Lions visit Eskimos in West Division melee

Oct 29, 2014 - 3:04 PM Edmonton, AB ( - A pair of clubs from the West Division that already have their bags packed for the postseason get together on Saturday evening, as the Edmonton Eskimos host the British Columbia Lions at Commonwealth Stadium.

Over in the West, everything has already been sorted out as far as the playoffs are concerned, with Edmonton and BC joining both Saskatchewan and league-leading Calgary in a race for the 2014 Grey Cup title.

The Lions, who are four points behind Edmonton in the standings and are tied with the Roughriders with 18 points, although BC does have a game in hand, secured their place in the postseason last week with a thrilling 28-23 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on the road.

BC trailed at the break by a point and went into the fourth quarter behind as well, but that was before the team rattled off 15 straight points to surge ahead and capture the much-needed victory. Kevin Glenn made the start at quarterback for the Lions, completing 12-of-23 passes for 175 yards, but it was John Beck who came on to save the day as he hit on three of his four attempts for 73 yards and two TDs to Ernest Jackson and Kito Poblah in the final frame.

Also helping the Lions secure a postseason spot for the 18th year in a row was Keola Antolin who ran for 84 yards on 18 carries, included in that was a 10- yard major in the first quarter.

The battle for a playoff opportunity wasn't easy by any stretch however, especially when you consider the Lions hampered themselves with a staggering 22 penalties for a loss of 155 yards. Winnipeg gave some of that back though, suffering seven infractions for a loss of 104 yards.

As for the Eskimos, owners of the second-best record in the CFL after 18 weeks of action, they enjoyed some time off last weekend after posting a 24-19 victory over Saskatchewan on Oct. 19. The win was the second in a row and the third in four tries for an Edmonton squad that had lost three of four during one stretch in the month of September.

Tied for the second-best home record in the league at 6-2, Edmonton has the luxury of fielding one of the top players in the league in receiver Adarius Bowman. The Oklahoma State product who is now in his fourth year with the Esks, posted his sixth 100-yard receiving game of the season versus Saskatchewan, averaging 18.5 yards per catch.

But as productive as Bowman has been in terms of receptions (107) and yards (1,352), both of which pace the CFL by a wide margin, he has only six TDs and just one of those have come in the last 10 games. Take away his three-TD game against expansion Ottawa in the third week of the season and his numbers might not carry as much as weight.

Getting the ball to Bowman has been the responsibility of Mike Reilly who has completed close to 65 percent of his throws for 16 TDs, but also 10 INTs, which is why he has an efficiency rating of only 89.0. As a unit, Edmonton has a pass efficiency rating of 87.2, with 21 TDs and 13 picks.

Thanks to the efforts of Bowman, Reilly and other assorted contributors, the Eskimos currently rank second in the league in scoring with 27.4 ppg but perhaps more importantly, the team is first in yards allowed on defense, giving up just 285.6 ypg. The Lions are right behind Edmonton in that category with 291.7 ypg, as they are the only two teams in the league permitting fewer than 300 yards per game.

Glenn, who appeared to suffer a head injury last week, forcing the Lions to call on Beck, is currently third in the CFL in passing yards (3,538), but has thrown almost as many INTs (15) as majors (16).

British Columbia has won five of the last six encounters with the Eskimos, as well as eight of the last 10, yet it is Edmonton that owns a 104-76-4 advantage in the all-time, regular-season series dating back to 1954.

The teams kicked off the 2014 campaign against each other, the only previous matchup this season, with the Eskimos pulling out a 27-20 victory on the road. In that meeting, the teams practically traded scoring plays throughout, but it was a 35-yard TD pass from Reilly to Bowman in the fourth quarter that gave the Esks enough breathing room.

Reilly finished the outing 22-of-35 for 229 yards and three touchdowns, offsetting his one interception and three sacks rather easily. Bowman caught nine balls for 105 yards, both game-highs, while Calvin McCarty and Fred Stamps both reeled in scoring passes as well for the visitors.

The Lions, who had 19 fewer snaps than Edmonton on offense, saw Glenn convert 18-of-28 passes for 251 yards and two majors. However, the signal caller was sacked four times and watched four of is throws end up in the hands of Edmonton defenders. Andrew Harris, who scored the first points of the meeting on a 55-yard pass play, had six catches for 102 yards to pace the hosts.

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