|Eskimos QB Kerry Joseph throws a ball downfield during first half CFL preseason action against the Roughriders in Regina on Friday, June 17, 2011. (QMI Agency/Roy Antal)
REGINA - The wind and rain weren't the only things blowing in Mosaic Stadium on Friday night.
With swirling gusts of up to 80 kmh, the Edmonton Eskimos opened the 2011 preseason with a 23-22 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
While neither side was expected to be perfect, with starting quarterbacks Ricky Ray and Darian Durant stuck on the sidelines, the Eskimos offence had trouble getting off the ground.
It took three possessions for the Roughriders to put up the first points on the scoreboard. A 31-yard pass up the middle to an unmarked Cary Koch required the receiver to stretch out and make a one-handed grab, setting up a six-yard draw to the end zone by Wes Cates.
After a quick two-and-out by an ineffective Eskimos offence, Roughriders return man Hugh Charles ran back a 35-yard punt double the distance to open up a 14-0 lead with four-and-a-half minutes left in the opening quarter.
Roughriders kicker Eddie Johnson added a single complements of an 83-yard kickoff with the wind.
In his first start in two years, Kerry Joseph had trouble coming up with completions, throwing away his first four attempts before coming up with his team’s first first down with his legs on a 16-yard scramble.
It was their only first down of the quarter.
Joseph’s first completion, a 12-yard pass to fullback Mathieu Bertrand, opened the second quarter before stringing together a scoring drive.
The Eskimos travelled 52 yards on seven plays – with the help of three offside calls against the Roughriders – before running back Calvin McCarty punched in a six-yard run to trail 15-7 with four-and-a-half minutes left in the half.
Duval added a 38-yard field goal after quarterback Matt Nichols’ first drive went two-and-out.
The second half opened with Corbin Sharun recovering a fumbled kickoff return before Derek Schiavone missed a 26-yard field goal attempt wide left through the end zone.
Although the single point put them behind 15-11, the Roughriders responded with a 50-yard completion to Patrick Brown, who had no problem separating from what little coverage he had to double their lead, 22-11.
A missed 42-yard field goal attempt by Christopher Milo made it 23-11.
Nichols answered back with a eight-yard draft ending in a six-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Youssy Pierre. The Eskimos trailed 23-18 before Nichols was replaced by hometown boy Marc Mueller to open the fourth quarter.
Linebacker Chris Graham sacked the University of Regina Rams quarterback, before the youngster came back to complete Edmonton’s longest pass of the game, a 24-yard connection to Ray Fisher.
Mueller got in on some defence, as well, after Eskimos running back Pascal Fils fumbled the ball away and the quarterback put his body on the line with a diving tackle.
Nichols came back in, only to fumble the ball away after getting sacked by Cory Huclack, before their fourth quarterback of the evening, Eric Ward, was welcomed to the league by a Graham sack.
Schiavone knocked one through the uprights from 14 yards out to trail by two in the final two minutes, before closing the game out with a 64-yard single off another missed field goal.
Nichols finished with six of nine attempts for 53 yards and a touchdown, while Joseph completed three of nine for 32 yards.