Esks put to bed

Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray is helped up by Patrick Kabongo, left, and Greg Wojth after...

Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray is helped up by Patrick Kabongo, left, and Greg Wojth after being shaken up on a play against the Saskatchewan Roughriders during the first half Saturday in Regina. (Fred Greenslade, Reuters)

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:24 AM ET

EDMONTON - REGINA — It was the end of a tumultuous season summed up in one game.

It came down to an onside kick before the Edmonton Eskimos finally surrendered 31-23 to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in their season finale Saturday.

The loss ended the Eskimos’ playoff hopes, allowing the B.C. Lions to leapfrog into the last remaining playoff spot in the West Division after dispatching the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 23-21, earlier in the day.

“We ran out of gas, ran out of time,” said Eskimos head coach Richie Hall, whose squad got off to an early 10-1 first-quarter lead before the Roughriders took control with 26-straight points the rest of the way.

“I’m proud of them, they overcame a lot of obstacles,” Hall said. “Other people would have rolled over and died, they gave ourselves an opportunity so I’m proud of them. They should be proud of themselves, they should walk with their heads tall.”

Trailing 31-16 in the final two minutes, quarterback Ricky Ray took matters upon himself, rushing for a four-yard touchdown to climb within eight points of the lead.

But the ensuing onside kick attempt was touched by one of the Eskimos before going out of bounds, thus being ruled illegal, giving the ball and the game to the Roughriders.

“It was sitting right there in front of us, an opportunity to win and get in the playoffs” said Ray, who completed 21 of 33 pass attempts for 246 yards and a touchdown, but fumbled the ball away twice while adding 37 rushing yards. “We just didn’t get it done, we didn’t get enough plays to do it.”

A 17-yard pass from Ray to slotback Fred Stamps was the only touchdown the Eskimos could muster amid a slew of first-half field-goal tries by both sides as Edmonton led 16-5.

But a pair of consecutive flags against the Eskimos secondary put the Roughriders on the porch for the first time, setting Durant up for a one-yard punch to trail 16-15 after 30 minutes.

The second half opened with the Roughriders taking their first lead of the game, 22-16, on a six-play, 61-yard drive that ended in a one-yard plunge by running back Wes Cates.

Linebacker Tad Kornegay then hit Ricky Ray, knocking the ball loose and giving it back to the Roughriders offence.

A 17-yard touchdown reception by Andy Fantuz put the Roughriders ahead 29-16.

Adding to their single-season record number of safety concessions, Eskimos kicker Derek Schiavone kneeled instead of punting from his own end zone to trail 31-16 heading into the final frame.

Porter rushed for 153 yards on 19 attempts — giving him over 100 rushing yards in each of his last four games since becoming the Eskimos starting running back.

“Up front, I think they did a great job,” Porter said. “We should have just stayed true to the run. Basically, we came out there kind of passing or whatever but in the second half we started running, which we should have been doing from the beginning.”

Since coming off the practice roster, the team’s most outstanding rookie has over 600 yards in the final five games of the season.

“This is going to hurt them for a long time,” said Hall. “But you want it to hurt because it meant something to them.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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