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You can twist any statistic you want to fit whatever narrative you are trying to tell about a player or a team. However, when it comes to Trevor Harris’ last two playoff wins, there is nothing else that can be said beyond glowing terms like ‘masterful’. In those two victories, Harris has thrown the ball 71 times. Seven of those passes went for touchdowns and just six were incomplete. That is a crazy number. His teams have generated 83 points with Harris throwing for 787 yards.
Last year I wrote about how his impressive numbers in that victory over the Tiger-Cats were more about the work of his teammates and less about his passing acumen. That game was filled with short passes followed by excellent downfield blocking and receivers making defenders miss. Harris played the role of point guard to perfection, allowing everyone around him to succeed. Maybe it’s an aesthetic thing for me but I have always gravitated towards the quarterbacks who throw the ball deep as opposed to the short passers. So what about this past weekend, which saw Harris complete 22 consecutive passes against Montreal? Was this game a carbon copy of the 2018 Eastern Final? The answer to that is no.
I loved the first half version of Trevor Harris. His second pass on a second-and-eight was a 20-yard throw to Ricky Collins while on the move. It was the sort of aggressive pass that Eskimos fans must have loved. It was the kind of play that signaled it was going to be a long afternoon for Khari Jones and the Alouettes’ defence. Skip ahead to his 13th consecutive completion, a 20-yard throw to Greg Ellingson that would lead to C.J. Gable’s second touchdown run of the game and a 15-7 lead for the Eskimos. Maybe I’m a quarterback snob, but I always prefer seeing a passer not afraid to attack a secondary, and that is exactly what Harris is doing. Speaking of no fear, Harris throws an absolute dart to Collins with three defenders within a couple yards for completion number 15. At this point I’m regretting calling Harris a “high end game manager” as his next pass goes for 18 more yards to Greg Ellingson.
Jeremiah Masoli had to be getting nervous that his record of 23 straight completions was in jeopardy after the touchdown pass to Calvin McCarty. If you didn’t see it live, you may have thought that a four-yarder to the fullback was one of those cheapie throws to goose the passing numbers. In fact, it may have been his best throw on the day. It can’t be easy to spot your fullback in the back corner of the end zone as you’re backpedaling to keep two charging Alouettes at bay. It’s one thing to blindly throw a pass up for the Bryan Burnhams of the world. You know there is an excellent chance he will come up with the catch. But to execute that play to your 35-year-old blocking back is a whole other level of difficult. Full marks on completion number 20.
I have no idea if Harris was even aware that he was close to tying Masoli’s mark. If he did, good for him for still slinging it deep near the end of the half. His final connection was yet another 20-plus yarder, this time to Ellingson. He easily could have thrown some dump offs, gotten the record and gone into the locker room with a 22-19 lead. Instead, he led his team to a last-second Sean Whyte field goal and a six-point lead. Unfortunately, his perfect streak would come to an end, ironically on a dropped pass by his favourite receiver, Ellingson.
The second half was a different story for the Eskimos’ offence. The third quarter was filled with mostly short and smart throws to Collins and Ellingson. The final quarter was all about defence from both teams. A John Bowman deflection led to Harris’ only turnover on the day. Harris would only complete one pass in the fourth quarter but it would not matter as the Eskimos’ defence picked off Vernon Adam’s Jr. on Montreal’s last two possessions.
All in all, this was Edmonton’s most complete game since their Week 1 victory over Montreal. The question is, can they do what no team has ever done before: qualify for the Grey Cup via the crossover path? If we see the first half version of Trevor Harris for four quarters next week in Hamilton then Edmonton absolutely can stun the Tiger-Cats. The Eskimos are loaded with skill all over their offence and they finished the year with the CFL’s best pass rush. That is the exact sort of recipe that you would need for such a playoff upset.
Before I go, I welcome all the hate mail from Bomber fans who are crowing that all us “experts” picked Calgary to win. Let me say that my favourite moment from this weekend was the massive smile on Zach Collaros’ face after his 71-yard touchdown pass to Darvin Adams. To be able to make that throw in such poor weather conditions and beat one of the game’s best in Tre Roberson on a second and long was truly remarkable. After all the hardship that Collaros has gone through these past four years, I sure hope he enjoyed the hell out of that moment. It certainly looked like he did.