C.J. Gable wants to let his actions show the Edmonton Eskimos how thankful he is that they traded for him last month.
“It gave me the opportunity to keep playing for (the Eskimos) and helping them out,” Gable said of the Oct. 2 trade from Hamilton.
“I’m going to do whatever I can, put my butt on the line, to help them out and win these games.”
Gable was a force in scoring both his TDs from 15 yards out. On the first one, he barrelled his way through Winnipeg defence and was pushed the final yard or two by his Eskimos teammates. The effort gave Edmonton an 18-10 lead at 5:29 of the third quarter.
His second major included jumping over a Bombers defender, a leap that made it 39-16 at 3:20 of the fourth. He also caught four passes for 37 yards.
Eskimos receiver Adarius Bowman caught TD passes of 17 and 42 yards. League-leading receiver Brandon Zylstra also scored on a 33-yard catch-and-run to help Edmonton win its sixth straight game and earn them a trip to Calgary for next Sunday’s division final against the Stampeders (13-4-1).
Both of Gable’s scores came after Winnipeg turned over the ball. The Bombers had three turnovers and Edmonton none.
“He’s been huge for us since the day that he stepped foot in our locker-room,” Edmonton quarterback Mike Reilly said of Gable.
Reilly completed 23-of-33 pass attempts for 334 yards with three TDs and no interceptions.
Zylstra led all receivers with eight catches for 156 yards. Sean Whyte connected on a 20-yard field goal for the Eskimos and made all five of his converts. Punter Hugh O’Neill added a 65-yard single.
Winnipeg receiver Weston Dressler caught a pair of fourth-quarter TDs, including one as time expired in the game. L’Damian Washington had the other score. Justin Medlock booted field goals from 20, 38 and 47 yards and was good on his one convert.
Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols was 35-of-48 for 371 yards with three TDs and no picks in front of an announced attendance of 27,244 at Investors Group Field.
The loss bumped up Winnipeg’s Grey Cup drought to 27 seasons.
Nichols said the calf injury he’s been treating since he was hurt on Oct. 28 didn’t hamper him in the pocket and backup Dan LeFevour was able to run some plays he couldn’t.
“Everything felt OK in the pocket, but it limited us a little bit by the fact I couldn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to get out there on the move or do any of our play-action, roll-out stuff,” Nichols said.
“That was tough, that was a little bit limiting, but overall I felt like we ran our whole offence and the things I did do out there I felt good doing.”
Edmonton played in last year’s East Division final as the crossover team, losing to the eventual Grey Cup-champion Ottawa Redblacks.
Both clubs were 12-6 in the regular season, with Winnipeg winning the two previous matches. The Bombers had entered the game by winning only two of their last five games and were hosting the city’s first playoff game since 2011.
Edmonton led 7-3 after the first quarter, the game was tied 10-10 at halftime and the Eskimos were ahead 25-16 after three quarters.
O’Neill scored a point on a 65-yard punt single for the 11-10 lead at 1:59 of the third quarter.
A direct snap to Winnipeg running back/receiver Timothy Flanders on a fake punt lost yards and the Bombers turned over the ball, leading to Gable’s TD at 5:29 for the 18-10 lead.
Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea said the failed fake punt was a “letdown” for the players.
“Not getting the fake punt, and then they ended up scoring a touchdown right after that, so it kind of let the wind out of the sails a bit, just for that moment of time,” O’Shea said.
“That was enough for them to get a couple plays on us that we had to climb back out of.”
He also took some blame for the loss.
“I feel like I let the guys down. Absolutely,” O’Shea said. “Part of the plan going in is to keep the ball out of Reilly’s hands, especially in the second half.
“They’ve been a second-half team. When we talked about how you win, part of it is making sure we control the ball more.”