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EDMONTON – Kerry Joseph passed for three touchdowns while Hugh Charles rushed for over 150 yards as the Edmonton Eskimos handled the Saskatchewan Roughriders 37-20 at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Joseph, who received a vote of confidence from head coach Kavis Reed last week by being named the starter for the remainder of the year, threw for 280 yards and the three majors on 19 of 29 passing.
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Charles, however, was the one who carried the Eskimos offence, rushing for 152 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
Both clubs entered the contest looking to strengthen their position in the playoffs with the Riders still in chase of second place in the West Division, while the Esks, who can still mathematically enter the West playoffs, were trying to increase their hold on the final spot in the East Division crossover spot over Hamilton.
The team’s seemed to need a bit of time to get loose with two turnovers coming on back-to-back plays in the early going. The Eskimos seemed poised to get the first score of the game after recovering a fumbled punt return by Tristan Jackson but would give the ball right back when sophomore Rider Craig Butler picked up a fumble and ran it into Eskimos territory.
After Kory Sheets rumbled for a 23-yard gain, Darian Durant found the league’s leading receiver in both yards and touchdown passes, Weston Dressler, two plays later for a 2-yard reception and an early 7-0 lead.
Sheets and Dressler are coming off a phenomenal game in Toronto last week where the two combined for 216 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.
The Esks would return the favour, fielding a botched Sandro DeAngelis punt at the Riders’ 27 yard line a few minutes later.
After a no-yards penalty moved the ball up, the Eskimos would waste little time squaring up the score, when Joseph threw a strike to Fred Stamps in stride for a 22-yard touchdown.
Stamps is coming off easily his best performance of the year when he made 9 receptions for 204 yards and caught a 48-yard touchdown in a win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
The Esks would add to their lead on consecutive drives to swing all the momentum in their favour midway through the second quarter.
First, starting QB Kerry Joseph led a 10-play drive finished off by a 30-yard Grant Shaw field goal and then the Edmonton defence would get the ball right back when LB JC Sherritt dove in front of a Durant pass over the middle and intercepted it to set the Eskimos up inside Saskatchewan territory.
Four plays later, Joseph found Cary Koch in the back of the endzone for a 3-yard juggling grab to give Edmonton a 17-7 lead with just over seven minutes remaining in the first half.
The Riders would mount their most impressive drive of the second quarter but after a 30-yard reception from Chris Getzlaf and a 23-yard scamper from Durant, the veteran would concede a sack and his club would have to settle for a 29-yard DeAngelis field goal.
The Eskimos would scrimmage with just over a minute left but a last second 45-yard field goal attempt from Shaw would sail wide and the Eskimos would enter halftime with a 20-10 lead.
Edmonton came out rolling in the second half, thanks in most part to the play of RB Hugh Charles, and it wasn’t just on the ground. The tailback took a pitch out to the right of the formation and found Joseph down field for a 13-yard throwback. He then broke a tackle and scampered down the sideline on the next play for a 28-yard touchdown run to open up a 27-10 lead early in the second half.
The Riders looked to respond, driving six plays before Durant tossed a pass that was intercepted by rookie CB Joe Burnett who hauled in his league-leading sixth pick.
The Esks would threaten to increase the lead but RB Jerome Messam would put the ball on the carpet and the Riders would recover at the Edmonton 7 yard line. Edmonton would come out unharmed though forcing the Riders offence to a two-and-out.
Edmonton would then open up their biggest lead of the game after fielding the punt and engineering a five-play drive capped off by a 10-yard touchdown pass from Joseph to Canadian Nate Coehoorn who recorded his first career major. The Esks would go up 34-10 with just over 3 minutes left in the third quarter.
A 19-yard field goal by Shaw with 7:51 left in the game would put the Esks up 37-18 and all but seal the win for Edmonton.
The Green and Gold now sit a full two games clear of the Ticats for the final playoff spot in the East crossover and one game behind the Riders for third in the West.
Meanwhile with the game out of reach, backup Drew Willy entered the game with just over 3 minutes left in the game for the Riders to spell Durant. The Saskatchewan pivot finished 17 of 27 for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns.
They return home next week to host the Montreal Alouettes while the Eskimos head to BC to take on the league-leading Lions.