Edmonton Eskimos open 2019 season with 32-25 win over Alouettes
The Edmonton Eskimos took their first step out of the Mike Reilly Era, and straight into the win column with a 32-25 over the Montreal Alouettes.
It wasn’t perfect, earning 600 yards of net offence in a win separated by a single score against an opponent that earned 325 yards. But they’ll take it.
Trevor Harris debuted with 447 passing yards, C.J. Gable rushed for 154 yards and caught a touchdown and Kenny Stafford caught two more with 98 receiving yards in front of a season-opening crowd of just 25,263 at Commonwealth Stadium.
Trailing by three points with three minutes remaining and their backup quarterback in the game, Montreal came up with a 31-yard reception by Eugene Lewis and 18 more yards on a screen by William Stanback, before Eskimos safety Money Hunter had a sure interception knocked out of his hands by Devier Posey.
Boris Bede hit a 52-yard field goal to tie the game with 2:12 left in the final frame.
But Ricky Collins Jr. answered with a 45-yard catch, adding to his game-high – and potentially league-leading – 175 yards on the way to a QB keeper by Harris.
Looking to the opposite end zone, Vernon Adams Jr. had a pass intended for Posey intercepted by cornerback Anthony Orange.
The first points of the season were posted by Edmonton’s defence, which forced a safety after Montreal pitted themselves deep with a penalty while returning the game’s first punt.
With the Eskimos offence right back on the doorstep thanks to five straight completions by Harris, Alouettes safety Taylor Loffler forced receiver Collins Jr. to fumble the ball away.
While they avoided a second safety, Montreal pulled off an impromptu punt that ended up getting fumbled right back to them by Eskimos safety Hunter, who had to become the default return man.
Posey gave Montreal 7-2 lead with a step on Hunter to make a catch at the back of the end zone with 2:46 to go in the opening quarter.
The second quarter opened with the Eskimos taking a deep shot to the end zone for Greg Ellingson, which was knocked down by Loffler, before Sean Whyte missed a 53-yard field goal that had the distance.
But they made it into the end zone on a 28-yard catch by Stafford to take a 9-7 lead with six minutes to go in the half.
The penalty problem that plagued the Eskimos to a West Division-worst 1,481 yards surrendered took a hold once again in the second quarter Friday.
And the flags flew even more when Alouettes starting quarterback Antonio Pipkin scrambled for eight yards before being hauled down in a style to which his offensive linemen took post-whistle offence.
Three plays later, Hunter was penalized for unnecessary roughness when he hit a sliding Pipkin.
Bede missed a 34-yard field goal for a single point to pull within one of Edmonton’s lead, until Harris went right back to Stafford for another trip into the end zone, this one for 10 yards, to take a 16-8 lead into halftime.
A sack by Almondo Sewell led to Bede kneeling out another two points instead of punting out of his end zone six and a half minutes into the third, before the Eskimos turned the ball over on a failed third-and-one attempt by Harris.
Defensive back Josh Johnson immediately followed up with another sack on Pipkin, which left the Alouettes quarterback with a noticeable limp on the next snap, before being helped off the field and would not return.
Bede pinned the Eskimos on their one yard-line on the ensuing punt, before Ellingson came up with a 21-yard reception. It kick-started a drive that covered 109 yards and ended with a 23-yard touchdown reception by running back Gable.
Montreal answered back with a five-yard touchdown run by William Stanback, which was set up by a roughness call against Eskimos linebacker Vontae Diggs on a sliding Adams Jr.
A 17-yard touchdown by B.J. Cunningham brought the Alouettes within a field goal of Edmonton’s lead midway through the fourth.
In and out: Eskimos OLB Vontae Diggs was helped to the sideline midway through the third quarter to have a knee examined before returning to finish the game. NLB Don Unamba did not play in the second half … Alouettes QB Antonio Pipkin left late in the third.
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge