Once again, Edmonton Eskimos head coach Jason Maas has made a questionable call in the dying moments of the fourth quarter and it proved costly.
Trailing by a field goal with 2:19 to go and facing a third and eight, Maas called Hugh O’Neill out to punt, taking the ball out of the CFL’s reigning Most Outstanding Player Mike Reilly’s hands, and handing it to James Wilder Jr., who scorched the Eskimos defence all game and set a season high in yards (120), and added his first touchdown of the campaign. Oh, Edmonton didn’t have any timeouts left either. Their final one was burned earlier in the fourth after Maas incorrectly challenged an S.J. Green catch, saying he was not down by contact. Spoiler: he was.
When you saw Edmonton’s punt team march out onto the field, it was hard not to recall the last time Maas opted for conservatism, only to get burned: last year’s West Final against the Calgary Stampeders. Down seven, Maas opted for 20-yard field goal while facing third and four inside the game’s final two minutes. The Stamps ran the clock out and the Eskimos didn’t get the ball back. Here we are again, albeit on a smaller stage, his call in Toronto this year begs the question: Will he make the same call again down the line?
Beyond the questionable calls, it was another dreadful start by the Eskimos, which has quickly become a staple in the young CFL season. Before you could say, “Toronto is the best and only city in Canada,” the Eskimos were down 12-0 after giving up an opening drive touchdown and a C.J Gable fumble that was flipped into six points. Reilly had his work cut out for him early, much like he has all season. Last week, Edmonton erased a 14-2 deficit in a dreadful first half to score 28 unanswered points to take down the B.C. Lions. In Week 2 against Hamilton, they trailed 24-8 in the first half (we won’t talk about the marathon Week 1 win, an anomaly in all sense of the word.)
Going into the game, the narrative was Reilly battling James Franklin, his former protégé and backup for the last three seasons. Franklin put up an admirable performance in his first start, putting up over 200 yards and a touchdown, the interception by Maurice McKnight the lone blemish. The QB had an extra week of preparation thanks to a well-timed bye in Week 3.
The Argonauts failed to register a point from 8:51 in the first quarter until a 12 play, seven minute drive ended in a Declan Cross major with 3:12 to go in the fourth put them in front for good.
.@DeclanCross38 comes up with a HUGE touchdown to put the @TorontoArgos ahead in the 4th quarter! Toronto would convert their 2-point conversion and now lead 20-17. #CFLGameday pic.twitter.com/dkDY0yMXcl
— CFL on TSN (@CFLonTSN) July 8, 2018
To be fair, the Argonauts remaining scoreless had more to do with the Eskimos offence being on the field more than their defence shutting Franklin and company down. Reilly tossed for almost 400 yards, and did everything but score, save a Derel Walker touchdown in the third quarter, which was their first- and only – major of the game.
Edmonton only had a pair of two and outs, both coming in the final quarter. Three times they had drives of 10 or more plays but couldn’t convert any of them into major scores: two ended in field goals and one ended in an interception, after Walker slipped in the end zone and Ronnie Yell got the pick. It was the ultimate “bend, but don’t break” showing for the Argonauts defence.
Penalties proved costly again for the Esks, including a holding infraction in the second committed by fullback Alexandre Dupuis. Gable had scored a touchdown on the play, but it was called back. Edmonton took six penalties in the first half alone.
Proving once more you should take him in CFL Fantasy every week, Duke Williams had himself a game.
His 125 yards on eight receptions and a touchdown highlighted the Esks receiving core. It was quite an encore performance by the 25 year old after snagging 129 yards and a score last week. He has quickly transformed into Reilly’s favourite target.
London, Ontario native Mark Mackie made his debut in the evening tilt, replacing the injured Kwaku Boateng. The McMaster alumni recorded his first career sack in the third quarter, the only time either team got to the quarterbacks.
J.C Sherrit led Edmonton in tackles with eight, including a third and inches stuff of Franklin in the second quarter that gave Edmonton the ball back in excellent field position.
Air Horn Guy made some noise (ba da tis) on CFL Twitter, enraging viewers.
Will he reappear in Edmonton next week when these clubs finish off a home and home? Unlikely but for the Eskimos, it might be the only thing more painful than this loss.
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