Eskimos snap out of it

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:41 AM ET

The drought is over.

And there's plenty of joy in Mudville now that the Edmonton Eskimos have snapped a three-game losing skid and are playing .500 football again.

Jason Maas passed for 454 yards and fired four touchdown strikes as the defending Grey Cup champions downed the Montreal Alouettes 39-19 before a Thanksgiving Day crowd of 37,708 at Commonwealth Stadium yesterday.

Heading into the game, the Esks wanted to go deep early and often.

"We played a physical game and made big plays tonight," offered Maas, who was good on 20 of 34 attempts.

"It wasn't always pretty, but we got the job done. When you put in as much work as we did last week and beat a team like that, it feels great."

Esks running back Mike Pringle tied George Reed on the CFL all-time touchdown list with 137 as he ran for one TD and had a seven-yard catch for another.

"It's great to be able to have tied Mr. Reed's record at home and have it come with the victory," said Pringle, who rushed for 67 yards and topped the 1,000-yard rushing plateau for the ninth time in 13 CFL seasons.

LOTS OF GOOD THINGS

"We did a lot of good things out there on the offensive side of the ball and we overcame some adversities. But we played Eskimo football today."

Maas parlayed a couple of Donny Brady interceptions into majors in the opening half as the Esks improved to 8-8-0 on the year and regained a share of second spot in the CFL Western Division standings.

Jason Tucker hauled in an 85-yard bomb on the first play from scrimmage following Brady's first pick. In the second quarter Maas hit a wide open Derrell Mitchell with a 73-yard strike, a scant three plays after Brady's second interception.

"Our job is to run our routes and get open," offered Tucker, who had six receptions for 188 yards. "If the quarterback puts it where it needs to be, we're going to do our job. You've got to be hungry when that ball is in there. It's got to be yours and yours only."

The Esks withstood a late flurry which saw Montreal pivot Anthony Calvillo engineer a couple of four-play scoring drives in the span of 1:26 and narrow Edmonton's lead to 21-18 at the half.

"We talked about it all week and we've got to come back and start enjoying this game," said Brady, who now has five picks on the season. "My whole focus was to go out there and enjoy the game today. I just wanted to enjoy the game and play hard for my teammates. We gave each other everything today. Everybody looked in each other's eyes and we knew we were going to step up."

Brady played with his usual fire and took a couple of pass interference calls.

The flags against Brady were two of the 11 calls that cost Edmonton a whopping 111 yards in the first half. Montreal was penalized five times in the opening half for 10 yards, but saw a lot of nylon fly their direction in the second half.

SANCHEZ MELTDOWN

Als' defensive back Davis Sanchez was flagged for forward pass interference and proceeded to pick up three objectionable conduct penalties quickly.

The latter three calls triggered a jawing match between Sanchez and teammate Tim Strickland at the Montreal bench that culminated with Strickland swinging his helmet at Sanchez and clipping an official in the process.

"I expressed myself too much and they dinged me for it," was all Sanchez would say about the situation.

Montreal's high-pressure defence was kept in check by the Esks' patchwork offensive line anchored by neophyte centre and former right guard Kevin Lefsrud. Lefsrud only misfired once with Maas in the shotgun, while the five-man unit only surrendered one sack.

"We just played to a higher level," smiled Lefsrud. "We decided we were not going to talk anymore. We were just going to start playing. It was time to put up and shut up."

After a strong outing against Hamilton, Esks slotback Terry Vaughn got in on the act yesterday. Vaughn snagged his first TD pass since the final game of 2003.

The 32-year-old floated in behind Reggie Durden in the end zone early in the final frame and reeled in the ball after Durden failed to squeeze it for a pick.

"It was a jump ball. I just made a play on the ball," said Vaughn, who needs only 16 yards to hit the 1,000-yard receiving plateau for a CFL-record 10th straight season.


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