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July 15, 2019

Eskimos Rested, Ready For Lions After The Bye Week

It’s only early July, but the Eskimos are already thinking about the playoffs.

The Eskimos have a chance to win their CFL season series with the BC Lions when the teams meet again at 8 p.m. Thursday at BC Place in Vancouver.

“It’s a huge deal,” said Head Coach Jason Maas. “On a Western opponent, four weeks into the season, to have the season series on them is big.

“We want to win every game,” Maas continued, “… but, ultimately, it always comes down to season series, and you want to be able to be ahead of everyone at the end. This is our chance to do that. We can wrap it up, and it’s important to us.”

The Eskimos, 2-1, overcame an early 14-point deficit and sacked BC quarterback Mike Reilly seven times when they overpowered the Lions in the fourth quarter to post a 39-23 victory at The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium on June 21.

The teams will also play each other a third time on Saturday, Oct. 12, at The Brick Field.

“That type of performance we put up, it’s the same performance we’ve got to put up every week whether we’re playing against BC or not,” defensive nose tackle Almondo Sewell said about the defensive line’s strong showing in the last BC game.

While Maas expects the Lions to provide a much tougher test this time around, the Eskimos will be looking to snap a seven-game losing streak on the road dating back to last season. The Esks are also coming off a bye week after losing 28-21 to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers two weeks ago.

“The benefit is that you rest and get to recover and take advantage of it,” Maas said. “You watch more film, and you get to study, you get more hours of rest.”

Sean Whyte kicked a team-record seven field goals against Winnipeg, and the Esks dominated the play clock by having possession of the football for 36 minutes and 20 seconds while putting up 445 yards of offence to the Bombers’ 283.

“Shoot, if you look at the numbers, you’d think that we won the game,” said quarterback Trevor Harris, who was named a CFL Player of the Month for June after passing for 1,086 yards and six touchdowns. “If you’re looking at it positively, you say you had seven scoring drives. If you’re looking at it critically, you want to say you’ve got to be able to make the plays and punch it in when it counts. You’re not going to make every play, but you darn sure hope you don’t have seven field goals and no touchdowns.”

The Eskimos failed to take advantage of two chances to tie the game in the last 74 seconds, both times gaining possession at the Winnipeg 51-yard line after a 19-yard Martese Jackson punt return and then again with a fumble recovery by safety Jordan Hoover after linebacker Vontae Diggs punched the ball out of Bombers running back Andrew Harris’s hands.

“We had a shot at the end, and that’s all we can ask for,” Harris said. “We’ve just got to make sure we capitalize the next time.”

Harris gave credit to the Winnipeg defence for keeping the Green and Gold out of the end zone during the game, but also admitted that the Esks shot themselves in the foot several times.

“We’ve got to make sure … that’s a once-in-a-blue-moon type of deal,” Harris said. “Offensively, if we’re not clicking on all cylinders, if all 12 (players) aren’t doing their job, it makes it tough. We all took our turns.

“It’s a team thing that we’re going to work through; we’re going to get better at. We have the right guys in that room, we have the right guys up front (on the offensive line), in the receiving corps and at running back to rectify those things and get better at them, so I don’t anticipate it being a big problem.”

The most unexpected thing at the end of the Winnipeg game was the dropped passes by several receivers.

“I think we were all shocked when we dropped passes,” said receiver Ricky Collins, Jr. “It was like, ‘He’s going to catch this, and we’re going to score.’ That’s the mentality we all had as receivers. We all believe in each other. When we saw the drops, I was like, ‘What’s going on?’

“It was a shocker for us.”

Collins caught five passes for only 11 yards against the Lions but said “the juices were flowing, the adrenalin was going” in the first game against his former team. He’s had 175-yard and 107-yard performances in the other two games.

“It was fun, even though the stats didn’t say otherwise, but I still had a good time playing those guys. The team came out with a win, so that’s all that mattered.”

Lineup changes

  • The Eskimos have wide receiver DaVaris Daniels on the active roster and is expected to play in his first regular season game for the Green and Gold since he was signed as a free agent during the off-season after playing three years with the Calgary Stampeders.
  • To make room for Daniels, Stafford was moved to the wide side of the field, and Tevaun Smith is now slotted ahead of Natey Adjei.
  • National linebacker Christophe Mulumba-Tshimanga was also added to the active roster after national linebacker Blair Smith was placed on the six-game injured list.
  • National offensive lineman returns to his left guard spot and international offensive lineman Travis Bond moves to the club’s practice roster.

By the numbers

  • Wide receiver Kenny Stafford needs one receiving yard to hit the 2,000-yard mark as an Eskimo.
  • Running back C.J. Gable needs 127 receiving yards to reach the 2,000-yard mark in his CFL career.
  • Harris can catch former Esks QB Kerwin Bell (19,537) for 36th place on the CFL all-time passing yards list with 296 passing yards.
  • Whyte, who has made 24 of his last 25 field goal attempts and 10 in a row this year, needs eight points to tie Don Sweet (1,342) for 18th place on the CFL’s all-time points list. He also needs one convert to tie Tom Dixon for fourth place on the Eskimos’ all-time convert list at 126.
  • Harris currently has a higher pass completion percentage and a higher passing efficiency rating of any Eskimos quarterback who has attempted a minimum of 300 passes in a season. Harris’s pass completion percentage is 71.88 (Reilly was 70.77 in 2016 and Ricky Ray 69.89 in 2007) while his efficiency rating is 113 (Warren Moon finished the 1983 season at 108.3 and Ray was 108.1 in 2003).
  • Harris is currently ahead of Ray’s pace for most completions in 2005 (92 to 84) and Reilly’s pace for most passing yards in 2017 (1,086 to 866).

“His decision making has been very good for the first three weeks of the season,” Maas said about Harris. “Obviously, he knows our offence really well, and he works extremely hard.

“He’s absolutely doing his part, and he does it as good as anybody I’ve been around. For a guy coming in, whether you want to say filling someone’s shoes or just taking over an organization like you have to as a franchise quarterback, that transition time is difficult, but he’s made it seamless.”