|Eskimos' running back A.J. Harris had an impressive nine-yard average per carry on 189 total yards. (Sun Media/Jason Franson)
The Edmonton Eskimos should bring back their Defend The Turf marketing slogan.
A 27-10 victory over an ineffective Saskatchewan Roughrider club last night makes the Eskimos a perfect 4-0 at Commonwealth Stadium this year.
The win also means Edmonton is now just two points behind the West Division leading Riders with a 5-3 record.
And the Esks can point to a suddenly discovered running game for a big reason why the Grey Cup champs have lost two in a row.
Edmonton rookie AJ Harris ran all over the field last night, gaining a stunning 189 rushing yards. It marked the first time an Eskimo topped the 100-yard rushing mark since Game 1 of the 2007 regular season when Tyler Ebell romped for 132 yards.
"It was tiring," laughed Harris after the final gun. "(The offensive line) blocked absolutely amazing. Every time I had the ball they had somewhere for me to go. I was just cutting off them every time."
Harris's effort came one game after he gained just nine yards on five carries against B.C. That ugly performance led to a 1.8-yard average per carry.
But last night, Harris had an impressive nine-yard average per carry in front of a season-high 48,808 fans.
"Our O-line and AJ stepped up tonight," said Edmonton pivot Ricky Ray. "We didn't get off to the best start and they just took over up front."
Added Rider head coach Ken Miller: "(Harris) played well and we just weren't in our gaps on defence."
After scoring 27 unanswered points yesterday, the Eskimos now have possession of second-place in the West Division.
But the Riders definitely deserve some of the credit for the Esks latest home victory.
Starting Saskatchewan pivot Marcus Crandell was an abysmal 7-for-24 for 134 yards. He completed one pass in the second half.
The Esks spotted the Riders a 10-0 lead in the first quarter by failing to get a first down in the first 12 minutes of the game.
A safety, single and 35-yard touchdown catch by rookie Weston Dressler gave the visitors an early cushion. But the Esks scored 17 unanswered points to end the first half.
Ricky Ray and AJ Harris got their wires crossed on a handoff, but Harris received a key block from Calvin Armstrong and then romped 36 yards to the end zone to end the first stanza.
Edmonton took the lead on an eight-yard Kamau Peterson diving grab in the end zone in the second quarter after he cleanly beat Eddie Davis with a move to the inside.
The Esks had to settle for a nine-yard Noel Prefontaine field goal to the end the half.
It could have proven to be a costly missed opportunity, but the Edmonton offence didn't stop marching down the field in the second half.
That didn't result in touchdowns but it brought more field goals.
PARTING SHOT: "He was good. He hit it hard and got a lot of YAC (yards after carry) yards," said Edmonton head coach Danny Maciocia on Harris. Entering yesterday, Harris had 262 rushing yards through the entire year.