VANCOUVER – Mike Reilly threw three touchdown passes and the Eskimos forced five turnovers as Edmonton opened up their season on the road with a 27-20 win over the BC Lions.
In a gutsy performance, the Eskimos earned their first win under new head coach Chris Jones. He is the second rookie head coach to earn a win in Week 1 alongside Mike O’Shea in Winnipeg.
With starter Travis Lulay on the shelf for at least six weeks, the Lions are Kevin Glenn’s football team early on and it took him little time to prove BC general manager Wally Buono right for going after the former Stampeder. On his first possession of the game, Glenn went three-for-three and spotted Andrew Harris in the flat – Harris turned up field and scampered 55 yards for an early touchdown.
Harris enters 2014 as a part of a duel backfield featuring he and Stefan Logan. The Winnipeg native finished as the Lions leading receiver with 5 receptions for 101 yards.
The league’s ultimate insurance policy, Glenn, came over in a Draft day trade with the Ottawa REDBLACKS in May when Buono felt more pressure to have a proven veteran on his depth chart with Lulay still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery.
As the experience of Glenn led the Lions, it was BC’s former backup, Reilly, taking charge of the Eskimo offence after a solid debut season as a starter in 2013 despite his team’s record.
Early on, Reilly got some help from his defence when DT Eddie Steele jumped up and snagged a Glenn pass to set the Esks up at the Lions’ 34 yard line. Reilly ran for 10 yards to find a first down and then spotted Adarius Bowman for 15 more before dumping the ball off to fullback Calvin McCarty. The Eskimos’ longest serving player bounced outside and dove towards the pylon for the 9-yard touchdown to tie the game at sevens.
Glenn was looked at to answer and he did just that on the ensuing possession. He aired it out for Ernest Jackson who made a tough 38-yard catch down the sidelines to set the Leos up inside Edmonton’s 5 yard line.
They would punch it in two plays later thanks to the most unlikely of sorts. Glenn went play-action and lobbed a pass to offensive lineman T-Dre Player who hauled in the 3-yard touchdown in his first ever game. Player was drafted 12th overall in May’s Draft out of Northwestern State.
Reilly attempted to keep the trend going, first handing off to new running back Tyler Thomas for a first down before throwing a strike to slotback Fred Stamps for 23 yards. Set up inside the BC five yard line and poised to tie it back up, Reilly went quarterback draw and got stuffed in the backfield, settling for a 13-yard Grant Shaw field goal.
Forcing Edmonton to kick the ball was an early victory for a Lions defensive front which was extremely active in the first half. A hulking group that already boasted Khreem Smith and Eric Taylor, got some added help in the off-season when they re-signed defensive tackle Khalif Mitchell who was released by Toronto.
The Esks would add another field goal to pull within one before Paul McCallum knocked through a 17-yarder of his own to put the Lions back up by four.
Bowman comes up big
Adarius Bowman had a huge second half, hauling in what proved to be the game-winning touchdown. He finished with 9 catches for 105 yards … View Game Stats.
The defences traded stops as the second half begun but Glenn and the Lions looked poised to put the first major score on the board midway through the third frame.
After BC’s Cord Parks and Adam Bighill teamed up to force a turnover on a halfback blitz, Glenn found Shawn Gore and then Jackson, marching the Leos down to the Edmonton 12 yard line. Glenn immediately looked for Gore in the back of the endzone but had his pass picked off by Aaron Grymes.
The Esks couldn’t capitalize off the turnover but would get a do-over shortly thereafter. Edmonton’s defence came up with another huge play when Dexter McCoil intercepted Glenn’s next pass and set Reilly and the Eskimos up at the BC 40 yard line.
The major gave Edmonton their first lead of the game, 20-17, on the last play of the third quarter.
Looking to answer, Glenn tried to get some momentum in the Lions offence but all of his reads were covered down field and the pocket became increasingly more uncomfortable. Two drives later and the Esks would make the next move.
McCallum added a field goal just before the three minute warning to put the Leos within striking distance,
The Lions then got a big return from Logan and a large gain from Harris as they went third-and-three from inside the Edmonton 40. Glenn had his pass picked off however as his fourth interception would prove to be costly as the Esks iced it from there.
Edmonton heads home to host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Week 2 while the Lions hit the road to play Troy Smith and the Montreal Alouettes.