MONTREAL — The Edmonton Eskimos wanted to come out strong following a week off, and they couldn’t have asked for a better start on Friday night.
The Eskimos scored 30 first-half points and never looked back, freezing the hometown Alouettes 33-23 in Week 7 action at Percival Molson Stadium.
Mike Reilly completed 15 of his 22 passes for 208 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, while tailbacks John White and Kendial Lawrence combined for over 225 total yards and two touchdowns to lead the Esks offensively.
Receiver Adarius Bowman hauled in six passes for 74 yards and a touchdown as well.
Montreal, meanwhile, finally reached the endzone, snapping a slump of 12 quarters, as Brandon Whitaker scored with just over 30 seconds to go in the fourth quarter.
Last week saw the Als fall in a lopsided 31-5 affair against the Argonauts, while the Eskimos dropped their first loss of the season two weeks ago against the Stampeders, before heading into their first bye week of the campaign.
The week off must have made the high-powered Green and Gold offence hungry for the end zone, as they immediately went to work on silencing the Percival-Molson faithful.
After a quick two-and-out opening drive by Troy Smith and the Als, the Esks offence countered with a swift and effective drive, one that ultimately ended up with them celebrating in the end zone.
Playing in just his second game of the season, tailback Kendial Lawrence introduced himself to the Als defensive front; first carrying the rock for a gain of 20 yards, and then hauling in a 35-yard pass from Reilly for his first career CFL touchdown.
But retribution wasn’t too far off for Alouettes defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe and his troop.
With the score now 10-2 Edmonton thanks to a 30-yard field goal by Grant Shaw, and two punt singles by Montreal’s Sean Whyte, Reilly tried hitting running back John White, but saw his pass picked off by veteran DB Geoff Tisdale, who returned 25 yards into Edmonton territory.
Fortunately for Reilly, the Als’ offence continued to have trouble putting points on the board, as they were forced to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Whyte.
Early and Often
Mike Reilly wasted little time finding the endzone on Friday night, hooking up with Kendial Lawrence for a touchdown on their third play from scrimmage.
The interception seemed to have injected a surge of momentum into Montreal.
With the offence back on the field thanks to another stop by the defence, Smith hooked up with second-year receiver Duron Carter for a massive 53-yard gain that brought the Als into Eskimos territory for the second time in as many possessions.
But once again, the Als weren’t able to capitalize on the advantageous field position, as Whyte booted his second field goal of the half, this time splitting the uprights from 32 yards out.
Now leading by just two points, the Esks took to the field, and almost instantaneously took away any momentum that may have been in Montreal’s favour.
Following a seven-yard run by Adarius Bowman, Reilly handed the ball off to White, who surged ahead for a massive 58-yard touchdown down, increasing Edmonton’s lead to nine.
Two possessions later, the Esks reached the end zone for the third time of the half.
With their lead now up to 12 as a result of another field goal by Shaw, Reilly orchestrated a seven-play, 79-yard drive that was capped off by a 25-yard touchdown strike to Bowman.
On the drive, Reilly completed four-straight passes to Bowman for a total of 53 yards.
The two teams entered the half with the Eskimos leading 30-8.
In the half, Smith was good on just eight of his 18 passes for 102 yards and no touchdowns. Reilly, meanwhile, completed 12 of his 15 throws for 172 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Also in the first half, Alouettes receiver Chad Johnson was hit hard by Rennie Curran during the opening drive, and did not return.
Despite his less-than-stellar first half, Smith still found himself under centre when the second half got underway. His first drive was a long one, as he guided the Als on a 14-play drive that ended with a 28-yard field goal by Whyte.
Whyte’s successful boot proved to be the only points of the third quarter, one that saw the Alouettes dominate in time of possession, hanging onto the ball for all but three minutes.
Whyte added another field goal to cut Edmonton’s lead to 16 early in the fourth quarter.
With less than four minutes remaining, Nic Boulay recovered a mishandled punt by Eskimos returner Jamal Miles inside Edmonton’s 30-yard line.
After Smith failed to hook up with Brandon London and Bo Bowling on consecutive passes, the Alouettes, still down 16 points, opter to kick another field goal, rather than try for the endzone.
Whyte connected again to cut Edmonton’s lead to 13.
There was a delay with just under three minutes to go, as Eskimos linebacker Eric Samuels had to be carted off the field with an apparent neck injury, but gave a thumbs up as he was exiting the field.
Shortly thereafter, Whitaker, found the endzone on a 58-yard catch-and-run with Smith.
That would be as close as the Alouettes would get, though, as time expired, giving them their fifth loss of the season.
Next week, the Alouettes will hit the road and travel to hostile territory, as they’ll take on the Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium. The Esks, meanwhile, will visit the Nation’s Capital for a Friday night contest with the REDBLACKS.