Stampeders alone atop CFL West after beating Eskimos
Calgary scores 3 TDs to improve to league-best 8-1
One of the reasons running back Jon Cornish likes life as a Calgary Stampeder is he doesn't have to face his own defence. It's not a place where there is a lot of daylight.
For the second straight game, and for a fourth game this season, Calgary didn't allow an offensive touchdown in their 28-13 win over the Edmonton Eskimos on Monday.
"People don't even know how good our defence is," Cornish said. "It really shifts momentum and it demoralizes the other team. I've said it before. I'll say it again. I do not want to play against our defence."
The hype for this year's Labour Day clash between Alberta's Canadian Football League clubs was justified as it featured two teams tied for both the league and West Division lead.
Calgary moved into sole possession of first place at 8-1 with the win, while the Eskimos dropped into a tie with the Saskatchewan Roughriders at 7-2.
The Stampeders extended their winning streak against their northern rival to 10 in a row, including three straight Labour Day games.
Calgary also bought some playoff insurance by winning the second of three meetings with Edmonton and clinching the season series.
Stamps win tiebreaker
If Calgary is tied in the points with the Eskimos at season's end, the Stampeders would get the higher ranking. The Battle of Alberta continues Saturday in Edmonton in their final meeting of the regular season.
"That's something we talked about all week, was making sure we won the season series against Edmonton," Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell said.
"It was very big for our guys to come out and get a good win against a great team and pick up some momentum going in to Saturday."
Mitchell gave the hosts momentum by marching the offence 65 yards to score on the opening drive. The Texan improved to 11-1 in CFL starts. He threw for 252 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown throw to Anthony Parker.
In his second game back since sitting out six with concussion symptoms, Cornish is quickly regaining his form. The CFL's most outstanding player and leading rusher in 2013 ran for 163 yards, including 100 in the first half and a two-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Backup quarterback Drew Tate finished Calgary's opening drive with a one-yard plunge off the snap to score. Rene Paredes added an 84-yard kickoff single and field goals from 47 and 33 yards in front of an announced sellout of 35,400 at McMahon Stadium
Edmonton's Otha Foster recovered a blocked punt in the first quarter and ran it in to score Edmonton's lone touchdown. Grant Shaw kicked field goals from 13 yards in the second quarter and from 44 yards in the fourth.
Calgary held their northern rival to less than 100 yards rushing and sacked Eskimos quarterback Matt Nichols three times.
"A touchdown hasn't been scored on us in two weeks," said defensive end Shawn Lemon, who produced one of them. "A lot of stuff like that goes unnoticed. If you don't score on us, you're not going to win. As simple as that."
Edmonton's starting quarterback was a mystery until their offence got the ball. Mike Reilly injured his throwing hand last week in Toronto where Nichols finished off a win against the Argos.
Reilly dressed for Monday's game, but Nichols took the first snaps. Reilly's run of consecutive CFL starts ended at 26, while Nichols completed 18 of 30 passes attempts for 203 yards.
Esks receiver A.J. Guyton dropped two consecutive Nichols throws to him in the end zone in the second quarter. Edmonton settled for a Shaw field goal and trailed by five points at halftime.
"I felt like we were moving the ball, but then kind of stalling out at midfield," Nichols said. "We just had some penalties at bad times. I missed on a few throws here and there, a couple dropped balls, just the little things, penalties at the wrong time.
"Those little things add up and can stall out an offence."
Edmonton mustered 15 first downs to Calgary's 28.
"I just told the guys just now it was the most disappointing part of the year," Esks head coach Chris Jones said following the game. "We didn't have the energy that we normally have and we didn't fly around, especially defensively, like we have."
The Stampeders nailed down the victory early in the fourth quarter, when Edmonton's Alonzo Lawrence crashed into kicker Rob Maver while trying to block the punt. That gave the ball back to Calgary on their own 33-yard line.
A scrambling Mitchell dodged three tacklers to get the ball down to first and goal, where Cornish finished it off for 14-point lead at 5:50.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats edged the visiting Toronto Argonauts 13-12 earlier Monday in the first game played at Tim Hortons Field.