CFL Pass

Against all odds, Kilgore made most of start for Eskimos

Down 21-0 just one quarter into this first start in three years, Logan Kilgore could have just given up.

After the Edmonton Eskimos defence allowed three straight passes on three straight snaps – four if you count a two-point convert – to reach the end zone, no one was expecting the backup quarterback to make much noise playing in place of league-leading passer Trevor Harris.

Kilgore could have easily just shrugged it off and chalked it up to experience.

Instead, the backup quarterback who spent last year holding a whistle with his juco alma mater in Bakersfield, Calif., took what has become a rare opportunity to get back out on the field under the lights and do what he was hired to do: Play some football.

“For a competitor, it wouldn’t be easy (to give up),” Kilgore said as the week of practice kicked off ahead of Saturday’s game on the road against the Ottawa Redblacks. “In the game of football there’s no 10-point plays, there’s no 20-point plays. You’ve got the opportunity to put a drive together and it’s very infrequent that you can just hit a big play and all of a sudden put six on the board.

“They were able to do that a couple times and we still just had to put back-to-back good plays together. That’s how you score in this league and that’s how you ultimately win in this league, just stacking up good plays.”

While they didn’t quite get that result, the stick-to-it-ness on display by an Eskimos squad that seemed to have everything going against them at that moment – a three-game losing streak with their star quarterback sidelined by injury – mounted a rally that was only stopped when Hamilton Tiger-Cats scored a last-second field goal that rung off the post in a 30-27 Eskimos loss Friday.

“In the first half, there were a couple things that just shot us in the foot at inopportune times,” said Kilgore, who hit DaVaris Daniels for a six-yard touchdown at the end of the half to trail 24-7. “I think the second half was definitely something to build off of.”

A 32-yard touchdown catch by Greg Ellingson 10 minutes into the third quarter was followed by a 26-yard screen pass to C.J. Gable to the goal-line that set up a one-yard sneak to tie the league-leading Ticats 24-24 early in the fourth.

At that point, no one was thinking of Kilgore’s title as backup.

“I’d say the best way to do that is to get game-speed reps in practice,” he said of his game preparation with his receivers. “The more you can bring high-intensity situations like coach (Jason) Maas does here in practice, obviously going against our defence every day, you’re going to have high-intensity looks and I think that’s the best way to do it.

“That’s when the live bullets are flying, and just like anything else, it might be a small thing on the play, just seeing somebody’s eyes or seeing the way he comes out of a break, every time you get to throw a route to one of these guys, you’re learning something.”

Nothing changes for Kilgore this week, as the Eskimos prepare to put their four-game losing streak up against a six-game skid of the Ottawa Redblacks on the road Saturday.

Kilgore’s first-ever CFL start was against Ottawa in 2016, and he won it.

“We did, and I think they went to the Grey Cup that year. A good team,” Kilgore recalled. “I remember playing against Henry Burris, a great team and great quarterback. The only thing I really remember from that week is a reporter saying it was, like, his 200th-and-something start, and it was my first.

“And I think that Henry would probably tell you that at some point, it was his first start too. Whether you have that much experience or not much recently, you’ve still got to complete balls, you’ve still got to go through the process. Yeah, it was a good memory.”

While the Eskimos continue to monitor the status of Harris’s forearm before announcing this week’s starter, the Redblacks made it public Tuesday that Jonathon Jennings will officially get the start, but Dominique Davis will share snaps against Edmonton.

“I think they can be similar. They’re both athletic, they both can throw it around,” Maas said. “It’s not like one’s a statue in the pocket and can’t move at all. They’re both very capable of moving outside the pocket and very capable of throwing it everywhere on the field.

“They’ve both got experience in our league, Dom just played us not too long ago. It’s going to be a challenge and, ultimately, whether they end up playing both of them or not, now that we know it’s going to be a two-headed monster we’ll just decide to face both of them.”


On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge