That's special!

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

TORONTO -- Almost one hour before kickoff at Rogers Centre yesterday afternoon, Edmonton Eskimo linebacker A.J. Gass repeatedly yelled "big time" as the offensive unit stepped on the field for warm-up drills, pounding home the importance of the upcoming tilt against the Toronto Argos.

Nearly four hours later, the Eskimos walked off the turf with a big-time 17-13 win in their pocket.

"It's huge for us and it's a confidence builder. It takes us up in the standings and creates a little separation," said Gass, in a relieved Eskimo locker- room. "It would have been a nightmare (to lose)."

After losing three of their last four, yesterday's win means the Eskimos are now two points ahead of Saskatchewan in the fight for second place and a home playoff date in the CFL West Division.

It also means Commonwealth Stadium will be home to a huge showdown between the Eskimos and Riders on Saturday.

A win by more than one point over Saskatchewan would guarantee that the Esks finish ahead of the Riders and clinch a 34th straight playoff spot.

And when the Riders arrive in Edmonton, one of the first questions they'll hear is: How do you hope to stop running back Troy Davis?

Davis ran over the Argos during stages yesterday, deserving the Eskimo game ball after rumbling for 112 yards on 19 carries, marking the first time since Sept. 10, 2004, an Eskimo topped the century mark.

"No words can do it justice," said Gass of Davis's performance.

DIDN'T TALK TO MEDIA

Davis didn't talk to the media after the game, letting his performance on the field do the talking. After the first two drives of the game, Davis had 55 yards on five carries.

But for the most part, it was a dull first half for both teams and 34,116 fans at Rogers Centre.

The teams traded majors - Toronto scoring first with Tony Tompkins answering with his fourth TD return of the season - before Sean Fleming conceded a safety to make it 9-7 at half.

But an Edmonton rookie and John Avery delivered the turning point in the third quarter.

With the Argos driving near midfield with the score tied at 10, rookie defensive tackle Charles Alston forced ex-Eskimo Avery to fumble.

"It is not surprising to me," said veteran Edmonton defensive end Joe Montford. "If anybody is going to run it down it's No. 95 (Alston)."

Avery felt Alston grabbed his facemask while using his other hand to punch the ball out, but admitted: "I think it was a turning point in the game."

CALLING THE SHOTS

With quarterback Ricky Ray calling the shots, the Eskimos marched down the field on 12 plays to score the winning touchdown, taking a 17-10 lead on a one-yard QB sneak. But that wasn't the end of the big plays or big drama.

On the next drive Avery appeared to make amends with a seven-yard TD run, but the play was called back by an illegal procedure penalty.

"A tight end, as well as our split end, both lined up on the same side of the ball. We didn't have the tackle on the opposite end of the line scrimmage covered," explained Toronto coach Mike Clemons.

"It was a significant play."

The Argos had to settle for a 20-yard field goal, making it 17-13.

But Toronto still had life - and was driving deep in Edmonton territory with less than five minutes on the clock - when safety Kelly Wiltshire stripped the rock from receiver Robert Baker and Marcus Winn recovered to put the offence on the field with 4:40 on the clock.

"We spoke in the huddle and said: 'Let's be selfish. Let's keep the defence on the sidelines. Let's run this clock out,' " said receiver Ed Hervey.

That's exactly what happened, as Ray led the Green and Gold on a 12-play drive, using Davis six times before taking a knee to kill the clock on the Argo five-yard line and kill the Eskimos' slump.


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