It didn't take Jamal Robertson long to shake off the rust.
Making just his second start in nine games, the veteran running back hauled in a 35-yard touchdown pass and had 129 combined yards as the B.C. Lions defeated the Edmonton Eskimos 29-20 Saturday night to climb into a share of first place in the CFL West.
"I try to keep my tools sharp at practice," said Robertson, who got the chance to play because of an injury to running back Andrew Harris.
"I try to keep my knife sharp for when my number is called."
B.C. and Edmonton lead the West standings with 20 points from 10-7 records. The Calgary Stampeders (9-7) play the Montreal Alouettes Sunday.
The Lions end their season against the Alouettes at B.C. Place next week. The Eskimos host the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The Stampeders play the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Calgary.
The Lions, who started the season 0-5, have won nine of their last 10 games. B.C. also has won the season series against both Edmonton and Calgary.
While Robertson played with an edge, a snarling Lions defence harassed the Eskimos. Edmonton quarterback Ricky Ray was sacked three times, twice by big defensive tackle Khalif Mitchell, and had to hurry many throws.
The Lions held Edmonton running back Jerome Messam to just 17 yards on nine carries. Messam came into the game needing only 36 yards to become the first Canadian since Sean Millington in 2000 to rush for 1,000 yards.
"This is how a win is supposed to feel," said nickel back Korey Banks, shouting over the noise in the B.C. dressing room. "Everybody did their part."
Mitchell said the Lions wanted to erase the bitter taste of a 42-10 loss last week in Hamilton.
"We came out and played a game in our house," said Mitchell. "It was a great team effort.
"It was a great day to be a Lion."
Ray said missed opportunities resulted in the Eskimos kicking field goals instead of celebrating touchdowns.
"Against this team you've got to score touchdowns," said Ray, who competed 26 of 38 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns.
"We had our chances."
On one play in the first quarter Ray ran in circles, slipping several tackles, but was unable to find an open man down field. He finally was caught after a four-yard run.
Early in the fourth quarter defensive halfback Ryan Phillips deflected a pass in the end zone headed for Eskimo receiver Fred Stamps. That brought a roar from the crowd of 29,749 at B.C. Place.
Lions quarterback Travis Lulay said the Lions defence made huge plays, especially late in the game when the Eskimos were trying to rally.
"Those guys just battled and battled," said Lulay. "You have to tip your hat to the effort that takes.
"Those guys did what they needed to do."
Lulay threw three touchdown passes, including a 51-yard play to Paris Jackson. It was Jackson's first touchdown of the season on just his fourth catch of the year.
Arland Bruce caught a 14-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Robertson finished the game with three catches for 57 yards. He had 10 rushes for 30 yards and returned two kickoffs for 42 yards.
The 34 year old said it hasn't been easy not playing.
"You always want to compete, get in there and get involved," he said. "If a team is winning or losing you want to be part of it.
"Any opportunity I have given, I try to take advantage of it. I was born to do this."
Jackson began the season with a knee injury and has been used sparingly. He was given his first start of the year because Akeem Foster was out with a knee injury.
Lulay said having players like Jackson and Robertson shows the Lions' depth.
"When those guys come in it's not like brand new guys we have to baby sit," said Lulay, who completed 21 of 31 passes for 322 yards and an interception.
"These guys have played lots of football."
Paul McCallum kicked field goals of 36 and 33 yards for the Lions.
Ray threw a 20-yard touchdown to Jason Barnes and a 16-yard strike to Tyler Scott.
His 15-yard pass to Barnes in the second quarter put him over 4,000 yards for the season and 40,000 yards for his career.
Damon Duval kicked field goals of 21 and 12 yards as Edmonton saw a three-game win streak snapped.
Wally Buono, the Lions coach and general manager, said his team wanted to make amends for last week's loss.
"There was an urgency this week at practise," he said. "They were kind of quiet in the locker-room before the game.
"Once the ball was kicked off you could sense the intensity was there."
Edmonton coach Kavis Reed said the Lions were the better team.
"B.C. did a phenomenal job all around," said Reed. "We didn't do a very good job."