That led to trouble for the Ticats, as on the very next play from scrimmage, Burris went for the home run ball to Williams, but was picked off by Thompson for the defensive backs second of the game, setting the Esks up at around midfield.
The Esks struck quickly, as Joseph aired it out on second down and found Stamps in coverage for a 48-yard touchdown toss, giving the Eskimos a 14-point lead with not a lot of time left.The long catch for Stamps put the receiver over 200 yards through the air on the night.
The Ticats moved quickly in response, but the drive stalled in Eskimo territory when Cobourne fumbled and came up just short on a third-and-one gamble, giving the Esks the ball back. They’d add a single point, finishing with a 35-20 win.
With the win, the Esks snap a five-game losing streak and now occupy a playoff position via the East Division crossover.
The Ticats now sit one game out of a playoff spot at 5-9, but in the event of a tie would earn a berth in the playoffs.
Burris finished the night with 19 completions on 33 attempts for 263 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but threw three interceptions that likely made the difference for the Ticats.
Next Week for Hamilton: The Ticats head back home for their second meeting of the year with Travis Lulay and the BC Lions. BUY TICKETS.
Next Week for Edmonton: The Eskimos welcome Weston Dressler and the surging Roughriders for a duel at Commonwealth Stadium. BUY TICKETS.