Eskimos withstand Stampeders to stay unbeaten
Fred Stamps reached into the air, hauled in a pass with one hand, and ran another 30 yards into the end zone.
It's the kind of play that's becoming expected of Stamps, and a big reason why the Edmonton Eskimos are undefeated so far this season.
"That's the kind of play that he can make," said Edmonton quarterback Ricky Ray, who tossed a pair of TD passes to Stamps to lead the Eskimos (4-0) to a 24-19 win over the Calgary Stampeders (2-2).
"When you've got a receiver that can do that, you just have so much confidence in the guy and it just makes your team so much better."
Stamps followed up a 55-yard touchdown catch from Ray in the first quarter with his spectacular one-handed grab in the second, part of a 65-yard play.
"I just felt like I had to make a play," said Stamps, who finished with five catches for 165 yards. "Ricky put it up there and I felt like [Calgary defensive back Brandon Smith] was pulling on my right arm so I stuck my left hand out and it just kind of stuck to my hand. I just had to make the play for the team."
Edmonton coach Kavis Reed has come to count on Stamps making impressive plays during Edmonton's early-season winning streak.
"It doesn't surprise me with Fred," Reed said. "The guy has absolute focus when he's concentrating on the football.
"He made a lot of big plays. Our offensive line gave Ricky time to find him downfield. He was huge and gave us a cushion and we were able to maintain the lead."
Duval kicked three field goals and a single for the Eskimos, who had lost six straight games to the Stampeders over the past two years including humbling setbacks of 56-15 and 52-5 in Calgary last season.
"It's a big win," said Stamps, who missed all three losses last year against Calgary due to a dislocated shoulder. "I'm glad we have a lot of new guys that didn't know about the big losses we had last year."
It's the first time the Eskimos have won four straight games to start the season since 1986.
Although the Stampeders dominated time of possession by nearly a two-to-one margin in the first half, they only managed to put up five points on a field goal and a single by kicker Rene Paredes and a punt single by Burke Dales.
Calgary quarterback Henry Burris tossed touchdown passes to Romby Bryant in the third quarter and Jon Cornish in the fourth to pull the Stampeders within three points.
Paredes had a chance to tie the game, but missed his second field goal of the contest before Duval rounded out the scoring with a 10-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter.
"Our quarterback was good sometimes, other times he wasn't as good," said Calgary coach and general manager John Hufnagel.
"Sometimes his teammates weren't as good as they needed to be too. It's just not one player. We just need to become better and become more of a cohesive offensive unit. We've got to eliminate penalties on both sides of the football and take advantage of scoring situations."
Calgary opened the scoring at 7:50 of the first quarter when Paredes kicked a 46-yard field goal before Stamps caught his first TD of the game for Edmonton.
On Calgary's next drive, the Stampeders had to settle for a single when Paredes missed a 39-yard field goal wide to the right.
After Duval kicked a 48-yard field early in the second quarter to put the Esks up 10-4, Dales booted a 53-yard single for Calgary.
Stamps then caught his second TD pass of the game to put Edmonton up 17-5 at halftime.
Duval kicked a 20-yard field goal and a 48-yard single to put Edmonton up 21-5 in the third quarter.
Bryant then caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Calgary quarterback Henry Burris, whose attempt at a two-point convert failed when his screen pass dropped short of Tim St. Pierre's outstretched arms.
Early in the fourth quarter, Cornish capped off a four-play, 74-yard drive by catching a short pass from Burris before running the rest of the way for a 36-yard touchdown.
On their next possession, the Stampeders had a great opportunity to put up more points, but had to settle for a 48-yard single when Paredes missed a 35-yard field goal wide to the right.
Ray then engineered a 10-play, 72-yard drive that resulted in a 10-yard field goal by Duval to put the Eskimos up by five points before the Edmonton defence held the Stampeders off the scoresheet on their final drive of the game.
"We know as an offence we have to get better because we're all making mistakes," Burris said. "Everybody is looking at me, but I'm out there chugging. I've made mistakes in the past but I will keep rolling. We were in position to win this game. I will make sure I get better every week."