Edmonton Eskimos snap losing skid, knock Montreal Alouettes out of playoff race

MONTREAL – In a battle of two teams looking to snap losing skids and make moves in the standings, the Edmonton Eskimos beat the Montreal Alouettes 42-24 to break a six game losing streak.

The loss officially knocked the Als out of the playoff race and sent the team to their eight straight loss.

Drew Willy threw for 193 yards and two picks while Mike Reilly countered with 286 passing yards, 43 rushing yards, a pair of touchdowns and an interception. CJ Gable rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown in his Esks debut while Brandon Zylstra caught seven passes for 201 yards and a major.

It was a rainy affair that caused missed catches and fumbles throughout the game, including four by the Esks in the first quarter alone.

Both teams struggled to hold on to the football in their opening possessions because of the wet conditions. Nic Boulay blocked a Hugh O’Neill punt that was recovered by Chip Cox and the Als. Willy connected with TJ Graham to bring the ball just outside the 10-yard line before Tyrell Sutton powered through for the opening touchdown. Montreal led 6-0 after failing the two-point convert.

Acquired earlier in the week in a trade with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Gable’s first possession ended up in a fumble that was recovered by Brandon Stewart who took it all the way back to the endzone for another Alouette touchdown. Sutton was shut out on two-point convert attempt as Montreal went up 12-0.

Edmonton WR Derel Walker battling Photo: Johany Jutras

Stefan Logan’s punt return brought the Als past midfield as the Larks looked to increase their lead. Graham’s grab and Sutton’s rush brought a fresh set of downs. Boris Bede notched a field goal to add another three points on the scoreboard.

Three catches on an Esks drive by Zylstra kept the ball moving. A roughing the passer penalty put Edmonton just outside the goal line where Gable responded with a rushing touchdown to cut the deficit to 15-7 with 54 seconds left in the first quarter.

The momentum kept swinging in the Esks favour as they recovered a Samuel Giguere fumble on the kick return to give the ball right back to Reilly and the offence. The quarterback ran 11 yards for a fresh set of downs as the clock switched to the second quarter. Swayze Waters booted a field goal as the Als lead shrunk to 15-10.

It didn’t take long for the Als to respond with a 41-yard rush by Sutton that cut through the Esks defense. Bede kicked a 31-yard field goal to put the Als back up 18-10.

A 56-yard grab by Zylstra put the Esks in instant scoring position and they would take advantage. Reilly’s third down dive moved the chains for Gable to record his second touchdown of the game off a shuttle pass and made the score 18-17, a deficit of one for Edmonton.

Reilly found a wide open Zylstra over the middle for a 45-yard gain. A pair of rushes by Gable and sneaks by Reilly kept the next drive alive as the Esks took their first lead of the game when Zylstra hauled in a 29-yard touchdown grab. Waters missed the point after kick as Edmonton went up 23-18 just before halftime.

Working with under a minute remaining, a 16-yard catch by BJ Cunningham was followed by Ernest Jackson’s grab that moved the chains downfield. Bede kicked a field goal as time expired to trail 23-21 heading into the locker room.

As the close game opened the second half, both teams to a few possessions to regain their feel. With Reilly ooking again for his favourite target of the game in Zylstra, Stewart recorded his second turnover of the game, this one an interception at midfield. Bede kicked another field goal as the Als regained the lead, 24-23.

Montreal WR TJ Graham Photo: Johany Jutras

Edmonton immediately responded with receptions from Zylstra and Walker to move into the red zone. The Als defence shut the door and the Esks had to settle for another field goal but still took the lead back at 26-24.

The Als continued to push as the fourth quarter opened, using Sutton to get double digit rushes and pushing their way downfield. Just as Montreal approached scoring territory, Willy’s pass was tipped and intercepted by Da’Quan Bowers to end the threat but they failed to capitalize with any more points.

Montreal went back to what worked, letting Sutton carve his way through for first downs. Entering Eskimo territory, Willy was picked off again, this time by Chris Edwards, who took it 70 yards back to the house for a pick-six. That grew the Edmonton lead to 33-24 midway through the quarter.

Going back to Sutton proved costly for the Als as he fumbled the ball near midfield in the comeback attempt. Briefly replacing Reilly in the final frame, James Franklin gave the ball to the workhorse Gable to use some of the clock. Franklin found Duke Williams for a 25-yard touchdown strike as the lead grew to 39-24 after the missed point after attempt.

Waters booted a 17-yard field goal with 32 seconds left in the game to seal the victory for the Esks.

This was Edmonton’s ninth straight win over the Alouettes.

Next week, the Eskimos host the Toronto Argonauts while the Als are on the bye week.

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