Beating the Calgary Stampeders on their home turf in the Labour Day Classic hasn’t been easy at the best of times for the Eskimos, and recent weeks haven’t exactly been optimal for Edmonton going into Monday’s showdown at McMahon Stadium.
Losers of six straight and 10 of their last 12 visits to Calgary to kick-off the annual home-and-home series against their provincial rivals, the Eskimos are looking for more consistency on both sides of the ball. That’s something they didn’t show nearly enough of in a 25-24 loss to Hamilton Aug. 23 that dropped them to 6-4 as they take on the 8-1 Stampeders.
“No question, I think it’s about time we do it,” coach Jason Maas said. “We have to. That’s the way we’re looking at this game. It’s a big game, a big stage and we’d like to play up to our best and our potential.
“That’s all three phases for 60 minutes. Each play in this game comes down to focus and moving on to the next play and being able to do that. If we can do that with all three phases for 60 minutes up to our potential, we’d love to compete that way and see what happens.”
In the loss to the Tiger-Cats, the Eskimos scored all 24 of their points – and rolled up 195 of their 344 net yards – in the second quarter, parlaying big plays to a 24-10 lead at the half. They didn’t get much accomplished in the other three quarters.
“You’re never going to go out and play what you feel like is a perfect football game,” quarterback Mike Reilly said. “We’ve had a lot of games where’s there’s been stretches that we played really good football.
“We’ve also played not-good football in the same game. Consistency is certainly the key. When you’re playing against good football teams like Calgary, that’s the way that you’re going to win.”
“They don’t make mistakes,” Reilly said. “They play together really well. They’ve got a great front that gets pressure on the quarterback . . . you can’t have breakdowns and they don’t.
“What makes them really good is they’re sound in what they do defensively. We feel like we’re sound offensively. If I get through my progression correctly, we feel like there’ll be an answer somewhere. It’s up to me to find it. Once I do, and get the ball into that guy’s hands, they’ve got to make something happen.”
Defensively, the Eskimos gave up 552 yards of net offence to the Tiger-Cats, including 419 passing yards by Jeremiah Masoli as that 14-point halftime lead evaporated.
“To me, we played three great quarters,” linebacker J.C. Sherritt said. “We had three turnovers. I don’t know what the yardage was at the time, I think we’d given up 13 points. That’s a great game, but then you saw what happened in the fourth (quarter).
“We let up big plays. We let them drive the field on us. We had the game in our hands and we gave it up. To me, we’ve got to find a way to finish, find a way to play four quarters because we haven’t this year.
“We’ve seen us play the back three very well and find a way to win. We’ve seen us play a great first, but we haven’t played four. Against an opponent like Calgary, you’re going to need to play all four.”
The challenge is to contain Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell, coming off a career-high 452 yards and three touchdowns in 39-26 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Then, there’s Kamar Jorden, who had 10 catches for 249 yards against Winnipeg, surpassing a team record for single-game receiving yards by Herm Harrison that had stood since 1968.
“Any time you’re on the field that long there’s more opportunity for bad stuff to happen,” Sherritt said of trying to limit Calgary’s time of possession. “Obviously, the more we can get Mike Reilly the ball the more games we’re going to win.
“As far as Bo is concerned, he’s one of the more talented players in this league on one of the more talented offences. We know we’ve got our work cut out for us but we relish the opportunity to play against somebody like that.”