CALGARY - EE Hawww?
Go ahead, Eskimo fans. You’re allowed.
In 46 Labour Day Classics, there have been several Miracles in McMahon. But this one ranked right up there with the most astonishing and astounding of them all.
After having their team bus sideswiped on the way to the game, the Edmonton Eskimos were down 7-0 to the Calgary Stampeders by the end of the first quarter and had not scored a touchdown in 12 floundering quarters of flabbergasting football.
But in the second quarter, after 53 consecutive series without a touchdown, Kerry Joseph came in to carry one in from the one.
Too bad Bryan Hall wasn’t here to scream it.
In the end it was a 35-7 win to move the Eskimos into a first place tie with the Stampeders with 6-3 records.
But you had to wonder if in there somewhere was a turning point than beyond winning a Labour Day game, even one which gave the Eskimos the season series no matter what happens in Friday’s return match.
“What happened today can go a long way toward our season. It was very important to play well and get a win,” said head coach Kavis Reed.
“We needed to come in here and get some positives. We needed a boost. We needed an injection of confidence.
“We needed a game like this and we got it.”
You wonder if it might be the turning point which could go even further into the future.
Reed’s comments were echoed by the player who returned to the line-up on defence and showed once again that he’s the straw that stirs the drink on that side of the ball on a day when he had a complete cast of co-stars in the front seven who kept Burris off having a chance to test the suspect secondary.
“This definitely sets not only sets us up for the game Friday. But I think it sets us up for the rest of season and maybe beyond,” said Greg Peach who is now 19-11 when in the lineup for the Eskimos. The team is 3-12 when he’s been out with injury.
The turning point came after Henry Burris moved the Stampeders, who came in on a four-game winning streak, 99 yards in eight plays for a first-quarter touchdown.
After that, the Calgary quarterback didn’t complete a pass in the second quarter. He threw two interceptions, fumbled the ball away twice and was booed by Calgary fans and was replaced in the second half.
Burris beat Ray statistically — a ridiculous 132 yards passing to 131 — but the Eskimos quarterback worked the injury-riddled offence for all it was worth to stop the bleeding and win a football game.
Ray, on a Peach fumble recovery, was presented with field position to record his first touchdown pass in 14 quarters. On the next series, Damaso Munoz picked off a pass and Ray threw a 31-yard touchdown to Adarius Bowman to make it two touchdown passes in succession on a day he didn’t give up an interception.
Ray, who had been sacked eight times in the last game and 18 times in the previous three, didn’t get sacked once in this one. And the Eskimos, who were a plus-11 in turnovers during their 5-0 run and minus-11 in their three losses, were a plus four.
But the defence definitely won this day.
“Our defence played so well,” said Peach, who returned as a linebacker instead of a defensive end, a move by defensive co-ordinator Rich Stubler which appeared to have a great deal to do the confusion of Burris, who seemed to take his frustration out on the Calgary crowd which had abandoned him.
“We put a lot of work in trying to take the ball out of his hands. We did a pretty good job of shutting him down,” said Peach.
“We changed some things. It was unbelievable how the defence came together and played as hard as they played together.” said Stubler.
“We knew about what happened here last Labour Day,” he said of the 52-5 drubbing in 2010 by the Stampeders, who went into this game with four wins in the last five Labour Days.
“These are young guys on this defence. But they’ve been schooled pretty well on this being a team of tradition. We lost sight of it for a few years, but that was an Eskimo defence out there on Labour Day this year,” he said.
“This team has good character. I said coming here that the team which wins the battle for possession will win the football game,” said Reed.
The Eskimos won it 35:40 to 24:20.
That will be forgotten. But 35-7 won’t for a while.
And there’s the suspicion this game may be remembered for a long time for reason relating to a much bigger picture.
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