On the same night UFC 215 was taking place at Edmonton’s Rogers Place, there was another rather intense battle brewing down the road at Commonwealth Stadium.
Marquay McDaniel’s touchdown catch in the final minute proved to be the difference as the Calgary Stampeders extended their winning streak to seven games, sweeping their home-and-home series with a 25-22 victory over the Edmonton Eskimos on Saturday.
“It was punch for punch,” said Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.
“At first our defence was the one throwing the punches for us and on the last drive the offence was able to get in there and throw a haymaker. I said all week that whoever had the ball in their hands at the end would probably win this game.”
Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson agreed that the game felt like a slug-fest.
“There was nothing pretty about it,” he said. “There was a lot of fight from both teams, maybe even a little over the edge a bit at times. Neither team gave up and kept on fighting. We’ll take the two points and win No. 9 is big for us.
“To sweep this series and take the season series against Edmonton is big.”
Edmonton has dropped four straight games to fall to 7-4.
“I’ll just say this, losing sucks,” said Eskimos head coach Jason Maas. “There’s no other way to put it, losing sucks whether you lose by one, 40, or two. That’s all I can say about it.”
The game was a defensive battle to start until Calgary got on the board with a 19-yard Rene Paredes field goal with 2:23 left in the opening quarter after the Stampeders got the ball deep in Edmonton territory due to a bad snap on a punt.
Edmonton responded shortly afterward to start the second quarter, as Derel Walker took the handoff on a reverse and scored on a two-yard touchdown run. The convert kicked missed, but it was still the Eskimos’ first lead in more than three games at 6-3.
The Esks added a 26-yard Chris Milo field goal on their next possession, before Calgary came back with a 39-yard three-pointer of its own.
Calgary surged back into the lead with 47 seconds left in the first half as a 48-yard pass from Mitchell to Marken Michel set up a one-yard unconverted TD plunge by Andrew Buckley to make it 12-9 at the break.
The Eskimos tied the game on a 21-yard Milo field goal midway through the third, but Calgary came back with another one-yard TD by Buckley, again unconverted.
Edmonton QB Mike Reilly came back into the game after being removed for a suspected concussion and threw a 67-yard pass to Brandon Zylstra, setting up another field goal.
The Eskimos jumped back in front with 1:36 remaining in the fourth when Duke Williams reeled in a Reilly pass, bounced off a defender and scored a 34-yard touchdown.
However, Calgary marched down field in the final minute, completing a five-yard TD pass to McDaniel on a third down-gamble with just 35 seconds remaining.
Edmonton had a chance to tie it up on a 47-yard field goal attempt with time expired, but Milo was wide.
Both teams are back at it next Saturday, when the Eskimos travel to Toronto and the Stampeders play host to the B.C. Lions.
Notes: The game marked the return of Eskimos all-star receiver Walker, who rejoined the team this week after he was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Walker was CFL rookie of the year in 2015.