EDMONTON — The Edmonton Eskimos can take a big step toward silencing critics who say they haven't beaten anybody of significance with a win over the Calgary Stampeders at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday.
Of course, history shows that's easier said than done.
The Eskimos are 0-2 against the Stampeders this season after losing the front end of the annual Labour Day Classic home-and-home series for the eighth straight year, a 25-9 defeat at McMahon Stadium last Monday.
The Stampeders, who have won five of the last seven rematch games played in Edmonton, also got the better of them 24-18 in the first meeting of the teams Aug. 3.
"I think you're eager every time you step on the field," Eskimos head coach Jason Maas said of the rematch. "Obviously, it's human nature when you lose to feel like you need to do better.
"Ultimately, if you care and you have pride, which our group does, our team does, our organization and our city does, you want to be better. If you look at the film, you understand that we need to be better in order to beat them . . . we can play better than what we did. That's what our focus has to be on."
At 6-5, the Eskimos have two victories over B.C. and Toronto — both 1-9 teams — and have wins over Montreal and Ottawa. They've lost twice to Calgary and Winnipeg and once to Montreal. The inability to produce points inside the red zone, from the 20-yard line on in, has been a common thread in the losses.
While the Eskimos lead the league in net offence with 4,651 yards, they rank eighth in converting from the red zone at 14-for-32 for 44 per cent. Only Ottawa is worse. All nine of their points Monday in Calgary came on field goals by Sean Whyte.
"Any time you have a bad taste in your mouth you've got to use it to your advantage, come out and start fighting," said Edmonton quarterback Trevor Harris, held to a season-low 216 yards passing by the Stampeders Monday.
Harris leads the league with 3,697 passing yards and is third in touchdown passes with 14, but Monday's loss was the fifth time in 11 games he's been held without a touchdown pass. On top of that, Harris hasn't beaten the Stampeders in 10 career tries. He's 0-8-2, including 0-2 with the Eskimos.
"I'm just doing the best I can for the guys on this team," Harris said of his career mark against the Calgary. "I think it's 10 games and no wins, but we have two ties in there.
"I think it's more just about us coming out tomorrow and fighting for each other. It's not really a battle against them, it's a battle against ourselves. If we can look ourselves in the mirror at the end of the day, put our best foot forward and execute and put everything on the line for each other, that's really what we need to focus on."
CALGARY STAMPEDERS (6-4) AT EDMONTON ESKIMOS (6-5)
Saturday, Commonwealth Stadium
READY TO BO — Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell didn't show much rust in his return from the six-game injured list Monday. Mitchell completed 19 of 28 passes for 263 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Reggie Begelton was his favourite target with 10 catches for 138 yards and one TD.
NOTHING DOING — With Harris limited to 216 passing yards and with just 55 yards rushing in Calgary, the Eskimos were held to a season-low 271 yards net offence. That's 49 yards short of the previous low — 320 yards in a 20-10 loss to Montreal.
TURNSTILED — The Stampeders ran roughshod over the Eskimos' defence Monday, rolling up 201 yards on the ground. Edmonton has allowed 390 yards rushing the past two games — they gave up 189 in a 34-28 loss to Winnipeg Aug. 23.
WELCOME MAT — Aside from beating the Eskimos eight straight times in Calgary to open the Labour Day Classic, the Stampeders are no slouches in the rematch in Edmonton either. Calgary is 10-2 since 2007.
BARN BURNER — After a 23-20 win by the Stampeders in Calgary to open the home-and-home series in 2018, the Esks bounced back to win 48-42 in the rematch Sept. 8 in the highest scoring game ever played between the teams.
Robin Brownlee, The Canadian Press