It was the game many Eskimo fans have been waiting for…the return of Mike Reilly to Edmonton to take on his former team. After spending six years as the starting quarterback of the Eskimos, Reilly signed with the B.C. Lions in the offseason. He was not the only one to leave Edmonton and find a home on the west coast…there are 13 former Eskimo players now with the Lions. When Jason Maas was asked about all of the former Eskimos playing with the B.C. Lions, Maas downplayed the connection, saying this was just another opponent.
The Eskimo defense was energized right from the start of the game as they pressured Reilly from the opening kickoff. Although Reilly took a number of hits on the first drive of the game, the result was a Lions touchdown (2 pt convert) and an 8-0 lead. The Eskimo offense had another slow start going two and out on their first possessions while the Lions score on both of their possessions. For the second week in a row, penalties hurt the Eskimos on offense and defense as the Lions built a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter and seemed in control of the game.
Trailing by 14 points seemed to be a wakeup call for the team. The Eskimos rallied and scored 17 straight points in the second quarter to take a 20-17 lead into the locker room at half time. The defense continued to pressure Mike Reilly and started to rack up the quarterback sacks. It was definitely a ‘tale of two quarters’ as the Lions controlled the first quarter while the Eskimos controlled the second quarter. The Eskimos big play makers (Harris, Ellingson and Gable) elevated their level of play in the second quarter as the Eskimos erased a two touchdown deficit and taking a three point lead into the locker room at halftime.
Prior to start the third quarter, Mike Reilly was asked what his team needed to do to take back the momentum and he said “execute” and not ‘take penalties”. Things did not really change for the Lions in the second half and much of that had to do with a ferocious defense that pounded Mike Reilly like they did in the first half. You could see the frustration on the faces of many of the Lions as they started to take penalties which hindered their ability to come back.
The Eskimos sacked Mike Reilly seven times this game and that had fans and even the announcers asking if he should have been pulled if for nothing else than to protect him. If there is one thing I learned about Reilly in his time in Edmonton that is not part of his makeup…he wants stay in the game no matter what the score is or how much he is getting hit. Meanwhile, despite a slow start to the game offensively, they still put up over 400 yards and outscored the Lions 36-6 after trailing early in the second quarter. The two biggest concerns have to be the slow starts for the offense and the number of penalties taken. So far, the Eskimos have been able to overcome both, that is not going to last.