“I'm mad”: Eskimos C.J. Gable livid following divisional final loss
HAMILTON — The last time the Edmonton Eskimos were at Tim Hortons Field for a playoff game didn’t leave any lasting memories for Hamilton Tiger-Cats players who were here in 2016.
The semifinal crossover that year saw the Eskimos come in the last time they crossed over to the East Division, and leave with a 24-21 win.
But there was no holdover from that one in the back of any of the Ticats’ minds ahead of Sunday’s kickoff in the East Division final.
“I don’t even remember, to be honest,” said linebacker Simoni Lawrence, who first entered the Canadian Football League with the Eskimos in 2012.
But before those words were even out of his mouth, Lawrence caught himself and you could almost see the light bulb blink on above his head.
“I do remember, because I remember John frickin’ White,” Lawrence said with raised eyebrows. “Yep, I do remember.
“But no holdover, no.”
In that game, White, the ex-Eskimos running back currently with the B.C. Lions, had 20 carries for 160 of Edmonton’s 332 net yards of offence, to go along with two touchdowns.
Fast forward to Sunday’s do-or-die showdown and Edmonton’s ground game was nowhere near as successful.
C.J. Gable, who was back in Hamilton where his regular season ended in Week 17 with a knee injury, was limited to 55 yards on 15 carries along with a lost fumble on his first touch, as the Eskimos offence, in an effort to avoid becoming one-dimensional in the passing game, stubbornly became all too predictable in the run.
And 24 of those yards came on the final, last-ditch drive of the game. Otherwise, it was Gable up the gut for a short gain to set up second and long became an all-too familiar scenario Sunday.
Of course, it didn’t help having backup running back Shaq Cooper forced from the game early with what the club is calling a lower-body injury.
“I’m mad. What do you want me to say, I’m excited that we lost or something?” said Gable, whose first carry of the game went for his biggest rush of the game, 13 yards, before having the fumble forced by defensive tackle Dylan Wynn and recovered by cornerback Frankie Williams on the way to a 17-yard return to Edmonton’s 31 yard-line. “I’m f___ing pissed, man.”
After the run game put Edmonton in second-and-short more often than not on the way to a 37-29 win over the Montreal Alouettes in last week’s semifinal, what was the difference Sunday in Hamilton?
“I don’t know,” Gable shook his head. “We played, we battled, we did everything we were supposed to do. It’s nobody’s fault, we all make mistakes and we capitalized on it, it just wasn’t enough to win the game.
“I can’t tell you what it was, I don’t know.”
That goes for both Sunday’s game and the upcoming off-season.
“This is the last year of my contract,” said the 32-year-old Southern California product, who became the first Eskimos running back since Mike Pringle in 2004 to record back-to-back seasons with 1,000 yards rushing, finishing 2019 with 205 rushes for 1,001 yards and two rushing touchdowns to go along with 53 catches for 417 yards and another TD in 14 games.
Gable, who joined the Eskimos midway through the 2017 season, has played 34 games and carried 473 times for 2,431 yards and 11 touchdowns (5.1 yards per carry), while making 96 catches for 570 yards and three touchdowns.
“I don’t know anything right now, I’m not even focused on that,” Gable offered.
As for Sunday’s game plan, it was more about strategy and less about stubbornness, at least from the sideline.
“We just trust our plan and we don’t flinch,” said Eskimos quarterback Trevor Harris, who scrambled seven times for 26 of Edmonton’s 82 rushing yards. “And a lot of times the defence dictates what happens. I make my fair share of mistakes too, you know, we’re all human. I liked our plan coming in, I liked what we did.
“There’s a few plays I could have made that could have made a difference and I didn’t, I didn’t come through. So I think that we all took our turns in terms of that, but we’re a good team running and we were able to run the football this year on anybody.
“So anybody that would question that, I think you have a right to do that but I feel like we could run the ball on anybody, and we just trust our plan and don’t flinch.”
Sidelines: After completing 34 of 35 first-half passes for 252 yards in last week’s semifinal, including a record 22 in a row to open the game against the Montreal Alouettes, Eskimos quarterback Trevor Harris passed 15 of 20 for 158 yards, a touchdown and an interception at the midway mark Sunday … After finishing tied for first place with the Saskatchewan Roughriders at 56 sacks on the season, while surrendering a league-low 25 — eight of which came against Hamilton on backup quarterback Logan Kilgore — the Eskimos lost Sunday’s sack race 3-1, with their lone takedown coming from the hands Josh Johnson at defensive halfback, of all positions.
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge