EDMONTON – The buck stopped in Vancouver for the Edmonton Eskimos, who were manhandled 40-23 by the B.C. Lions in the Canadian Football League West Division final on Sunday.
The Lions used an airtight defence and an MVP-type performance from quarterback Travis Lulay to blow the game open in the second quarter, opening up a 26-3 halftime lead and not looking back. Lulay finished the night with 293 yards and two touchdowns on 20 of 27 passing, with one interception.
The Eskimos offence struggled throughout the game, failing to score touchdowns until late in the game, to the delight of the 41,313 in attendance at BC Place.
After defending their home turf, the Lions will look to do it one more time this year. B.C. hosts the 99th Grey Cup and will welcome former Lions quarterback Buck Pierce and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Nov. 27.
The Lions started the game with the ball and Lulay showed no signs of rust from having a week off to wait for his West final opponent.
The pivot laced an eight-play, 57-yard drive together with kicker/punter Paul McCallum sending a 31-yard field goal through the uprights at 4:24 to make it a 3-0 game. With Lulay getting the Lions in scoring range late in the first quarter, McCallum chipped in with a 42-yard field goal to make it a 6-0 game.
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While the Eskimos offence was sputtering, the team’s first handoff to running back Hugh Charles brought a 36-yard gain and put the team into field goal range. Derek Schiavone answered McCallum back with a 41-yarder early in the second quarter to cut the B.C. lead in half, 6-3.
The Lions would run away with the game in the second quarter. As Eskimos linebacker Damaso Munoz went offside, Lulay heaved a 53-yard bomb to Geroy Simon. The slotback took the pass for a touchdown, which set the Eskimos defence off on one another. Defensive end Marcus Howard tore into Munoz as the two left the field, while Howard and cornerback Jykine Bradley had to be separated on the Eskimos bench.
While the defence bickered on the sidelines, Ray went out and threw a costly interception to B.C. defensive back Korey Banks, who ran the ball 46 yards to the Eskimos’ 10-yard line.
Lulay came back on and cashed in on the short field, hitting tailback Andrew Harris for a 14-yard touchdown pass. McCallum’s converts capped the offensive burst, as a three-point game quickly snowballed to a 20-3 advantage. The kicker continued to pour in points, adding two more field goals before the horn mercifully sounded at the half, bumping the score to 26-3.
The Eskimos were humiliated in the halftime stats, with Lulay throwing for 241 yards to Ray’s 44. B.C. held the advantage in first downs, with 14 to Edmonton’s four. Edmonton took nine penalties, costing them 63 yards in the first half, while B.C. was whistled once and lost 10 yards.
A 32-yard Schiavone field goal and a Chris Thompson interception on Lulay gave the Eskimos a glimmer of hope to start the third quarter. With the ball on the B.C. 11-yard line, Ray came in coughed up the ball when he was sacked by Anthony Reddick. B.C. linebacker Solomon Elimimiam recovered the ball, allowing Lulay to get back on the field and work some more magic. He pieced together a six-play, 70-yard drive that was capped by a 13-yard Harris run for the touchdown. McCallum’s convert made it 33-6 at 6:21 of the third. A 21-yard field goal from Schiavone closed out the scoring in the third quarter.
The Lions held the Eskimos at bay until 5:30 of the fourth, when Ray went deep to Barnes on a 31-yard touchdown pass. Schiavone’s convert made it a 33-16 affair. With the Eskimos pressing for last-minute scores, Ray threw his second interception of the game, this one to Dante Marsh. Desperate to keep the drive alive, Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed challenged the play to no avail.
The nail in the coffin came on the ensuing B.C. snap. Lulay worked a brilliant fake handoff and kept the ball himself, trucking in from 61-yards out, the longest rush a Lion has ever had in a playoff game. A fitting MVP chant rained down at BC Place. McCallum stepped in after the score and added the extra point, making it 40-16.
Ray connected with slotback Fred Stamps with 3:55 on the clock for a 19-yard touchdown, which likely added little consolation for the Eskimos, who lost their final three meetings with the Lions in 2011.