Eskimos edge Redblacks in game dominated by defence
The Edmonton Eskimos won after trailing at halftime for the first time this season, defeating the Ottawa Redblacks 16-12 in front of 27,951 at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday.
It was the first time in four games this season the Eskimos, trailing 12-10 at the midway mark, mounted a successful second-half rally.
For the second week in a row, the Eskimos had it come down to the wire, this time finding themselves on the right side of a jump ball to the end zone with one last hurrah, as former Redblacks defensive back Josh Johnson knocked down the pass.
Kneeling out the win, Edmonton improved to 5-3 on the season, moving into a three-way tie with the Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders for second place in the West Division, despite having four third-down gambles ended up in turnovers, including two on the goal-line that resulted in a fumble and coming up short.
Ottawa, meanwhile, let the lead slip through their grip to fall to 3-5 and sit third in the East Division.
Trevor Harris, whose leadership and team character were the target of criticisms arising from his old locker-room in Ottawa this week, completed 33 of 40 passes for 327 yards, while C.J. Gable scored his first two rushing touchdowns of the season on the way to his third 100-yard rushing game.
Dominique Davis completed 23 of 35 passes for 289 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions for the visitors.
Eskimos all-star cornerback Anthony Orange was playing for the first time since Week 1, but it was Arjen Colquhoun on the other side of the field intercepting a ball intended for Dominique Rhymes on the opening drive of the game.
The Eskimos turned the turnover into seven points, as Gable broke a 28-yard rush into the end zone to cap an eight-play, 76-yard drive to go ahead 7-0 nearly 10 minutes in.
It was his first rushing touchdown of the season, and more yards on that one carry than he earned all last week in Calgary, where a 27-yard night was his lowest performance on the ground of the season. In fact, Friday was a bounce-back game for Gable, who opened the season with games of 154 yards and 111 yards on the ground, before seeing a steady decline of 82, 68, 33 and 27 yards.
At the other end of the field, Ottawa was stopped on the goal-line when running back John Crockett, who had just broken a 35-yard scamper, was stopped by defensive end Kwaku Boateng in the shadow of the goalpost. It resulted in a 10-yard field goal by Lewis Ward for his 68th straight.
But the Redblacks offence made no mistake on their next trip, following a three-and-out on miscues by Harris, while Dominique Rhymes got behind the coverage for a 67-yard touchdown reception.
But defensive half Money Hunter made the tackle at the one yard-line to deny Rafael Araujo-Lopes from picking up the two-point conversion, giving Ottawa a 9-7 lead heading into the second quarter.
That was right about when the fists started flying, when rookie outside linebacker Vontae Diggs went after Redblacks left tackle and Edmonton product Mark Korte, resulting in unnecessary roughness penalties. It was the first flag of the game sent Edmonton’s way, after the most penalized team of the season went flag free throughout the opening quarter.
A fumble by Harris on third-and-one led to a 16-yard field goal by Ward, before Sean Whyte – also handling punts with Hugh O’Neill on the six-game injured list – missed from 45 yards, giving him four misses in 12 attempts going back three previous games.
On their next possession, Gable was tackled for a three-yard loss on third-and-one, turning the ball over in the final minute of the half. But the Eskimos defence took it back when a long bomb to a leaping Julian Feoli-Gudino, who came down with the ball, only to have it pop out into the waiting hands of Eskimos safety Jordan Hoover.
But Whyte, following a challenge by Eskimos head coach Jason Maas that resulted in defensive pass interference against Ottawa, hit a 44-yarder to trail 12-10 at halftime.
The third quarter began with Eskimos receiver DaVaris Daniels being stopped on a pass to the flat on third-and-two.
On their next trip to the red zone, Harris was sacked for just the third time this season, before DaVaris Daniels caught the ball at the one yard-line, only get stopped for a fourth time on third-and-short.
But it only postponed the Eskimos from taking over the lead on another touchdown by Gable, this one from two yards out that was set up by a 25-yard catch by Greg Ellingson, ending a seven-play, 67-yard drive to lead 16-12 midway through the fourth quarter.
A holding penalty against Eskimos left guard Jacob Ruby negated what would have been a 63-yard touchdown reception by Daniels.
In and out: Eskimos FB Tanner Green, starting in place of injured Calvin McCarty, left early with a right knee injury … Redblacks DB Maurice Fleming Jr. was injured in the first quarter, while DB Jean-Philippe Bolduc went down on punt return coverage in the second. Flashy KR DeVonte Dedmon was hurt in the final three minutes.
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge