One month after a crushing defeat in Regina, the Edmonton Eskimos knew they had to be better against the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday night.
They got some revenge as Joe Burnett returned a fumble 44 yards for a third-quarter touchdown Friday as Edmonton returned from a bye week with a 28-20 victory at Commonwealth Stadium.
“Our defence played a very gutsy game,” said Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed. “Our tackling wasn’t the best but they created turnovers and made the stops when we needed them.”
The Eskimos, who fell 17-1 to the Riders on July 8, never looked back after Burnett’s touchdown put them up 20-17.
“Burnett’s touchdown was a huge momentum change,” said Reed. “Our guys knew we need to go out and make a play and that’s the character of this football team. When adversity strikes those guys band together and they make plays.”
The Eskimos improve to 4-2 with the win and move into a first-place tie with the B.C. Lions in the CFL’s West Division.
The Eskimos also knotted the season series with the Riders, with the third game scheduled to be played in Edmonton in October.
“That first game in Saskatchewan, we knew that wasn’t us,” said Eskimos quarterback Steven Jyles, who passed for 282 yards in the contest. “Offensively we knew that we gave them that win. We knew we couldn’t play like that anymore.”
The Roughriders lost their third straight game to drop to 3-3 and take a share of third in the West with Calgary.
“We didn’t start well and we didn’t finish well,” said Saskatchewan head coach Corey Chamblin. “We had too many penalties, too many turnovers and we gave up too many explosions. We didn’t play team football or winning football tonight.”
There was a long delay early in the third quarter after a collision between Edmonton defensive back Ronnie Prude and Saskatchewan receiver Terence Jeffers-Harris. Prude was taken off the field on a stretcher after suffering what appeared to be a neck injury on the play.
“You just pray for a guy like that and pray that he be strong,” Jyles said. “We’re keeping our prayers out for him and his family. We heard some good news that he was moving his fingers and all of that stuff, so hopefully he will be OK and will return.”
When the game resumed, the Roughriders took a 17-10 lead after quarterback Darian Durant went up the middle on a quarterback, running 27 yards into the endzone.
Edmonton responded with a field goal on the heels of a 41-yard pass to Matt Carter to make it 17-13.
Two plays later the Eskimos were back in front as Chris Thompson plowed into Dressler and forced a fumble. Burnett picked up the ball and blazed 44 yards for the touchdown and a 20-17 Edmonton advantage heading into the final frame.
The Eskimos started the fourth with a punt single and then increased their lead to 28-17 as a 32-yard pass to Fred Stamps set up a six-yard TD run by Calvin McCarty.
Saskatchewan wasn’t done yet, however, as Kory Sheets took a short screen pass and blazed 76 yards to the Edmonton five. Unfortunately all they would get out of it was a field goal.
Durant was picked off by J.C. Sherritt at the Saskatchewan 38 with under two minutes to play but Edmonton didn’t get any points out of it.
The Riders marched back and tried a late Hail Mary into the endzone but Thompson picked off the final pass to end the game.
In the first quarter, the Roughriders had a strong opening drive, but stalled out in the red zone and had to accept a 25-yard field goal from newly-signed veteran kicker Sandro DeAngelis.
Edmonton also moved well down the field to start, but also settled for a 23-yard field goal from Grant Shaw.
Edmonton took a 10-3 lead early in the second after a couple of long passing plays. Jyles was able to find Nate Coehoorn for a 49-yard gain, setting up a 30-yard TD pass on a nice sideline catch by Cary Koch.
Saskatchewan tied the game just before the half after a bizarre highlight reel play. Durant passed to Weston Dressler who was leveled by Weldon Brown. However, the ball remained in the air and bounced off Brown and another Eskimo and into the arms of Taj Smith who took of for a 57-yard gain during the confusion. Riders backup QB Drew Willy came in for a one-yard plunge with 16 seconds left in the opening half.
Notes: The Eskimos are the only team in the CFL to remain perfect on their home field this season. Edmonton has now won five games in a row at home against the Riders and 15 of its last 17 over Saskatchewan at Commonwealth Stadium. ...The Eskimos are a badly banged-up team with 17 players officially listed as injured and several others also on the limp... The Riders added DeAngelis to their lineup for the game to share kicking duties with Chris Milo. ...The Eskimos also had a new face in the lineup as they signed former Toronto Argonaut defensive tackle Claude Wroten earlier in the week in time to play in Friday’s game. ...The Eskimos reached 11 million fans who have attended a game at Commonwealth Stadium for the match.