The Edmonton Eskimos seem to have a pretty good backup plan for the playoffs if something should happen to regular starter Mike Reilly.
James Franklin threw for four touchdown passes, including a pair to rookie Brandon Zylstra, as the Eskimos finished off the regular season by beating the Toronto Argonauts 41-17 on Saturday in a game that meant nothing in terms of the playoff picture.
The defending Grey Cup champion Eskimos (10-8-0), who rested several of their starters, won their final two games and five of their last six. Edmonton moves on to a cross-over East semifinal game against the Tiger-Cats in Hamilton next Sunday.
“It was nice to get out there. There was a little thought in the back of my head that I felt like I would have been rusty since it’s been a long time,” said Franklin, who was 18 for 23 passing for 335 yards. “But it helped out that the O-line and receivers made it pretty easy for me.”
Eskimos head coach Jason Maas said he was pleased to see the depth of his team on display.
“We set out this week to get better as a football team, and I think we accomplished that goal,” he said. “Obviously, we did it with a different group of guys playing, but it’s all guys that we expected big things out of.”
The Argos (5-13-0) are done for the season. Toronto lost its last seven games and won only one out of its last 12.
“It was obviously not the way we wanted to see the season go,” said Toronto quarterback Ricky Ray. “We had high hopes, especially early in the season, but we just didn’t play well enough in the middle of the second half. We got what we deserved. We didn’t do what we needed to do to be a good team in this league, which is the frustrating part of it.”
Ray engineered a long opening drive, capped by a two-yard touchdown run by Brandon Whitaker. Ray was making his 200th career start in the city where he began his CFL career.
There has been talk that Ray may have been playing his final game in the CFL, but he said he hasn’t made a definitive decision yet.
“I’m not sure, so I’m going to take some time,” he said.
Edmonton tied the game two plays later as Franklin, getting the start at QB with the Eskimos resting Reilly, found Zylstra for a 28-yard passing TD.
The Esks went up 14-7 to start the second quarter with Shakir Bell reeling in a four-yard TD pass.
Franklin continued to air it up, hitting a stunningly wide-open Devon Bailey on a 72-yard pass and run into the end zone.
The porous Argos coverage continued late into the second, as Franklin picked them apart for a couple of long passes before completing a 15-yard TD toss to Zylstra, who finished the game with 186 yards.
“It was a good chance for us young guys to really step up and show what we can do out here,” he said. “We all had good games.”
Toronto got a one-yard passing TD from Ray to Brian Jones to make it 28-14 at the half.
The two teams traded field goals in the third quarter.
Edmonton got another three-pointer from kicker Sean Whyte before backup QB Jordan Lynch ran one in from four yards out to close out the scoring.
Notes: The Argos haven’t finished in last place in the East Division since 2011... Edmonton went 43 days between home games at Commonwealth Stadium, not playing a home game at all in October.Report Typo/Error