Ticats stave off Eskimos comeback bid to rain on Ray's parade
The Edmonton Eskimos have a losing record for the first time this season.
And with a 30-27 loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in front of 25,694 in the stands at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday, they still have yet to beat a team coming in with a winning record in 2019.
Trailing 27-24 with 35 seconds left on the clock, Sean Whyte hit a 48-yard field goal, before Hamilton won it on a 34-yard field goal by Liram Hajrullahu that bounced off the left upright and in with no time left on the clock.
“A little bit frustrating to start out the way we did, but man, what a finish. And that’s the CFL for you,” said Eskimos head coach Jason Maas. “You’re never out of it, you’ve just got to keep fighting. Our guys did that. I’m very proud of the locker-room.
“Every season has a turning point and whether you’ve won or lost this game, I love the fight in our locker-room, I love the week of work we put into this. We didn’t come out with the score today we wanted, but I think this helps us going forward.”
The Eskimos suffering their fourth-straight loss to fall to 6-7 with league-leading passer Trevor Harris sidelined by an injury to his throwing hand, which saw backup Logan Kilgore get his first start in three years.
And with legendary Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray in the house to have his name unveiled on the Wall of Honour, there wasn’t a home fan in the stands who didn’t wish the legendary quarterback could have suited up for one more go.
Especially with the Ticats jumping to a 24-0 lead late in the half.
And on Ricky Ray Night, a young quarterback from Tulsa, Okla., unfortunately rained touchdowns down on the Eskimos’ parade. Dane Evans, who was brought to the Canadian Football League two years ago by the same man responsible for the 2011 trade that sent Ray from Edmonton — then-general manager Eric Tillman — torched the Eskimos for 336 yards and three touchdowns to go with an interception. Honourable mention has to go to the hold on the winning kick he somehow got down after a bad snap.
Kilgore, meanwhile, completed 22 of 36 for 223 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Hamilton’s opening drive of the game ended with Eskimos defensive tackle Almondo Sewell earning Edmonton’s first sack in three games. But they reached the board first with a 42-yard touchdown reception by the fleet-footed Brandon Banks on a receiver bubble with 6:19 to go in the opening quarter.
Hamilton took an 8-0 lead after Evans hit Anthony Coombs for the two-point conversion.
Kilgore was then intercepted by cornerback Frankie Williams on a ball intended for Greg Ellingson, before the Ticats took a 15-0 lead on the next snap, which went for 41 yards into the end zone to a wide open Marcus Tucker, who might very well have decided at that moment all the celebration around the No. 15 was for the one on his black-and-gold jersey.
The very next time Evans touched the ball, he threw deep to Bralon Addison, who spun out of a tackle by Eskimos safety Jordan Hoover on his way to a 71-yard touchdown.
That made it 21-0 at the end of a first quarter that saw Hamilton earn 197 passing yards, compared to 50 by Edmonton.
A sack by Eskimos coverage linebacker Don Unamba stopped the bleeding slightly, as the Ticats had to settle for a 48-yard field goal by Liram Hajrullau midway through the second quarter.
But Hamilton’s defence got Evans the ball right back with an interception by cornerback Jumal Rolle, who returned it 33 yards into Edmonton territory, only to have Eskimos outside linebacker Vontae Diggs return the favour with his first CFL interception.
The Eskimos finally got onto the scoreboard as time expired in the half, as Kilgore connected with DaVaris Daniels for a six-yard touchdown to trail 24-7, before Ray’s nameplate was unveiled in a ceremony.
And it appeared to lift the current crew inhabiting the home locker-room, as the third quarter opened with a missed 40-yard field goal by Hamilton that Christion Jones returned 100 yards all the way to Hamilton’s 15 yard-line, which was ceremoniously denoted on the turf in gold numbers for the game.
And it changed the tide of the game, setting up a 22-yard field goal by Whyte.
A strip sack by Eskimos top draft pick, Laval defensive end Mathieu Betts, making his CFL debut after spending the National Football League pre-season with the Chicago Bears, then put the ball back in the hands of Kilgore. He promptly found Ellingson for back-to-back catches covering the remaining 35 yards to the end zone, as Edmonton pulled within a touchdown of the lead heading into the final quarter.
They tied it with a one-yard plunge by Kilgore that was set up by a screen pass to C.J. Gable for 26 yards.
The Ticats immediately retook the lead, 27-24, on a 38-yard field goal.
In and out: Eskimos S Jordan Beaulieu left at the end of the first quarter with what the club describes as a lower-body injury. LB Blair Smith also left in the second half with a lower-body injury.
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge
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