Edmonton - Oct. 14, 2012 - Almost as if to say, “I told you so” a relieved Hugh Charles was more than happy to resume his duties as fulltime starting tailback in leading the Green and Gold to a convincing 37-20 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders Saturday afternoon.
With the Esks leading 20-10 at the half, a suddenly rejuvenated offence seized control of a tight match in scoring on two touchdown marches in the third quarter and almost making it a perfect trio had running back Jerome Messam not fumbled deep in Rider territory. Charles finished the afternoon with a season high 152 rushing yards along with a touchdown of his own in that pivotal third quarter. QB Kerry Joseph strung together his second consecutive strong performance in passing for 280 yards and three touchdowns.
The defence once again turned in a stellar performance in recording three sacks and two key interceptions by linebacker JC Sherritt, who returned from injury after missing last week’s game against Hamilton, and defensive back Joe Burnett.
Overall, the Eskimos capitalized on their chances, including a botched Sandro DeAngelis punt recovered at the Riders’ 27 yard line in the first quarter, leading to a 22-yard Fred Stamps touchdown catch. Cary Koch and Nate Coehoorn recorded the other two Esks receiving touchdowns.
In a reversal of fortunes from most of this season, it was the Riders’ defence that seemed to have no answer for the Esks’ offence on this afternoon. Joseph did a very good job spreading the ball around to his receivers while ensuring Charles remained the focal point. Seven different receivers caught a pass, including a 14-yarder for Joseph himself from running back Hugh Charles.
You couldn’t fault fans for seeing right through this mini two-game win streak, expecting the bubble to burst. But it does seem as though things are settling down for the team, as a clear direction seemingly has been set. The victory has gone a long ways towards ensuring a post-season berth via at least the cross over into the East. The Esks’ magic number to clinch is now down to two. A combination of a victory next week in Vancouver coupled with a Tiger-Cats loss in Calgary would clinch it for the team. However, the Eskimos also have their sights set on clinching through the West. The victory yesterday brought them to within two points of the Riders. The victory also clinched the season series for the Esks having taken two of three from the Riders.
There is no doubting that the schedule will be tough as the team finishes against the league leading Lions, Alouettes and Stamps. The Leos are the class of the league; the Esks seemingly never have any luck in Montreal; and the team is winless against their southern provincial rivals in 2012.
Having said this, the team could suddenly become the feel good story of the year if they can continue their modest success of the past couple weeks. As has been stated over the years, it’s not how you start, but how you finish. With the experience of a Grey Cup Championship behind Joseph, can we dare to dream? Perhaps a wait and see attitude should be in effect.
However, one cannot deny that Head Coach Kavis Reed’s decision to finally settle on starters at two key positions, Joseph at QB (however unpopular that may have been) and Charles at running back, may have at least in the short term saved the season for the Green and Gold.
As the only team to beat the Lions in their den, perhaps there is the chance to extend the winning streak to three next week. Stay tuned.