Jones: Why was it so close?

Edmonton's T.J. Hill, right, talks with Saskatchewan's Marc Parenteau after the Edmonton Eskimos...

Edmonton's T.J. Hill, right, talks with Saskatchewan's Marc Parenteau after the Edmonton Eskimos CFL football game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on Nov. 4, 2011. The Eskimos won 23-20. (CODIE MCLACHLAN/QMI AGENCY)

Terry Jones, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:21 AM ET

Let’s be honest here.

Shouldn’t the Edmonton Eskimos have kicked the livin’ beejeebers out of the sad-sack Saskatchewan Roughriders Friday night?

Look at the list:

• The Riders had a lame-duck head coach.

• They’d lost all previous nine games against Western Conference teams.

• They came in here with 22 men on the injury reserve list.

• They played their second- and third-string quarterbacks.

• The Eskimos received a 226-yard two-touchdown receiving game from Adarius Bowman.

• And Edmonton had a 76-yard rushing game by Jerome Messam.

How can you get 300 yards of offence from two players, who both hit the 1,000-yard mark for the season, and have to kick a field goal to win it 23-20 with 42.5 remaining on the clock?

That was the first question asked of head coach Kavis Reed after the game.

He didn’t answer it.

“I’ve said it all year that Adarius Bowman is our most valuable player,” said the first-year head coach.

“And I’m extremely proud of what (Messam) did all season.”

Reed avoided any and all negatives in dealing with this as he tried to wipe the slate clean for his 11-7 team going into their first home playoff game since 2004.

Basically what the Eskimos have to hope happens on today’s final game of the schedule is for the Calgary Stampeders to defeat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to make the final game of the schedule relevant for the Montreal Alouettes against the B.C. Lions. A Calgary win would create a season finale with both teams playing for first place. A Calgary loss and the Als would likely be resting Anthony Calvillo and other veterans.

No matter what happens in the first game, though, if the Lions lose the Eskimos will finish first and play host to the Western Final for the first time since 2003. If the Lions win, the Eskimos will play the Stampeders here next Sunday, in their first home playoff game since the 2004 Western semifinal.

“I’m not going to be home to watch the games. I’m taking my wife out to a movie. I’m turning my phone off,” said Reed.

Asked which movie, he said he’s not sure.

“Chick flick,” he suggested.

To score such a herky-jerky win didn’t exactly fuel any Grey Cup fever in the town that is going ga-ga over its NHL hockey team’s start to the season, even if it meant the first home playoff game here since the second-last year of the 34-year-run of being in the playoffs every year.

How could this team have that much trouble putting the Roughriders away?

“It was a win,” said defensive co-ordinator Rich Stubler on the trip down from the press box to the dressing room.

“If it’s a win, I’m OK with it.”

Ricky Ray said he’s not going to watch football all day today either.

“It would be hard to sit there watching those games all day cheering for those different teams that much,” said the quarterback who ended up with a 22-for-32 day for 305 yards.

And he’s not sure he’s going to be looking forward to the game films of this one, either.

“It was one of those strange games. We had a lot of negative plays that hurt a lot of drives. And we had those big plays to Adarius, that first real big one (71 yards),” and then the one to follow when he sent the best Eskimos YAC (yards after catch) man since Terry Vaughn in for another one to give the Eskimos a 14-7 lead at the half.

“Those two plays got the team going,” said Ray. “Now we have to go back and deal with the negative plays and keep in the big plays and get ready to play a playoff game.”

Somewhere in here credit has to go to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, though.

“Our defence didn’t play the game we wanted to and personally I had my worst game,” said defensive leader Rod Davis.

“But I take my hat off to that other team. They played a lot harder than I thought they would. They came here and played a playoff type of game against us.”

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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