The 2019 schedule worked out so that the Edmonton Eskimos did not meet the Saskatchewan Roughrider’s until the final two weeks of the season. While the Eskimos cannot finish higher than fourth place, the Roughriders still had a chance to finish in first in the Western Conference. For the Eskimos, these final two games are about building momentum heading into the playoffs. The team received some good news this week as Trevor Harris practised and would get his first action since leaving the Labour Day rematch against the Calgary Stampeder’s in September.
One of the things that has eluded the Eskimos this year has been a ‘good start’ to a game where both the offence and the defence were ready to go from the opening kickoff. They got that Saturday night in the first quarter as a returning Trevor Harris did not look rusty for a quarterback that had not seen game action since week 13. Harris threw for over 100 yards in the first quarter which staked the home team to a 14-0 lead. On the other side of the ball, the Eskimo defence pressured the Riders and Cody Fajardo and kept the visiting team off balance in the first half. It was one of the best halves of football the team has had this year as the Eskimos took a 17-7 lead into the locker room.
Unfortunately, the Eskimo team we have seen most of this season showed up in the second half. The offence only managed four first downs and zero points in the third quarter while the Roughriders scored two touchdowns to take a 21-17 lead heading into the fourth quarter. In what has become all to commonplace, the Eskimos came out of the locker room and played a poor third quarter putting the team in a hole. Give credit to the Eskimo offence that found itself down by seven points with just over six minutes left in the game and had Trevor Harris lead the team 75 yards in 10 plays to tie the game.
The Eskimos now had the momentum and after the ensuing kickoff, the Riders were called for holding and ended up starting on their own six-yard line. The defence was looking to force a punt and give the offence a chance to win the game, but they could not stop the Riders. Fajardo led his team on a nine play 70 yard drive that resulted in a 43 yard field goal that gave Saskatchewan a hard fought 27-24 win and first place in the West. It was a hard pill for the Eskimos to swallow, but in the post game conference the players talked up the positives of this game.
Unfortunately, one of the underlying stories of this season has been the teams’ inability to beat a quality opponent. The Eskimos have only won one game against a playoff bound team and even though there were positives in this game, there are still too many questions. The biggest one has to be ‘What has happened to the Eskimo defence’? It was the strength of the team when the season started, but now is a definite weakness. In the three losses the Eskimos had to playoff teams, they gave up on average over 119 yards on the ground and 347 yards in the air. When you give up an average over 460 yards of offense you are not going to win many games…especially going into the playoffs!