July 4, 2014

Campbell: These Esks won’t roll over for anyone

Football is a 60 minute affair filled with highs and lows, great plays and cringe-worthy plays, and moments of triumph and moments of despair.

No matter who you are, there’s no avoiding the momentum and emotions that come when step onto the field.

The Eskimos started their 2014 campaign on the right foot last Saturday against the BC Lions in Vancouver, with a hard-fought come-from-behind 27-20 win.  

“I’m real proud of the guys sitting in that room, they believe in what we’ve been selling from day one,” Jones said.  “They’ve worked extremely hard and I think we were the better conditioned team and we played extremely fast right up to the end of the game.  It’s a tribute to their belief system.”

The game didn’t start very well for the Green and Gold.  Early in the first quarter, Lions running back Andrew Harris scored on a 55-yard pass and run play giving the Lions a 7-0 lead.  

The Eskimos tied the game a short time later but for the most part it was an uphill battle with the team not having their first lead of the game until the end of the third quarter.

The Eskimos showed something last Saturday they have been sorely lacking in the past, and that’s a steely demeanour and some much needed resiliency.  

When you look back to last season the Eskimos were behind in many games, and yes, they came close a few times to winning some of those games.  They lost six games by a cumulative deficit of 20 points.  You never could question the team’s character but a big problem was how the team let the tough moments in a game define what the end result was going to be.

Mistakes are going to happen in a football game and the Eskimos made their fair share on Saturday.  On the Harris touchdown in the first quarter, there were missed tackles.  On the second Lions touchdown, Lions quarterback Kevin Glenn completed a deep throw to Ernest Jackson which put the Lions deep in Eskimos territory.  Quarterback Mike Reilly took a couple of big shots in the first half.  Yet the Eskimos were only down by one point at the break.

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Instead of dwelling on what didn’t go right, the Eskimos came out of the second half with a high level of confidence and purpose.  They started to wrestle away the momentum from the Lions.

The offence started mixing up their plays going to the quick game or short passing game which opened up two big plays downfield to Fred Stamps and Adarius Bowman for touchdowns.  

Special teams played a big part in the second half with a successful fake field goal and onside kick.  The defence forced four turnovers in the second half with the biggest takeaway coming courtesy of Aaron Grymes in the third quarter, as he intercepted Glenn in the end zone.

The game wasn’t a textbook example of a football team executing so crisply that it looked smooth as glass. It was an uphill climb for most of the game, and the Eskimos stared adversity right in the face, and instead of pushing back, they punched back.

During training camp Jones kept the tempo very fast and very high from day one and he has kept up the pace since.  It’s hard to simulate game speed in practice, but it was clear the Eskimos were faster and stronger team in the second half.  

There is still much to improve on, Jones will tell you.  Cut down the big plays against, clean up the penalties, protect the quarterback better, and have more success in the run game.  You don’t get the impression at all that Jones is going look past any of those issues.

Reilly put it so well following the win.

“I thought everybody played well but at the same time we are going to watch tape and there’s going to be a lot of things we have to clean up and get better at.”

Week 1 doesn’t make a season but this is the time of year where football teams build their identity.  

The Eskimos are off to a good start.