Big plays give Esks win

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

CALGARY -- They sagged a bit, let their momentum slip away and watched a first-half masterpiece deteriorate into a second half dog's breakfast.

But when the Edmonton Eskimos needed somebody to step up and make a big play, it got made.

And on a strange Labour Day afternoon at McMahon Stadium, where a 25-1 whitewash was somehow up for grabs in the final minute, a handful of highlight-reel efforts helped the visitors escape disaster.

"Big plays are the key to football," said linebacker A.J. Gass, after the Esks hung on for a 25-23 decision over a Stampeders team they thought was dead and buried. "They helped us set the tempo in the first half and helped us pull it out when they were coming back."

FIVE PLAYS DETERMINE IT

Former coach Ron Lancaster always used to say that in every football game five plays determine who wins and who loses. Here they were:

- Early in the game, after a long Calgary completion, Shannon Garrett strips Ken-Yon Rambo in Edmonton territory and Gass runs the fumble back 52 yards to set up a field goal.

- Late in the second quarter, with Edmonton up 13-1, Tim Fleiszer blocks a Calgary punt and Mike Bradley scoops it up for the major. You could hear the life being sucked out of Calgary.

"If you can get points like that right at the end of the half it can be a really big play," said Fleiszer. "I was lobbying for the block on the sideline and coach (Malvin) Hunter made a great call, designed a great block and we were able to execute it."

- Early in the third quarter, Joe Montford sacks Henry Burris in the end zone for a safety, the eventual margin of victory.

"That was really important because we all knew it was going to be a close game," said Garrett, putting aside concerns about his flooded house in Mississippi for 60 solid minutes. "Even when it was 20-1 we knew it was going to be close and that a strip or a turnover like that could be the difference."

- With five minutes to go in the game, and Edmonton up 25-17, Burris throws to wide-open Joffrey Reynolds at the Edmonton 10. Kelly Wiltshire gets there just as Reynolds is pulling in the pass and practically knocks him cold. It's an incompletion rather than first and goal, Calgary, from the 10.

"They brought me here to be physical.," said Wiltshire. "I give him credit, though, he got up and got back in the game. That's a tough, tough running back because I got him good."

CHASED DOWN BURRIS

- And on Calgary's last gasp, a two-point conversion attempt to tie it, the DBs took away everything and lineman Cedric Scott chased down Burris for the game-clinching sack.

"The credit goes to Joe Montford because he set the tackle up so well that when I came around on the stunt there was nobody there," said Scott.

"I just had to run him down. I knew he was faster than me, so I just closed my eyes and just dove. He fell and that was the end of the game."

LATE HIT: Mike Jenkins didn't fare much better out of the Eskimos backfield than previous running backs Elvis Joseph and Ron McClendon. He had eight carries for 30 yards.


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