Eskimos take over 1st in CFL West after win over Alouettes
Reilly throws for 2 TDs
The Edmonton Eskimos built a big enough lead early in the game that it didn't matter what the Montreal Alouettes did in the second half.
After taking a 22-point lead over the Als into the dressing room at halftime at Percival Molson Stadium on Friday night, Edmonton staved off Montreal's second-half comeback to hold on for the 33-23 victory.
The loss extended the last-place Alouettes' losing streak to four games.
"We played the first half really well," said Eskimos coach Chris Jones, who spent six years as a defensive coach for the Als, from 2002 to 2007. "If you can mirror the first and second half, that would be great. Unfortunately. We came out flat in the second half and let a good football team hang around. It was closer than what it should have been."
With Edmonton leading the Alouettes 30-8 at the half, Montreal was seemingly en route to a third consecutive blowout loss - the Als lost back-to-back games by a combined score of 72-10 coming into Friday. But the Eskimos only scored three second-half points, giving a desperate Montreal side a glint of hope in the process.
Down by three scores, Montreal (1-5) put their best drive together at the start of the third quarter. The Als made five consecutive first downs - as many as they converted in the first half - for a 53-yard drive that lasted more than six minutes. But they couldn't find the end zone, and were forced to settle for the field goal.
After cutting Edmonton's lead to 16, Montreal was given a small lifeline early in the fourth quarter when Eskimos kick returner Jamal Miles dropped the ball after a punt. The fumble was recovered by Montreal at Edmonton's 30. After yet another two-and-out, the Als kicked a field goal to make the score 30-17.
With their team at the bottom of the standings with the worst record in the Canadian Football League, Alouettes fans let the team know they were unhappy with the decision to go for the three points instead of the touchdown.
"That was an excellent call," said Als coach Tom Higgins, defending his team's choice. "Anybody who thinks differently, that's okay, that's their opinion. It was third-and-ten. Two two-point converts? That's probably not going to happen. It doesn't play to your favour. The decision, in my mind, is absolutely correct."
It was all too little, too late for the Alouettes, who finally found the end zone in the game's final minute - the team's first touchdown in 12 quarters. Brandon Whitaker scored his second TD of the year at 14:31 of the fourth quarter after completing a 43-yard pass-and-run.
"We didn't give up," said Higgins of the second-half attempted comeback. "We didn't beat ourselves, we didn't take foolish penalties, we caught the ball a little bit better, and we were able to get some first downs. We came out and played a lot better, disciplined football, the way it needs to be played."
Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly threw for two touchdowns and 208 yards, with 171 of those coming in the first half. Edmonton's offense was stagnant in the second, punting the ball away five times to Montreal's two. The Eskimos held onto the ball for just 12 minutes in the second half.
"For whatever reason, we couldn't get anything going offensively in the second half," said Reilly, who threw his only interception of the game after the restart. "We left our defence out on the field way too long. Luckily we did enough to get the win, we built up a good lead in the first half."