Edmonton – Mike Reilly threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns as the Edmonton Eskimos scored 22 unanswered points to rally over the BC Lions 29-23 at Commonwealth Stadium.
The win spoiled the first career start for Lions quarterback Jonathon Jennings, who finished the game with 281 yards and two touchdown passes. It was BC’s fifth loss in its last six games.
The game was not decided until the final play.
Edmonton used a kick return from Kendial Lawrence to start at midfield early in the fourth quarter. A Sean Whyte field goal from 48 yards out cut the Lions’ lead to 23-18.
A completion to Derel Walker and a rush from Mike Reilly gave the Esks valuable yardage as they marched downfield on their fourth quarter rally attempt in the final minutes. The duo would connect for a touchdown with 2:22 left in the fourth quarter to give Edmonton its first lead of the game, 24-23. Reilly punched in the two-point convert as the Eskimos led by a field goal, 26-23.
Jennings would be shut down on his next possession as the Eskimos got the football back with under two minutes remaining in the game. Whyte booted another field goal with :15 left on the clock and Dexter McCoil intercepted Jennings on a last play hail mary attempt to secure the victory.
It took a while for the Eskimos to get flowing offensively as they did not score until the second quarter.
The Eskimos started their opening drive with a 43-yard gain through the air as Reilly connected with Walker. The reception put Walker at over 600 receiving yards on the season through just seven games. Whyte missed a 46-yard field goal attempt as Edmonton failed to score.
It took Jennings until his third drive before he was able to register a second set of downs as Andrew Harris was used often to move the chains. Jennings recorded his first career touchdown pass, a 21-yard pass, as Lavelle Hawkins hauled in the football as the Lions grabbed an early 7-0 lead.
In the final seconds of the first quarter, Andrew Harris caught a pass but was shaken up following the tackle. Harris was helped off of the field and was replaced by Shaquille Murray-Lawrence. Harris appeared on the sidelines with his teammates in the second half still dressed but did not return.
Both teams were locked in a defensive battle in the first half as neither could make significant progress downfield.
Rain began to fall midway through the second quarter as the Eskimos were pinned deep in their zone with Reilly working out of the end zone. He could not take the offence out of danger as Whyte was forced to give up a safety and the Lions’ lead grew to 9-0.
With just under five minutes remaining in the second frame, Jennings looked downfield for Hawkins but the pass fell incomplete and the Esks were flagged for defensive pass interference. The call was upheld following a challenge by Chris Jones. Edmonton would be penalized again for defensive pass interference in the end zone to move the Lions to the one yard line. Murray-Lawrence then plunged in for his first career CFL touchdown and increased BC’s lead to 15-0 as the extra-point was missed.
Jordan Lynch entered the game at quarterback as the Eskimos looked for an offensive spark. He would move the Esks to midfield before being picked off by Ryan Phillips. However, a defensive pass interference call on the interception moved Edmonton down to the Red Zone where Reilly re-entered the game and hooked up with Kenny Stafford for a touchdown. The major cut the Lions’ lead down to 15-7.
Jennings lost possession of the football after Willie Jefferson stripped him after a sack and Gregory Alexandre recovered it near midfield to put Reilly and the offence back on the field with just over a minute remaining the first half. Edmonton could not get themselves into scoring territory and entered halftime still trailing.
Opening up the second half, Marco Iannuzzi recorded a big gain to put the Lions into scoring position. The Eskimos applied defensive pressure that left Jennings scrambling on back-to-back plays and Richie Leone missed a 15-yard field goal, recording a single point for a 16-7 lead.
With just inches separating the Esks from a first down, Lynch drove through the pile to keep Edmonton’s drive alive midway through the third quarter. Reilly returned back under centre and threw a tipped interception to Adam Bighill as the Lions started in the Red Zone. Jennings connected with Iannuzzi on a diving touchdown on the first play on the new drive as BC led 23-7.
Receptions by Walker and Bowman moved the Esks downfield as the seconds ticked away in the third quarter. In the final play of the frame, Lynch punched the football in over the goal line and Reilly connected with Walker for the two-point convert but the Esks still trailed 23-15.
Next week, both teams are in action again on Saturday as Edmonton visits Winnipeg while the Lions host the Riders.