The Saskatchewan Roughriders are entering record-setting territory with their start this season.
Kory Sheets ran for a pair of touchdowns as Saskatchewan continued to set the pace in the CFL with a 30-27 come-from-behind road victory over the Edmonton Eskimos on Saturday.
The Roughriders recorded their second-ever 7-1 start in franchise history with the win. The only other time they have had a 7-1 start was in 1970, a year that they finished 14-2.
“I wasn’t born yet,” laughed 36-year-old Saskatchewan head coach Corey Chamblin. “That’s awesome. It’s great for our fans.”
Despite their opponent’s lack of success this season, Chamblin said he knew the Eskimos were going to be a challenge.
“The Eskimos are very close to becoming a winning football team and we knew that we would be facing a tough opponent,” he said. “We talked about being like a clock. Being slow and steady and going one second at a time, one play at a time. We did that. It came down to being steady and the last play was on us.”
Sheets scampered for 139 yards and easily eclipsed the 1,000 yards rushing mark for the season in the game, becoming the first player in league history to do so in his team’s first eight games.
“It gives you a little bit of bragging rights around the league,” he said. “Your friends are going to be calling and I know the guys in the locker room are going to be messing around with me.
“It was a real team victory today. The offence played well, and so did the defence and special teams. There is nothing more you can ask for that a complete team victory.”
Edmonton tied a dubious record of its own with their sixth-straight loss. It is only the second time in team history that the Eskimos have gone 1-7 to start a season, the last being in 1971.
Edmonton has now lost its last four games by a combined score of 12 points and the frustration level is peaking.
“It’s tough, very frustrating,” said receiver Fred Stamps, who reeled in a pair of TD passes. “We feel like we’re so close. It’s frightening.
“It’s tough because we’re so hungry. I don’t know. We’re right there, we’re right there.”
Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed agreed.
“With the game we played, we should have beat arguably the best team in the league,” he said. “We just couldn’t finish it off again.”
Edmonton got on the board on its first possession, as newcomer Hugh O’Neill kicked a 46-yard field goal. The Riders responded on their first drive with a 27-yard field goal by Chris Milo to make it 3-3, a score that stood up to the end of the first quarter.
Milo opened up the second frame with a 36-yard field goal to put Saskatchewan up 6-3.
The Eskimos recorded the game’s first touchdown three minutes into the second quarter as quarterback Mike Reilly spotted Stamps wide open in the end zone for a 33-yard score. Stamps also recorded two major milestones in the game, moving into fourth on Edmonton’s all-time receptions list and into fifth for team receiving yards.
The Eskimos defence continued to come up big in the first half to keep Saskatchewan from crossing the goal-line, but Milo was able to add a pair of late field goals to edge his team into a 12-10 lead at the midmark.
The Riders added to their lead in broken record fashion to start the third quarter as Milo had his fifth field goal of the game to put Saskatchewan up 15-10.
Edmonton regained the lead just past the mid-point of the third quarter as Reilly found Stamps for his second TD reception of the day as the veteran receiver slid to make a 21-yard catch in the end zone to put the Eskimos up 17-15.
Saskatchewan bounced back with three minutes to play in the third as Sheets propelled his team down the field with a couple of big gains before making the Edmonton defence look hapless as he slipped past three tacklers for a 10-yard TD run to put the Roughriders up 22-17.
Two minutes later the lead see-sawed back in Edmonton’s favour as a 41-yard passing play to Marcus Henry set up a 13-yard Reilly pass for a TD to Cary Koch to put the Eskimos back in front 24-22. It was the sixth lead change of the game, league-high for this season.
Edmonton increased its lead to five points on a 42-yard field goal from O’Neill with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Once again Saskatchewan jumped back in front with eight minutes to play as Sheets easily knifed through the Eskimos defence for an 18-yard touchdown and a 29-27 Riders lead.
Edmonton looked like it was going to retake the lead after a huge 35-yard catch by Koch took the Eskimos to the two-yard line with six minutes to play. However, backup Kerry Joseph bobbled a snap to put them back to the five and then Reilly was picked off in the end zone by Dwight Anderson. Saskatchewan ended up with a punt single from the turnover to lead 30-27.
“We just kept in the game and kept in the moment,” Anderson said. “We just didn’t get flustered. We just knew that we needed to keep going out there and come up with a big play to give our offence a chance to win it.”
With just over a minute to play, the Esks were mounting one final drive. However, Reilly was crushed for a sack and fumbled the ball, with Rider Ricky Foley recovering to give Saskatchewan the ball at the Edmonton 54 and allowing them to run down the clock.
Notes: It was the 199th regular season meeting between the two teams. Edmonton came into the contest with a winning record of 114-82-2a Edmonton entered the game having lost its last three games by a combined nine points and on the heels of a 36-33 loss to Toronto despite quarterback Mike Reilly passing for an impressive 511 yardsa Saskatchewan was without wide receiver Rob Bagg, who missed the game with a knee straina After becoming just the third player in CFL history to record his 1,000th catch last week, Geroy Simon got the five receiving yards he needed to become the first to reach the 16,000 yard plateau. Simon has now gone 178 games with at least one catcha Kicker Hugh O’Neill, who signed with Edmonton after starting the season with B.C., handled the field goal duties with Grant Shaw on kickoffs and puntsa Eskimos defensive end Odell Willis left the game with an upper body injury and did not returna The announced attendance was 41,868.