What a difference a week made for the Edmonton Eskimos.
Quarterbacks Steven Jyles and Kerry Joseph combined to complete three touchdown passes as the Eskimos finally produced some offence in a 42-10 romp over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday.
The Eskimos, who only scored one point in a loss last week to Saskatchewan and 19 in their season opener, improved to 2-1 on the season.
“We knew that we did not play well in Saskatchewan,” said Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed. “It was disappointing to all of us and the longest one-hour flight back I have ever had. Our team really took that to heart. We want to make sure that we don’t have any more of those. This was a key character game for us. The guys responded very well. It was important that we didn’t fall to 1-2 in a very competitive West.”
Returner Joe Burnett agreed with his coach.
“We had to get the train back going and playing Eskimos football and I thought we did that tonight,” said Burnett. “I think what we saw today is more representative of what we have here.
“We have more improvement to do, but this is a game we can grow from and feed off of.”
Edmonton scored 18 points off of turnovers in the first half.
The Bombers, who continue to struggle during a four-game road trip to open the season, now sit winless at 0-3.
“All three sides got beat tonight,” said Winnipeg head coach Paul LaPolice. “We all have to be accountable, and that starts with me. We have to do a better job coaching, a better job playing and a better job learning. That was unacceptable what we saw today.”
Bombers defensive back Jovon Johnson said his team can’t afford to take long fixing its problems.
“Everybody has to start looking in the mirror,” he said. “Right now we are playing with the wrong attitude and no enthusiasm. It is not good right now.
“We gave them 24 points in the first half. We can’t have plays like this in this league. We have to limit our mistakes.”
Winnipeg’s problems were further compounded by the loss of their top two quarterbacks, Buck Pierce and Alex Brink, during the game.
Edmonton’s special teams unit opened the scoring by doing something the offence was unable to do the previous game — score a touchdown. Midway through the first quarter, Lee Robinson forced a fumble on a punt return by Demond Washington and Clint Keith followed up to snag the loose ball and ramble 29 yards into the end zone for a 7-0.
The Eskimos defence also got into the act on Winnipeg’s next possession as Pierce was picked off by Donovan Alexander, leading to a 43-yard Grant Shaw field goal and a 10-0 lead.
The Bombers got some more bad news before the opening quarter was out as Pierce was sidelined with a foot injury after he was sacked by Ted Laurent. Pierce did not return.
Edmonton kept it coming to start the second quarter, connecting for its first TD pass of the season. After a 35-yard punt return by Burnett, Jyles launched a 33-yard bomb that Cary Koch stretched out to catch in the end zone.
Less than two minutes later, Edmonton had a 24-0 lead as Winnipeg backup QB Brink was picked off in his own zone by Eskimo T.J. Hill, who returned it 32 yards for the touchdown.
Winnipeg’s woes continued five minutes into the second with a fumble on its own 24 that was recovered by Edmonton’s J.C. Sherritt. However, the Eskimos were only able to get a single on a missed Shaw field goal.
Shaw redeemed himself with a 24-yarder four minutes later for a 28-0 Eskimos lead.
Edmonton capped off its first half explosion with another passing TD as Joseph came in and hit Shamawd Chambers from four yards out with just eight seconds left to make it 35-0, the play coming off the heels of a 60-yard Hugh Charles run.
The Eskimos were pressing for more midway through the third quarter but turned the ball over on downs at the Winnipeg 20.
Tempers flared late in the third quarter as fists started flying, resulting in the ejections of Edmonton’s Julius Williams and Marcus Howard as well as Winnipeg’s Glenn January. When the dust cleared, Justin Palardy nailed a 46-yard field goal to finally get Winnipeg on the board with three minutes to play in the third quarter.
Brink had his bell rung on a hit by Sherritt to start the fourth. Third-string QB Joey Elliot came in and had immediate success with a long pass to Chris Matthews, who shrugged off a pair of defenders and took the ball across the goal line for a 72-yard touchdown to make it 35-10.
The momentum looked like it was shifting to the Bombers as Jyles was sacked at his own 25 and the fumble picked up by Winnipeg’s Jason Vega. However, Elliot’s subsequent pass was intercepted in the end zone by Burnett.
Joseph came back in and replaced Jyles as Edmonton QB and found Charles on a short pass that the running back turned into a 76-yard touchdown and a 42-10 Edmonton lead with five minutes to play.
Notes: The Bombers originally scheduled the four-game road games in order to accommodate the completion of their new stadium in Winnipeg. However, construction was delayed and they will not make the move this season after all ... Both teams had struggled to start the season. The Eskimos only scored 20 points combined in their first two outings, including just one point last week against Saskatchewan, and were dead last in 12 of the CFL’s offensive categories coming into the match. Meanwhile, the Blue Bombers allowed a league-high 74 points again in their first two losses to start the year ... With leading receiver Adarius Bowman likely out for the year for the Esks with a knee injury, slotback Greg Carr will likely see a lot more action. The six-foot-six former Blue Bomber had 31 catches for 568 yards and four touchdowns with Winnipeg last season ... The Bombers were without two major pieces of their secondary with linebacker Brandon Stewart and halfback Alex Suber missing the game due to injury... Winnipeg and Edmonton entered the season with the two youngest teams in the CFL. Winnipeg’s average age was 25.8 years, while Edmonton’s was 26.6 ... Both teams ended up using all three of their quarterbacks in the game.