Eskimos ball hawks come up big with knockdowns against Ottawa
On a night when the spotlight centred on the return of a couple of Canadian Football League all-stars to the Edmonton Eskimos secondary, it was cornerback Arjen Colquhoun who emerged as the primary tone-setter for a 16-12 win over the Ottawa Redblacks.
Sure, prized free-agent pickups Anthony Orange and Don Unamba were making their way back from the six-game injured list to suit up under the lights for the first time since opening day.
But it was Colquhoun who came up with an interception on Ottawa’s initial possession to set the pace for a defensive slugfest.
“Oh, yeah. Any time you get an interception in the first quarter, it’s a good momentum shift,” said the 26-year-old Michigan State product. “I just wanted to get the offence jump-started and it worked out.”
His first interception of the season completes the cycle for all of Edmonton’s defensive backs who have started a game in the five secondary positions, all of whom have now earned at least one interception on the season so far.
“I’m in the club now,” said Colquhoun, whose only previous interception came in his rookie season in 2017, before the injury bug held him to just a handful of games last year. “Before we go out, we tell each other: ‘Listen, if the ball’s up, it’s ours. Let’s go get it.’”
Another interception Friday from safety Jordan Hoover, who is now tied for the team lead with Tyquwan Glass at two apiece, pushed the Eskimos into double-digit interceptions on the season as they moved into a tie for third overall with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
But it was a couple of Ottawa passes that the Eskimos didn’t come up with at the end of Friday’s game that ended up mattering most.
They happened on back-to-back snaps, with the Redblacks parked on Edmonton’s 11 yard-line trailing by four points in the final minute. After an incomplete pass to Dominique Rhymes, the next one was knocked down by cornerback Orange and the final one batted away by defensive half Josh Johnson.
It’s the second week in a row an Eskimos game has gone right down to the wire, decided on one final jump ball in the end zone. Only this time, they found themselves on the winning side of a knockdown.
“It has been like that, but coach (Phillip Lolley, defensive co-ordinator) told us it’s a game of inches,” said Johnson. “Sometimes it may be a blowout, other times it may be a two-second game, so you have to make the right play.
“Coach just called the right calls and we were able to get after them and just compete.”
Make that the right ‘call’.
“We made the same three calls,” Lolley said. “I didn’t plan on calling it three straight times but when I watched us and I kept screaming at the front to keep the quarterback in the pocket. In the first rep, they pushed it in on him and made him have to deliver the ball where we wanted it delivered.
“So I turned and called it again, asking for the same thing and we got the same. And then the third call, I was really going with another call and then said, ‘No, we stopped them twice doing this and the kids would never let me live it down if I made another call,’ so we went back with it. It worked out.”
Eskimos punter Hugh O’Neill had a new addition to the family roster, announcing the arrival of his baby boy, Patrick, on the weekend.
“One week ago today, this little guy surprised us and came into our lives a few weeks ahead of schedule,” O’Neill posted on Instagram. “Our little Patrick O’Neill was born Aug. 4, weighing six pounds, seven ounces and couldn’t be more perfect.
“I’m so incredibly proud of my wife and we are both so excited to get to know this little man as he grows and changes and fills our hearts with more love than we could have ever imagined was possible.”
O’Neill was placed on the six-game injured list last week, while placekicker Sean Whyte took over both kicking and punting in Friday’s win over Ottawa.
Training camp kicked off Monday for University of Alberta Golden Bears football, who have added former Edmonton Eskimos slotback Rick Walters as the offensive co-ordinator on head coach Chris Morris’s staff. The two won a Grey Cup together with the Eskimos in 2003.
The equivalent of 30,200 kg of food was collected at Friday’s game through the Purolator Tackle Hunger program to help those in need through Edmonton’s Food Bank. Across the league since 2003, the program has helped deliver around 5.9 million kilograms of food to food banks across Canada.
In and out: The Eskimos have signed P Greg Hutchins to their practice roster. The six-foot-four, 210-pound University of British Columbia product is back with the team after undergoing training camp here in May … FB Tanner Green (knee) has been placed on the six-game injured list after not being able to finish Friday’s game … LB Christophe Mulumba-Tshimanga is an early activation off the six-game injured list and RB Alex Taylor returns from the one-game IL … The Eskimos currently have a dozen players on the six-game IL.
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge