ALBERTA

Eskimos back at practice set to forget opening game home loss debacle to Riders

07/02/2013 06:25 EDT | Updated 09/01/2013 05:12 EDT
EDMONTON - The Edmonton Eskimos learned two things from their humiliating loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders: quarterback Mike Reilly has a rifle for an arm but needs more time than one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi to throw.

"We've got a lot to work on as a team and as unit," offensive lineman Matt O'Donnell said Tuesday after a long practice in sweltering 30 C temperatures at Commonwealth Stadium.

"We've just got to come together as a team, limit turnovers, limit mistakes (and) limit penalties."

"(But) we've got to come together as a team and not turn on each other."

It was the first practice since the Eskimos were booed off their home field field Saturday in a 38-19 beat-down by the Riders.

Saskatchewan capitalized on multiple penalties, miscues, and turnovers by the Eskimos to stake a 36-1 lead early in the third quarter, turning the last 25 minutes into garbage time.

At practice Tuesday, head coach Kavis Reed was part X's and O's tactician and part psychologist. He walked amongst his players during exercises, shaking hands, keeping spirits up.

By the end of the practice he stood at midfield and hollered at the waves of players sprinting, or in the case of some linemen, wheezing, past him from sideline to sideline in conditioning drills.

"We're the only ones who believe!!" he shouted. "We're the only ones we have!!"

The sideline audio boom box blasted Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" — a fitting tune given the Eskimos travel to Guelph, Ont., Sunday to play the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Saturday's game was Reilly's first start for the Eskimos, but as the game got away from him, he was repeatedly hurried, hit, or flushed from the pocket.

Reed said it was a combination of problems, starting with the fact that the Riders linemen knew Edmonton had to throw to get back in the game so their d-linemen could charge upfield with impunity.

"Those (offensive line) guys for the most part did a good job," said Reed.

"It's not just about the offensive line in protection. It's about our receivers being at the place where they're supposed to be at the right time (and) it's our quarterback making the right reads.

"It was an overall lack of execution that led to some duress for Mike."

The turning point was on the last play of the first half. With Edmonton down 15-1, Reilly took the snap deep in his own end.

The plan was to heave the ball far down the field hoping for a miracle catch or, at the worst, an interception far from the goal line.

Instead, as the pocket collapsed, Reilly tried to make something happen. He threw underneath into coverage. Rider defender Renauld Williams jumped the route, picked the ball off and ran it 19 yards for the TD. Edmonton never recovered.

"That was a terrible decision by me and it cost our team," said Reilly. "I take pride in being the type of guy that learns from mistakes and that's not going to happen again."

Reilly completed 17 of 35 passes for 259 yards, one TD pass and three interceptions.

Newcomer speed-burner Isaiah Sweeney caught four balls for 44 yards.

He almost caught a long bomb from Reilly, except he stutter-stepped in mid-run so that he would not over-run the ball. Instead, the pass soared just past his fingertips.

"I probably could have got to (it)," said Sweeney. "He threw it out there and I'm just going to have to go get it next time.

"He's got a cannon on his shoulders. I like that."

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