Emotional Eskimos overcome Lions
Players honour injured receiver Jason Tucker on field and on their stomachs
Kamau Peterson was obviously waiting for the right time to reveal a secret he and the rest of the Edmonton Eskimos receivers had been keeping all Thursday night.
That moment arrived about 11 minutes into the third quarter, with the B.C. Lions leading 24-10 and firmly in control of the host green and gold.
The receiver caught a sharp ball from quarterback Ricky Ray up the middle and was immediately hammered by Otis Floyd, going down hard.
It was eerily similar to the play in which teammate Jason Tucker suffered two broken vertebrae in Hamilton the week before. And Tucker was there on Thursday — a surprise visitor to the dressing room beforehand and now watching from the press box above.
Peterson, however, bounced right back up from Floyd's hit, lifted his game jersey and revealed a T-shirt with Tucker's number 83 emblazoned on the stomach, just below the shoulder pads.
In the stands, the fans went wild and so, it turned out, did the Eskimos, scoring 25 unanswered points on the way to a 35-24 victory.
With the win, Edmonton improves to 4-2, a game back of 5-0 Saskatchewan. B.C. falls to 3-3 after winning their last three straight.
Big Mo changes sides
Right after Peterson's catch, Ray found Fred Stamps deep down the left side for a touchdown that brought Edmonton within seven at 24-17.
Stamps also showed off an 83 shirt to the fans after his catch, before pointing upstairs where Tucker was watching.
And the Eskimos were just warming up.
B.C. quickly had to punt and Ray went to work again, setting off on a short, four-play, 56-yard drive that culminated in a pass to a wide, wide open Andrew Nowacki in the end zone to tie the contest and show off yet another 83 T-shirt.
Momentum had definitely switched to the home side by now, especially after the crowd caught on to what was going on and cranked the decibels up.
Lions quarterback Jarious Jackson, who had been strong in the first half, tried to get something going in the fourth quarter but there was nothing doing as the green and gold defence began to swarm through.
A Noel Prefontaine field goal put Edmonton up 27-24, setting up a final drive by Ray, which was beautifully put together.
First, the quarterback hit Fred Stamps with a lightning bolt on a post pattern to the B.C. 53. Another post route found fullback Mathieu Bertrand, then a pitch to running back A.J. Harris had the ball down to the 40 with four minutes left.
Bertrand caught another one in the flat and the 216-pounder took off down to the 11, actually hurdling defender Dante Marsh on the way.
Two plays later, after going for it on third and inches from the two and getting the first down himself, Ray dove to his left for the final touchdown.
A single on the kickoff finished the scoring.
Lions finished first half flying
The game opened with a nice drive by the Eskimos who marched 90 yards from the opening kickoff on eight plays, capped by a Ray one-yard run and a Prefontaine convert for 7-0.
After a Paul McCallum field goal closed the gap, the Lions were clawing at the door again.
Jackson completed a 71-yard drive by hitting Paris Jackson with a 12-yard pass that, after the kick, made it 10-7 for the visitors after the first quarter.
Ray brought his own offence into the Lions' red zone early in the second, but the drive bogged down and the Eskimos had to settle for a Prefontaine field goal, temporarily tying the score.
B.C. would come up with 10 more points before the half, however, seven coming off a 59-yard drive that ended with Jackson scampering into the end zone, and a 17-yard McCallum field goal for a 20-10 lead into the dressing room.
Ray finished the game 23 of 30 for 392 yards (eight Eskimos caught balls), while Jackson was 19 of 36 for 217 plus two key interceptions.
Edmonton running back A.J. Harris had 127 total yards while B.C. receiver Clarence Coleman had seven catches for 61 yards to lead the Lions.