Esks drop decision to Riders; thoughts on the season finale

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

It was terrible, it was great, and then it was appalling.

From 10-0 down to 13-12 up to an eventual 23-13 defeat, Edmonton kept the roller coaster going. Some excellent flashes but not nearly enough, as usual.

Some thoughts on the game:

– Al Bradbury is a disgrace to the sport and thank heavens the game didn’t mean anything to Edmonton. I’m giving him lots of attention because it’s clearly what he wants – it’s the only explanation for some of those calls and his crew has an established reputation for throwing the most orange nylon.

First of all: the men in stripes had an excellent first 20 minutes, maybe even first half. They called offsetting roughing in the first quarter, holding on Marcus Thigpen’s big missed field goal return and even the Nick Usher roughing was fair – he did lead with his head and it was never going to be overturned on review.

It devolved into absurdity.

There were probably three late hits that should have been called, but weren’t. Then there’s the Alex Bazzie face mask, which was by the absolute slimmest of margins; if that constitutes a ‘grab’, then yikes. At least Bradbury kept the flag in his pocket on that one (although it will officially be marked down as an error, given that it was overturned).

Then we get to the main event: Don Unamba’s “roughing the passer,” with deeply sarcastic air quotes.

You may remember earlier in the season, I said I love the game but hate the league. Still that.

Instead of a second and 17 from their own 35, Saskatchewan was gifted new life and drove down for the winning points. Rubbing it in is the mythical eye in the sky, who decided to wake up to negate a potential pyramiding call on the field goal (so another mistake on the field) but was nowhere to be seen to negate a call that literally everyone agrees was a farce.

(Adding to my distaste for the booth is a failure to assess a spearing call on a Tyquwan Glass return, where the infraction was significantly more severe than Usher’s.)

Randy Ambrosie might as well show some sense of decency and relieve Bradbury of his duties. It’s hardly the first time he’s messed up so badly, and every season he remains employed drives down the CFL’s reputation a little more. While the commissioner’s at it, he should overhaul the command centre.

Saskatchewan very well could have won anyways – it was a tie game, after all, and they probably did deserve the result – but that doesn’t diminish the error. I’m not saying it was unfair, I’m saying it was a total show of incompetence.

On to more interesting things.

– The first play with the ball after going down 16-13, Edmonton had third or fourth string QB Troy Williams throw a five-yard out. It gets tipped, intercepted, and returned for a touchdown as I’m left shaking my head for pretty much the 18th straight game. What a terrible call. You could almost believe Edmonton was throwing the game.

– Much of the game was an incredible collection of errors, but the first quarter to half was almost unbearable. Early on Logan Kilgore couldn’t do anything against a blitz other than throw it away. Then he threw an interception that looked like it was heading towards Kevin Elliott but was dead centre in a triangle of Eskimos. Then Jonathan Walton jumped offside as Saskatchewan was punting on third and two. Later they had a convert blocked. Crazy stuff.

– Aside from Larry Dean sitting and Mike Moore being scratched, it was the best 12 guys playing into the fourth quarter on defence. After the first quarter, at least, the rest of the game was an encouraging performance.

The Esks held the Riders offence to 270 yards and 16 points. Pretty good, even without Cody Fajardo and for a while Shaq Evans. Isaac Harker went a very good 23-for-28 but only posted 213 yards, while no Riders receiver got over 50 yards and William Powell was kept in check.

Add in two official sacks, a fumble recovery, a marvelous second and short plus third and short stuff, courtesy of a dual work of art with an Almondo Sewell charge and Jovan Santos-Knox breakthrough, and that’s a nice afternoon.

– The offence took until the third quarter to get going. Kilgore had 42 yards at halftime with not much more rushing, but he got really hot for his last 20 minutes. The first drive, he got some flashy help from DaVaris Daniels…

…but finished it off with a nice tight spiral to Tevaun Smith for the score.

The next drive started at their own 14 and was really good – featuring a Shaq Cooper truckstick on Ed Gainey and Kilgore beating a blitz with a quick slant – but found the only way to ruin itself with a fumble around midfield costing the 40 yards you’d get on a punt.

After conceding a safety the team bounced back with another big drive off a fumble recovery and a Ricky-Ray-esque corner to Kevin Elliott to finish and take the lead.

That makes the offence’s day sound better than it was, though, as only Smith got over 30 yards receiving (83 total). Daniels momentarily took the team passing lead with his 45-yard completion over Kilgore’s 42 to that point, and as a team they finished with 148 passing yards. Cooper added 65 on the ground in another solid performance, but it’s obviously a completely different team without Trevor Harris.

– Going into the game I didn’t really expect Edmonton to win, but I expected them to be within 10 points. I guess that’s a pass, and surprisingly they may have deserved better. It’s not worth putting much stock into the game, and whatever you do make of it, not much is new.

– I understand Jason Maas’s decision to phase out the starters in the fourth quarter. It’s objectively the right call when the game doesn’t matter, and I like getting a depth quarterback some reps. It still hurts, especially when you’re *right there* with a good chance to win. (Sorry Calgary. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )

– Sean Whyte has been having some troubles lately, missing a field goal for the second week in a row and having a convert blocked. He’s got nothing on Brett Lauther, though, who after missing three times from around 50 hooked a 31-yarder.

– Tyquwan Glass made two questionable choices to return a missed field goal instead of conceding a point, failing to get beyond the 10 both times. Global receiver Diego Viamontes got his first live action returning four kicks in the second half with reasonable success.

– The Esks need a guy like Marcus Thigpen or Kyran Moore on offence. Christion Jones is useful, but someone with game-breaking speed gives you so many options.

A different team with Trevor Harris. That’s a wrap on the 2019 regular season. On to Montreal next week for the East Semi-Final and from now on it’s win or go home.

Mike Ludwig enjoys math, chess, and football, all of which are kind of related. He lives in Edmonton and does not endorse Rod Black's metaphors. Follow him on twitter at @CityOfChamps14.