THE CANADIAN PRESS
EDMONTON -- Not even the head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos thought his team would be playing this well.
Daniel Porter scored a touchdown and T.J. Hill made a game-changing third quarter interception as the Eskimos continued to look great out of the gate, defeating the B.C. Lions 33-17 on Saturday.
The Eskimos improved to 3-0 on the year, the first time Edmonton has been perfect through three games since 2002. Last season the Eskimos didn't get their third win until Sept. 26.
“I didn't think we'd be 3-0,” said Edmonton's rookie coach Kavis Reed. “But the way the guys have played ... You control the time of possession, you put yourself in pretty good position to control the football game.”
Porter said it's key that the Eskimos don't start to get complacent.
“We have to keep our composure and stay humble and keep on going out there,” said the second-year pro. “We can't let off. We have to stay focused.”
Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray continued to look in complete control on offence, going 24 for 33 and passing for 320 yards and two touchdowns.
The Lions are heading in the opposite direction of Edmonton, now 0-3 to start the season, and in a last-place tie in the West with Saskatchewan, also winless thus far.
“It wasn't a good game,” said Lions head coach Wally Buono. “Offensively we couldn't get a first down and defensively Rick Ray was good and made us pay, especially in the first half.
“Hopefully this is rock bottom. For me, for the coaches, for the players. We were outplayed and outcoached.”
The Eskimos came out with a workman-like long opening drive but were forced to accept a 20-yard Damon Duval field goal to kick off the scoring.
Edmonton stretched its lead to 10-0 with a minute and half to play in the opening quarter as Lion David Hyland made an ill-timed leap at intercepting a Ray pass, leaving Fred Stamps free to scamper
38 yards for a touchdown.
The Esks got a bonus point on the ensuing kickoff as it slipped into the end zone and was inadvertently booted out of bounds by returner Tim Brown, going into the books as a 95-yard single.
Edmonton's special teams came up big to start the second quarter as a Paul McCallum punt was partially blocked by Mike Cornell and picked up at the B.C. 34, leading to a Duval field goal and a 14-0 Eskimos lead.
The Lions finally got on the board with a 45-yard McCallum field goal with just under five minutes to play.
The Eskimos quickly responded as a huge 45-yard pass and run on a broken play by Adarius Bowman led to a five-yard passing TD from Ray to Porter.
However the Lions would close the gap with a rapid scoring sequence of its own as Geroy Simon reeled in a pair of big passes from quarterback Travis Lulay, one for 38 yards and then a 25-yard TD pass, to make for a 21-10 Edmonton lead.
The Esks completed the late scoring flurry in the first half with a Duval single on a missed field goal to lead by 11 points at the midmark.
After another Duvall single on a field goal miss it looked like B.C. was going to close to within a touchdown, but Hill stepped in front of a Lulay pass and took the ball back 71 yards to the Lions' 18. The pivotal pick would lead to a five-yard touchdown push by Porter to end the third quarter with Edmonton ahead 30-10.
B.C. turned over the ball again to start the fourth as Chris Thompson popped a ball loose from Simon and Jykine Bradley recovered the fumble at midfield.
The Lions were once again stymied with five minutes to go as a pass intended for Simon was intercepted in the end zone by Edmonton's Rod Williams.
B.C. finally got some second half points with just over a minute left as Lulay found Akeem Foster in the corner for a 29-yard TD pass to end the scoring at 33-17.
Despite their perfect start, Ray said the Eskimos have to keep their feet firmly on the ground.
“We've only played three games,” he said. “Let's not get ahead of ourselves. You know how things can change. It's a long season. Calgary is next. We didn't play well against them last year.”
The Eskimos travel to Calgary next Saturday. The Lions play host to Hamilton on Friday.
Notes: It was the first of four meetings between the two teams this season ... Ray came into the contest leading the league in pass efficiency ratings (134.4) and pass completion (72.4 per cent) and was the only quarterback yet to toss an interception ... Edmonton's Corbin Sharun came in with a league-leading five special teams tackles through the first two games ... Edmonton lost four straight and six of its first seven contests to begin 2010. The Lions got off to a 1-7 start last year ... B.C. receiver and former Eskimo Kamau Peterson played his first game of the year for the Lions ... The Eskimos now hold a 102-68-4 advantage in the all-time regular season series over the Lions.