The dream of hosting a home playoff game is still alive for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Riders’ defensive end Ricky Foley flew over the top on Edmonton quarterback Mike Reilly to stop a goal line plunge with barely a minute left on the clock to preserve a 14-9 win Saturday over the Eskimos.
The loss was Edmonton’s (3-12) third straight, eliminating the club from playoff contention.
For Saskatchewan (10-5) it meant back-to-back wins for the first time since the Labour Day Classic, and an opportunity to clinch second place in the West Division with a win next Saturday over the B.C. Lions.
“I got ahold of (Reilly) and I just didn’t let go,” said Foley. “I told (Tearrius) Geroge to take the legs out. I told him ‘Just cut him and I’m going over the top.
“T said, ‘Alright, cool.’ So Tearrius took out the two (offensive) linemen’s legs, went low, and I just jumped over the top, grabbed hold of him and just held on for dear life.”
Trailing by five points as the fourth quarter wound down, Reilly hit Adarius Bowman for a 40-yard catch-and-run to the Saskatchewan eight-yard line with two minutes on the clock. Reilly then threw to Nate Coehoorn for seven yards, setting up the fateful third-and-one attempt.
The Eskimos appeared to have the game in hand when Reilly plunged over the goal line, but the play was cancelled after Saskatchewan called timeout just prior to the snap. Reilly’s do-over was stopped and the Riders called three rushing plays to run out the clock for the win in front of 35,579 spectators.
“Defensively it was really just having the guys settle down and understand what our best call was going down to that point,” said Roughriders’ head coach Corey Chamblin. “Instead of them being in a rush and trying to get lined up, that way it allowed us time to get lined up and run the defence directly.”
Edmonton entered the game needing four straight wins combined with four straight losses by Winnipeg to secure a crossover playoff berth through the East Division.
Instead the Eskimos will miss the playoffs for the fourth time in eight years since winning the 2005 Grey Cup.
“What has happened a lot has been because of our mis-execution, a lot of things that we didn’t do well as a whole, and we are 3-12 because of things we didn’t do well,” said Eskimos’ head coach Kavis Reed. “We wish that it had been different but that bell is not going to be unrung.”
George also walked off the field with two sacks in the game, both on second-down plays in Saskatchewan territory that forced Edmonton to accept a field goal and a punt single from Grant Shaw. Shaw hit on field goals from 47 and 50 yards in the game and was responsible for all of Edmonton’s scoring except for a safety surrendered by Saskatchewan when a long snap from Cory Huclack sailed over punter Ricky Schmitt’s head.
Schmitt opted to kick the ball out the back of his own end zone instead of giving the Eskimos the ball inside the Riders’ 20-yard line.
The teams combined for three points in the first quarter, marking the sixth straight game the Roughriders have failed to score a touchdown in the opening 15 minutes.
They worked quickly in the second, though.
A direct snap to Neal Hughes on a third-and-two situation near the end of the first quarter helped set up a 21-yard touchdown pass from Darian Durant to Weston Dressler in the first minute of the second.
Saskatchewan cashed in on its next series as well when Kory Sheets ran six yards, untouched up the middle, for his first touchdown since returning from a knee injury in Week 15.
Sheets finished the game with 106 yards rushing on 24 attempts.
The Riders’ offence dried up from there as Durant overthrew Dressler by five yards on their next possession, and was picked off by Donovan Alexander.
Saskatchewan linebacker Tyron Brackenridge saved a touchdown when Reilly threw the ball directly into his hands at the Saskatchewan two-yard line. But Durant was sacked for a 12-yard loss by Eric Samuels on a key second down late in the half, and threw his second of two interceptions to Rennie Curran on the first play after Riders’ linebacker Diamond Ferri returned Reilly’s pick 40 yards to the Eskimos’ 50.
Durant finished 16 of 24 passes for 170 yards. Reilly went 17-for-34 for 244 yards.
“It was a play they ran before earlier in the game and QB kind of overthrew him,” Brackenridge said of his timely pick. “Next time when they got no sets I just started pressing him, he tried to run under and it turned out to be the same play.
“I knew it was coming so I just ran it and jumped on it.”
The game was stopped for approximately 10 minutes late in the third when a Saskatchewan defender rolled over the neck of Edmonton returner Almondo Sewell’s neck while covering a punt. Sewell left on a stretcher and there was no immediate word on his condition after the game.
NOTES: Riders receiver Geroy Simon was honoured in a brief pre-game ceremony for becoming the CFL’s all-time leader in receiving yards in Week 15 against B.C. ... The Eskimos played Saturday’s game without middle linebacker J.C. Sherritt, who broke his thumb in last week’s loss to Montreal ... Saturday also marked the 200th all-time meeting between the Riders and Eskimos, as well as the 100th CFL game for Saskatchewan left guard Brendon Labatte.