November 4, 2011

Edmonton stifles Riders comeback bid for win


EDMONTON — The Edmonton Eskimos know their next game will be at home.

Whether it will be in one or two weeks remains to be seen.

Adarius Bowman scored a pair of touchdowns Friday and the Eskimos secured their first home playoff date since 2004 with a late field goal for a narrow 23-20 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The Eskimos finished the regular season with an 11-7 record but have to wait until Saturday to find out if they will finish first or second in the CFL’s West Division.

A Montreal victory over B.C. on Saturday would give the Eskimos a bye to the West final.

Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray is glad that his team did all it could to try and earn first place in the West.

“There are so many games in the CFL that are won in the last couple minutes,” he said. “You just have to remain calm and make the plays and we were able to get it done tonight. It’s much better playing the first game in a playoff situation like this and not knowing the results of the other game.

“Last year it was the opposite where B.C. played before us and the pressure was on us to win. It’s nice to be able to come in here and take care of our own business and watch tomorrow.”

Bowman was the driving force for the Eskimos on offence, racking up 226 receiving yards in the game.

“That was probably the best game of my CFL career,” he said.

“I’m excited by the effort the whole team gave tonight. I’ve believed in this team since we were back in camp. Every week they prove me right.

“I’m excited right now. We’re in first place right now. This win feels great.”

The Roughriders are out of the playoff picture, finishing the 2011 campaign with a 5-13 record. Saskatchewan lost all 10 of its games against West Division opponents this season.

“I asked the players before the game to play hard and play with confidence and I think they did that,” said Roughriders head coach Ken Miller. “We didn’t make enough plays to win but I think the team acquitted itself reasonably well.”

It was Miller’s final game at the helm of the team. Miller announced his retirement as coach and vice president of football operations for the Riders earlier in the week.

“It isn’t going to sink in for a while yet,” he said. “The week has been all about preparation for this game. I don’t think it is really going to register for a while.”

Edmonton went ahead 17-10 with four minutes left in the third on a 36-yard Derek Schiavone field goal.

Schiavone added a 19-yard field goal five minutes into the fourth before Saskatchewan crawled back to within a touchdown on a 46-yarder by Chris Milo to trail 20-13.

The Riders kept up the fight and tied the game with just under three minutes to play in the fourth as Chris Getzlaf capped off a long drive with a 20-yard TD reception.

Edmonton bounced back with a late surge of its own as a 32-yard Bowman catch set up a 27-yard Schiavone field goal with 43 seconds left to put the Eskimos up by three.

On the ensuing kickoff, Edmonton’s Weldon Brown forced a fumble on Riders returner Tristan Jackson and Delroy Clarke jumped on it to put the game away.

Both teams stuttered on offence in the lacklustre, scoreless first quarter.

Saskatchewan finally broke the punting pattern early in the second as quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie completed a 21-yard pass to Getzlaf deep into the end zone one minute in to put the Riders up 7-0. It was Saskatchewan’s first passing TD since Sept. 17, a streak that extended 27 quarters.

It didn’t take long for the Eskimos to counter, however, as just over a minute later Ricky Ray threw a long pass to Bowman, who took it 71 yards to tie the game. The passing play put Bowman over 1,000 yards receiving on the season.

Bowman came up with another big play seven minutes into the second quarter, showing a tremendous second effort to fight off defenders and dive across the goal-line for a 24-yard passing TD.

Eskimos running back Jerome Messam had a big 29-yard gain on the drive to put him over 1,000 yards rushing on the year, becoming the first Canadian back to achieve the feat since 2000 and only the third since 1965.

Saskatchewan cut into the lead to 14-10 with a 27-yard Milo field goal four minutes into the third. Just prior to that, some frayed nerves were apparent at the Riders bench as Dinwiddie and receiver Dallas Baker got into a shoving match before being separated.

Notes: The Riders came into the game a dismal 2-8 in their last 10 visits to Commonwealth Stadium, including losses in their last three … The Esks won the first two contests between the two teams, opening the season in Regina with a 42-28 win and beating the Riders back home 17-1 on Thanksgiving. … Entering the contest the Eskimos had surrendered the fewest points (381) while Saskatchewan had scored the fewest (326). … Saskatchewan had a slew of injuries to key players like quarterback Darian Durant, linebacker Barrin Simpson and receiver Andy Fantuz. … Edmonton was without offensive lineman Greg Wojt and defensive end Greg Peach. … Eskimos kicker Damon Duval dressed despite suffering from kidney stones, handling punts and kickoffs. Schiavone handled the rest of the kicking chores.