The day finally arrived, after shockingly bolting from the Edmonton Eskimos in the off-season – having led them to a Grey Cup championship – Chris Jones was back in Edmonton with his new team, the Saskatchewan Roughriders. No doubt the emotions were high heading into this game as both sides wanted to put a good showing up on the other.
After Edmonton stalled out on their opening drive, the game’s first points came courtesy of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Darian Durant threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Rob Bagg, and after the convert, Saskatchewan were enjoying their first lead of the season at 7-0. Edmonton came close to getting a touchdown late in the first until Justin Cox intercepted Mike Reilly, his first in the CFL, to keep Edmonton off the scoreboard through the first quarter.
Early on in the second, Tyler Crapigna kicked a 36-yard field goal to give Saskatchewan a ten point lead. Another Crapigna kick about four minutes later widened the Saskatchewan lead to 13-0 and Chris Jones looked to be off to a great start in his former digs. But the Eskimos are the defending Grey Cup champions for a reason, and they were not about to let this deficit faze them.
Mike Reilly was able to come up with a huge play on the next possession, finding Adarius Bowman for a 56-yard touchdown play that got Edmonton right back into the game. The Eskimos only trailed 13-7 after a Sean Whyte conversion.
Durant responded with a touchdown of his own, throwing to Ricky Collins for a 13-yard touchdown pass to extend the Riders’ lead to 19-7, after Crapigna missed the extra point conversion.
Adarius Bowman was on his game tonight as he and Reilly connected a few more times on the next drive, culminating in a touchdown pass to former Roughrider Chris Getzlaf. NHL fans reading this will recognize that last name and yes, it is the brother of Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf. After the Sean Whyte convert it was now only a 19-14 game going into the half.
Jon White got the first points of the second half with four-yard touchdown pass about seven-and-a-half minutes into the third quarter. After a failed two point attempt it was a 20-19 Eskimos lead through three. In the fourth, things got amped-up even more as the offenses roared into life exploding for big play after big play.
Adarius Bowman got his second of the game, and after the convert the Eskimos were up 27-19. After stymying the Riders on their next possession the Eskimos hit pay dirt again as Adarius Bowman got his third touchdown of the night, bringing the score up to 33-19 Edmonton. The Riders were now the team staring down a big deficit, and it was now time to see what Chris Jones’ team was made of.
After what looked to be a dead drive, the Roughriders were able to force a fumble to give them new life and begin the comeback. Darian Durant later found Jon Chiles on a 20-yarder and after the convert the score was 33-26. Another field goal by Tyler Crapigna brought the score to 33-29 as the Riders inched ever closer to tying the game.
As the game wore down, Saskatchewan pressed for the go ahead touchdown, and briefly had the lead after Durant found Shamawd Chambers for a 6-yard touchdown pass – with the conversion making it 36-33 to the Riders late on.
The Eskimos didn’t allow that to be the end as they got into field position with mere seconds left on the clock, enabling Sean Whyte to kick a 51-yard field goal to send the game to overtime tied.
After the overtime coin toss, Saskatchewan chose to defend first. The Eskimos were able to draw first blood in the getting a 32-yard field goal by Whyte to give their defense a chance to stop Saskatchewan. The Edmonton defense was able to stop the Roughriders on a third and one to win the game. But the call required the chains to be brought out onto the field to measure.
It was the first win of the season for the defending champs, and the first win ever for head coach Jason Maas as the Eskimos get sweet revenge on their former coach. The Roughriders have to ride the late momentum they generated into next week and forget about this tough loss to avoid falling into a 0-3 hole.
Darian Durant threw for 317 yards with four touchdowns while Mike Reilly threw for 378 yards for four touchdowns, as well as one interception. Edmonton goes to Winnipeg on July 14 at 8:30pm EST to visit the Blue Bombers while Saskatchewan head out to B.C. for a 7:00pm EST game on July 16.