Short-handed Edmonton take on Saskatchewan

Nov 5, 2014 - 4:27 PM Regina, SK ( - With second place in the West Division wrapped up and the potential for movement within the playoff process impossible at this point, the Edmonton Eskimos will battle Saskatchewan on Saturday evening without quarterback Mike Reilly at the helm.

Instead, when Edmonton hits the field at Mosaic Stadium in the final game of the regular season, it will be Matt Nichols who will direct the offense in an effort to keep Reilly safe and ready for the Grey Cup Playoffs.

Last Saturday against British Columbia, even though Edmonton was cruising to a 37-3 win at home, Reilly was still playing late in the game, and at one point appeared to be favoring one of his ankles, which is more than enough reason to keep him on the sidelines for a game that doesn't mean anything as far as the postseason is concerned.

Reilly finished the contest 14-of-24 for 289 yards and an interception, while backup signal caller Pat White tossed a five-yard TD to Calvin McCarty and also ran 10 yards for a major in the second quarter. Edmonton as a whole was quite productive with the ball on the ground, as John White registered a game- high 122 yards and the team overall 241 yards on 34 attempts.

Even Reilly got in on the act as he picked up 54 yards and scored twice on seven attempts, which is probably a good enough reason to keep him off the field this week.

On the defensive side of the ball for Edmonton, JC Sherritt was named the CFL Defensive Player of the Week, even though his single-season tackles record was broken by BC's Solomon Elimimian in the meeting. Sherritt posted a season-best seven stops, made three sacks and forced a fumble as the Eskimos assured themselves of at least one home playoff game.

The victory was the third straight and the fourth in the last five games for a surging Edmonton group, which is more than can be said for Saskatchewan at the moment.

The Roughriders, who at one point this season enjoyed a seven-game win streak, are backing into the postseason at this point, having lost five in a row heading into the regular-season finale. Saskatchewan was off last week which presumably gave the team time to heal some wounds and figure out why it has been heading in the wrong direction this last month or so.

The team's last effort on the football field came in Week 18 at Calgary where it squandered a 27-15 lead in the fourth quarter and ended up being handed a 13-point road loss by the Stampeders. Kerry Joseph, who was signed as a quarterback in the last few weeks after being out of football, experienced the highs and lows of CFL action as he threw for 322 yards and two touchdowns, but was also intercepted three times and suffered just as many sacks against the Stamps defense.

Certainly the Roughriders didn't do themselves any favors by committing 13 penalties for a loss of 90 yards either. Ironically, Saskatchewan currently stands as the least penalized team in the league from a yardage standpoint, surrendering 1,418 yards over the course of 17 games. At the other end of that list in ninth place is Edmonton with negative-1,696 yards.

Being hit with all of those penalties and losing field position certainly hurts the Eskimos, but perhaps not as much when you consider the team leads the league in total offense with 365.4 ypg. When you add to that the fact that Edmonton is also first in the league in defense with 277.0 ypg permitted, you see why they've been so successful in 2014.

With there being a possibility that Saskatchewan could claim third place in the West Division standings, there was talk that the club was entertaining the notion of bringing back Darian Durant from injury for this meeting, but it sounds as though cooler heads have prevailed and he will continue to rest up until the playoffs begin.

With respect to the all-time series between the teams, one that deals with regular-season matchups dating back to 1938, Edmonton is in charge with a 117-90-2 mark. The Eskimos won the most recent meeting last month by a score of 24-19 in Regina, giving the squad three straight victories over the Riders.

In that Oct. 19 contest, Edmonton had just four points at intermission before scoring 10 in both the third and fourth quarters, not to mention holding the hosts to just six points after the break. Reilly finished up 20-of-30 for 260 yards, was intercepted once and sacked three times, while adding a rushing touchdown for the visitors.

In addition to kicker Hugh O'Neill posting 12 points, Kendial Lawrence was a key contributor as well with his 96-yard kickoff return for a score in the third frame.

The Roughriders, who were held to just 267 yards of total offense, were under the direction of Kerry Joseph who converted 17-of-36 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns, as well as a pair of picks. The aggressive nature of Joseph's efforts were much needed when you consider the Saskatchewan running game accounted for only 54 yards on 19 attempts, averaging less than three yards per carry.

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