EDMONTON - It’s a defensive lineman’s dream, scooping up a fumble and having a clear path to the end zone.
Getting there, however, is a different reality altogether.
On Saturday, Eskimos’ defensive tackle Dario Romero picked up the ball after Kai Ellis pancaked Darian Durant, causing the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ quarterback to fumble.
Romero had 30 yards between himself and the end zone, but came up seven short of a touchdown.
“After I stiff-armed the O-lineman to the ground, I thought I was home free,” Romero smiled on Sunday.
“But the next thing I knew, I was on the ground, seven yards short of the end zone.
“That would have been the first touchdown of my career. When I was in college, I had a 37-yard interception and I was tackled at that one-yard line ... so I’m still looking for that touchdown.”
Romero was eventually tracked down by Roughriders running back Wes Cates.
It gave the Eskimos a first down on their opponent’s seven-yard line.
“I thought he was going to make it, but he ran out of gas,” said Eskimos head coach Richie Hall.
“They had two white shirts (Roughriders) and we had a whole bunch of green shirts (Eskimos) around the ball, but for whatever reason, Dario was unable to make that last move.”
The play was created by Ellis, who along with Romero, broke through Saskatchewan’s offensive line and got to Durant in the backfield.
Ellis tackled the quarterback, then held on to him as the ball bounced agonizingly away.
It was a heads-up play by Ellis as Durant probably would have gotten to the ball first had he been allowed to get up.
Unfortunately for the Eskimos, they were unable to capitalize on the field position, getting stuffed twice, then failing to convert on a third-down gamble.
However, the play was an example of the defence’s dominance. The Eskimos limited Saskatchewan to 258 yards of total offence and one touchdown.
The Roughriders other score came on an interception return by safety James Patrick.
“We were just disciplined, everybody did their job, nobody was trying to do more than they were supposed to,” Romero said.
“We were just playing with the passion that you have to play with. We knew we had good guys, we knew we had a good group and we were able to put it all together.”
The Esks had Durant under pressure most of the game. He completed 19 of 39 passes and threw three interceptions.
“Our preparation wasn’t really any different than it had been in the past,” Romero said. “We just came out with some energy and stayed focused for four quarters.”
The play of the defence allowed the Eskimos to claw their way back and eventually pull out a 17-14 win.
“They just did what they were supposed to do,” Hall said. “From the run perspective, they were in their gaps, and I thought for the most part we did a pretty good job of tackling.
“We did a pretty good job of attacking the line of scrimmage and we made plays when we had the opportunity to make plays.
“We outscored them 17-0 after the first quarter, and that took a lot of character on our part.”