WINNIPEG — It was a tough night for both quarterbacks but Mike Reilly and the Edmonton Eskimos still claimed sole possession of first place in the CFL West with a commanding 26-3 win over Drew Willy and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Thursday night.
Both quarterbacks were sacked four times each but Willy had trouble even getting a first down until late in the first half when, down 10-0, he got close enough for Liram Hajrullahu to connect for a field goal.
Despite three sacks in that half alone, Reilly managed a couple of drives that ended in Grant Shaw field goals. Shaw added another two more in the fourth quarter.
But Edmonton’s only touchdown in almost 50 minutes of football came from the defence on a first-quarter interception, carried in by former Bomber bad boy Odell Willis.
Reilly finally connected with A.J. Guyton with a 13-yard throw to make it 20-3 with about 10 minutes left in the game for the first touchdown by the offence.
The Eskimos are now 4-0 while Winnipeg falls to 3-1.
The crowd at Investors Group Field also topped 30,000 for the first time this season with 30,976 in attendance.
Willis, who now holds down an end on Edmonton’s defensive line, intercepted Willy to score Edmonton’s first touchdown just over six minutes into the game.
Reilly put together his first sustained drive in the second quarter but despite several tries, aided by a penalty, couldn’t get it into the end zone and Edmonton had to settle for a field goal to make it 10-0.
The same thing happened late in the second quarter to make it 13-0.
The Bomber offence had hardly touched the ball until Nic Grigsby gave them a first down with just over two minutes left in the quarter.
Willy followed with a 50-yard throw to Clarence Denmark but he was sacked on the next play and Denmark couldn’t hold it in the end zone on a touchdown try, forcing Winnipeg to settle for a field goal.
There were brief signs of life before the half ended with Grigsby moving the ball to Edmonton’s 20 on his final 28-yard catch with the clock running out.
The numbers still looked bad for the Bombers. Edmonton had possession for 20:26 in the first half, compared with just 9:34 for Winnipeg and the Bombers had the ball for just 3:19 in the second quarter, most of that in the final minutes.
Willy completed just six of 16 passes in the first half but he managed 94 yards thanks to Denmark’s 50-yard catch. Reilly completed 10 of 19 for 100 yards.
Reilly was sacked three times in the first half alone, Willy once. Both threw just one interception in the first half although Willy’s was costly.
The Bombers had better possession numbers in the third quarter but still couldn’t translate that into points and they didn’t managed a first down in the fourth. Penalties hurt them again although Edmonton also suffered in that regard, taking almost twice as many.
Notes: The last time an unbeaten Winnipeg and Edmonton tussled for first in the West early in the season was in 1961. Edmonton won that game but Winnipeg went on to win the Grey Cup. ... Zach Anderson had two of Winnipeg’s four sacks and picked up what initially looked like a fumble deep in Edmonton turf on Thursday, although it was ruled down by contact. Willie Jefferson had two of Edmonton’s four sacks.