The Edmonton Eskimos are rapidly erasing thoughts of last year's disappointing season.
Adarius Bowman reeled in three touchdown passes as the Eskimos came away with a 27-11 victory over the expansion Ottawa Redblacks on Friday.
The Eskimos improved to 3-0 on the season under rookie head coach Chris Jones and 2-0 on their home turf at Commonwealth Stadium. By contrast, Edmonton only won one home game last year and were 1-9 in their first 10 games last season on their way to a disappointing 4-14 campaign.
Jones said it was an impressive performance by Bowman, if not a flawless one.
"He did a pretty good job, he had one drop tonight, which I feel was more about concentration — he tried to run before he caught the football — but he did some very nice things and made a good catch late," Jones said of Bowman, who leads the CFL with four touchdown catches on the season. "It was good to have him. Anytime you have a guy that's hot, you try to put the football in his hands."
Bowman said it was important that he bounce back after a poor performance the week before against Hamilton.
"I went into this game just working on being more consistent all around," he said. "That's the game of football, you've got to be able to keep your head in it."
The Redblacks are still searching for their first win this season, sitting at 0-2 since the CFL returned to Ottawa.
"It was disappointing," said Redblacks head coach Rick Campbell. "It was a defensive game for a long time and going back and forth and we were hanging in there. We just came up a few plays short. It's always tough to lose. This is two weeks in a row that we have been up at the half and haven't been able to get a win. It's a long season though.
"It's tough right now, but there is a lot of football still to be played. As long as we continue to get better, I think we'll be competitive."
The game started quietly, with the only scoring in the first quarter coming from a punt single by Eskimos kicker Grant Shaw. The Redblacks went the entire first quarter without an offensive first down.
Ottawa scored midway through the second quarter as Chevon Walker got loose on a handoff from quarterback Henry Burris and blazed 65 yards into the end zone to put the Redblacks up 7-1.
Edmonton got into scoring range late in the second but Shaw's 23-yard field goal attempt at the buzzer was wide to make it 7-2 Ottawa at the half.
The Eskimos woke up to start the third quarter, marching down the field on their first possession before QB Mike Reilly found Bowman for a 41-yard pass-and-run touchdown. That play was followed by a single on the ensuing kickoff to put Edmonton in front 10-7.
Shaw added another punt single seven minutes into the third.
Ottawa wasn't getting full value for its field goal attempts as well, as Brett Maher missed a 36-yarder with just over a minute to play in the third for another single to make it 11-8 Edmonton heading into the final frame.
The Eskimos added to their lead just 52 seconds into the fourth quarter as Reilly hooked up with his favourite target on the night again, passing to Bowman, who made a beautiful one-handed catch for a 30-yard TD strike.
The Edmonton defence came up big three minutes into the fourth as they stuffed a third-and-one gamble at the Ottawa 25-yard-line to turn the ball over on downs. The Esks made the most of the opportunity as Reilly rolled out on a play fake and passed to Bowman for a one-yard TD and a 25-8 lead.
The Redblacks chipped back with a 34-yard Maher field goal with five-and-a-half minutes remaining.
Edmonton got a safety with two minutes left when Marcus Howard sacked Burris in the end zone.
The Eskimos return to action next Thursday in Winnipeg, while the Redblacks have their first home game in their newest incarnation next Friday against Toronto.