Edmonton Eskimos' head coach Kavis Reed's supervillainesque (or Dennis Greenesque, depending on who you ask) "There has to be consequences" rant was the talk of the CFL this week, but it couldn't inspire his team to a win Saturday night. While the Eskimos turned in a somewhat=better effort in the rematch against the B.C. Lions than they did in last week's 17-3 home loss, they still were outclassed and outmatched and fell 31-21. A large part of that was thanks to the play of B.C. running back Andrew Harris, who collected 103 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries (an average of 6.1 yards per carry) while also adding two catches for 30 further yards, but the Eskimos' penalty-prone ways that so enraged Reed last week were still a major issue for them. This is a big win for B.C., but it should leave Edmonton asking what comes next. If Reed's emotional rant wasn't able to inspire his team even to improve in the specific area of discipline, how is this Eskimos' team going to get anywhere?
It's not that the Eskimos were completely terrible Saturday night. Quarterback Mike Reilly made some good throws, and receiver Nathan Coehoorn shone all night, hauling in six catches for 103 yards. However, Reilly didn't get great protection from the offensive line, and he finished just 12 of 20 (a 60 per cent completion rate) for 152 yards on the night with no touchdowns and an interception. The line couldn't pave the way for running back Hugh Charles either, as he was held to just 50 rushing yards on 11 carries (an average of just 4.5 yards per carry). Beyond the issues passing and running, though, penalties and turnovers also doomed the Eskimos, killing drives and preventing them from moving the chains. There's a lot to work on here, and not a ton of promising signs.
By contrast, this was an impressive win for the Lions. Harris obviously carried the load with his superb rushing performance, which included hurdling a defender at one point, but their aerial attack also produced results. Quarterback Travis Lulay completed 18 of 24 passes (75 per cent) for 284 yards and a touchdown with one interception, and Emmanuel Arceneaux led the way in the receiving corps, hauling in a team-high five catches for 106 yards and a touchdown (which came on a superb 77-yard catch-and-run play). The B.C. defence also had a strong night, particularly up front: they overwhelmed the Edmonton defensive line, recording three sacks on Reilly (two from Khreem Smith and one from Eric Taylor) and pressuring him on many other dropbacks. The game was tied 10-10 heading into the half, but the Lions were able to adjust and put up a 14-0 third quarter, and they weren't seriously threatened the rest of the way: a late Edmonton touchdown followed by an onside kick that saw a simultaneous catch and a rekick awarded briefly caused some consternation on the B.C. sidelines, B.C. receiver Paris Jackson grabbed the ball cleanly on the next kick, allowing the Lions to hold on for a 10-point victory.
With the victory, the Lions improve to 3-1, and may take a share of the West Division lead. Saskatchewan currently tops the division with a 3-0 mark, but if the Riders fall to Hamilton Sunday, there would be a three-way tie for first between them, B.C. and the Calgary Stampeders (who pulled out their own surprising win Saturday). Meanwhile, the Eskimos are clearly at the other end of the table, as they fell to 1-3 with this loss and are last in the league with just 72 points for. It's still too early to write them off completely, but there aren't a lot of signs here that they'll be better than the mediocre expectations many of us had for them this year. Reed can rant as much as he likes, but until the team starts to listen to him and shape up, the only consequences we may see are them plummeting in the standings.