Esks offence shows closing ability
By DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency
|Fred Stamps helped kick start the Eskimos offence against Calgary with a couple of early touchdowns, but it was the team's ability to put up points late in the game, after the momentum had shifted, that put the game out of reach of the Stampeders. (LYLE ASPINALL/QMI Agency
EDMONTON - A sign of a good football team has always been the ability to close out a tight game.
Until Saturday, the jury was still out on whether the Edmonton Eskimos were actually a good football team despite starting the season with three consecutive wins.
Yet in their victory over the Calgary Stampeders, the Eskimos were able to come through on both sides of the ball with the game on the line and momentum in their opponent’s favour.
“There’s a lot that goes into winning,” said Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray. “Right now, we’re doing a fair amount of good things.
“Right now we’re playing some pretty good football. We’re not hurting ourselves, we’re not turning the football over, we’re not having a lot of negative plays, we’re making some big plays, while our defence is doing a good job of limiting big plays and getting us back out on the field.”
On Saturday, the Eskimos built a 21-5 lead over the Stampeders in Calgary before the contest began to shift.
In the second half, the Eskimos offence started to sputter, while the Stampeders began to find a rhythm.
The visitors saw their lead dwindle in the fourth quarter to just two points with just over five minutes left in the contest.
Yet, when it was most needed, the Eskimos were able to march the ball 72-yards down the field to score a vital field goal.
The drive took valuable time off the clock and forced the Stampeders to look for a touchdown.
“If you don’t score there, then you’re just up two and you give them a chance to come down and kick a field goal,” said Eskimos quarterback Rick Ray. “We really didn’t do much in the second half offensively, but for us to be able to put that drive together and make them score a touchdown to win was big for us.”
The 11-play drive took 3:39 seconds off the clock in the closing stages of the fourth quarter. It gave the Stampeders just a little over 90 seconds to rescue the contest.
“Our defence played great the whole game and we didn’t help them out enough in the second half,” said Ray. “But we were able to get those three points that helped our defence, defend them a little better going the other way.”
Had running back Arkee Whitlock been able to hold on to a pass in the end zone on the Eskimos final drive, there wouldn’t have been a need for the defence to close out the contest.
It would have been the ideal way to cap off the club’s most impressive drive of the game.
“I think I misjudged it and I jumped the wrong way,” Whitlock said. “Things were moving so fast, but I’ll make that play next time.
“Thank God, that we were still able to get the victory. If we hadn’t, coach would have killed me.”
Despite the drop, Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed did not appear all that concern on the sidelines, confident his defence would be able to keep the Stampeders out of the end zone, which they did.
“It was probably one of the better drops, because we got to really test the character of our team,” said Reed. “The game would have been essentially over had he made that play.
“When it came down to it, we had to execute a field goal and we had to go out and we had to stop a very good Calgary team. What gets lost in this, is that our special teams did a very good job. If that kickoff wasn’t perfectly placed and rolled for a while, and those guys didn’t go down and make the tackle, they (the Stampeders) wouldn’t have had that distance to travel and it may have been a different result. Our team did a very good job.”