O line key to Esks win

Edmonton Eskimos' Tyler Scott reaches for a first down against the Hamilton Tiger Cats.  ...

Edmonton Eskimos' Tyler Scott reaches for a first down against the Hamilton Tiger Cats. (REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber)

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:49 PM ET

They’ve taken so much blame in their nine losses it’s only fitting that the Edmonton Eskimos offensive line was the first to get credited with Sunday’s 37-35 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

And it’s not every day that a bunch of pass-protecting run blockers outplay a quarterback who completes 78% of his passes for nearly 400 yards and two touchdowns and a receiver who caught 10 passes for nearly 200 yards.

But head coach Richie Hall chalked those big numbers up to cause and effect.

“I think everything starts off with the front,” said Hall, whose squad put together their first winning streak of the season with back-to-back victories over eastern opponents in the last two weeks. “Everyone caught the ball and everyone made plays, but it all starts off with the guys up front and I think they did a heck of a job.”

They’ll look to extend their streak to three wins in Friday’s rematch in Hamilton.

“Long time coming, there’s no doubt about that,” Eskimos left guard Kyle Koch said of two in a row. “To do it the way we did and score some points, it feels good. To just go down the field and move the ball. We’ve had our issues a little bit with that, so to play a good team and move the ball a little bit is kind of nice.

“I’m sure it will be a little different next week. They’ll have a little something for us, I’m sure.”

The unit showed solidarity that might not have been expected from a group that not only saw two starters lose their jobs so far, but also underwent a change in O-line coach part way through the season.

On Sunday, they took control as the Eskimos dominated the time of possession 35:22-24:38.

“When you have the ball that long, you start to get in a groove,” said Koch. “It feels good to put some drives together.”

Their most important one came with five minutes left in the game, when they came up with a goal-line push to propel Ray into the end zone on a QB keeper for the winning touchdown.

Second-year CFLer Greg Wojt has fit right in, moving from the sixth man on the O-line’s depth chart to making his fifth start after being relegated to a backup role in his rookie season.

Right guard Patrick Kabongo had a strong, complete-game performance after getting pulled mid-game one week earlier against the Toronto Argonauts in favour of Kelly Bates — who came in to kick-start the O-line on their way to a 173-yard rushing game that didn’t see Ray get sacked.

Following Sunday’s game, Ray has been sacked just once in his last two outings, with TiCats team leader Justin Hickman getting his seventh of the season, while Eskimos left tackle was able to fend off 2009 sack co-leader Stevie Baggs.

The Eskimos have been steadily improving in the protection department, currently sitting tied for fifth with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers with 32 sacks allowed, while the Ticats have allowed a league-low 23.

But that didn’t make a difference Sunday afternoon, as the Eskimos had double Hamilton’s production thanks to a two-sack performance by defensive end Greg Peach, who has returned with a vengeance to sit tied for third on the team with three sacks in just two games after missing the first half of the season with an ankle injury.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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