It was more than reasonable to expect Friday night's Edmonton - Calgary clash to be another close one along the lines of the teams' Labour Day clash, but even Yogi Berra might not have expected it to end almost exactly the same way. That's precisely what happened though, as with the Eskimos facing a late 20-18 deficit, Kerry Joseph again led them down the field and set them up for a game-winning Grant Shaw field-goal attempt, which Shaw was again unable to convert. Instead of a missed field goal being frantically returned out of the end zone, this one from 42 yards out bizarrely clanked off the post and out, but the result was the same, with Edmonton snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the final seconds.
Of course, much like the first contest, this game said perhaps more about these teams' flaws than their strengths. That was true on the winning side as well as the losing one. While Calgary was able to move the ball effectively, with Jon Cornish rushing 16 times for a crazy 185 yards (11.6 yards per carry) and a touchdown and Kevin Glenn throwing for 254 yards and a touchdown (with a 63.3 per cent completion rate), they couldn't turn field position into points. A lot of that was thanks to Glenn throwing two end-zone interceptions, and although it should be pointed out that Edmonton defensive back Chris Thompson made outstanding plays on both balls, those kinds of turnovers will still come back to haunt you in many cases. Moreover, the Stampeders' pass defence was shredded by the 38-year-old Joseph, who completed 27 of his 35 attempts (77.1 per cent) and racked up 275 passing yards and a touchdown along the way. Calgary was in position to lose this game, and if Shaw's kick had been just a few inches to the left, they would have done so.
That doesn't mean the Eskimos have a lot to feel proud about either. Their most impressive offensive play of the day came from severely bungled execution; at the end of the first half, they tried a field goal, but the snap came in low. Third-string quarterback Matt Nichols, the holder, grabbed it, scrambled and threw an off-balance pass that linebacker (and former quarterback!) Corbin Sharun caught, and with no time on the clock, Sharun bounced off a defender and made it into the end zone for a touchdown. Beyond that, the Edmonton offence was a long way from spectacular. Joseph had a great game in general but couldn't turn their field position into points, and the three-headed running back monster of Hugh Charles, Cory Boyd and Jerome Messam proved more troublesome to its own side; the three combined for just 45 yards on 10 carries (with Charles collecting six, Messam three and Boyd one), a single yard more than Joseph managed on seven carries. The vaunted defence allowed Glenn and Cornish to rack up way too many yards as well.
"I'm not happy," said Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed. "I'm not happy that we did not execute at the level that we are accustomed to executing at. I'm not happy that we did not take advantage of opportunities given to us. I'm not happy that we had the penalties. I'm not happy that we did not tackle well. I'm not happy."
Reed's quite right here, as this loss was about more than just a missed field goal. If not for the bizarre Nichols/Sharun play that ended the first half, Edmonton wouldn't have been within striking distance late, and the Eskimos' chance to win says more about Calgary's struggles than it does about positive play on their part. Still, the Stampeders picked up their third-straight win and their sixth-straight victory in the Edmonton-based Labour Day rematch, and they improved to 6-4 while the Eskimos fell to 5-5. There's still not much difference between these teams, and there's still perhaps more to criticize than praise on both sides, but Calgary's picked up results while Edmonton hasn't. Whether that's merely for want of a couple of field goals or more about the Eskimos' deeper issues, it doesn't bode well for them in the race for playoff positioning.
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