EDMONTON - The Edmonton Eskimos don't mind winning an ugly game now and then, especially when it gets them into the post-season.
Jerome Messam scored the game's lone touchdown as the Eskimos secured a playoff spot and a share of first place in the CFL’s West Division with a 17-1 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Monday.
The Riders have been outscored 99-9 in their last three games.
The Eskimos, who snapped a three-game losing streak at home, improved to 8-6 on the season, moving into a tie for first with both the B.C. Lions and the Calgary Stampeders.
"Offensively we'd say winning ugly," Edmonton quarterback Ricky Ray said of the low-scoring game. "Defensively, they are saying it's a beautiful win. We made a lot of mistakes on offence. But it's a huge win for us. We haven’t played that well at home. It's great to put ourselves in the playoffs and also to get us back tied for first in the West. These last four games are going to be interesting."
Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed said making the second season was just the first step his team wants to take.
"We wanted to give ourselves an opportunity to play the last game of the year in this league and now we’ve done that," he said. "Now we've got to focus on correcting the many mistakes that we committed tonight and get strong as a football team and move toward things that we’ve set out for ourselves in the beginning."
With their third consecutive loss, the Roughriders fell to 4-10 and are now out of the West playoff picture, with only a slim chance of making the post-season through an Eastern cross-over.
"There may be a sliver of a hope yet but if we don't start playing better any little slivers of light are going to turn into darkness on us," said Riders head coach Ken Miller.
The coach added it is a frustrating time for his team.
"Our defence played so hard, but on offence, you have to catch the ball when it is thrown to you," Miller said. "We have to do a better job blocking. We had the beginnings of good drives that didn't materialize into anything because of turnovers.
"It's frustrating because we haven't scored a touchdown in a long time (13 quarters). That’s directly attributable to me."
Saskatchewan was pressing during a long drive on its second possession but Eskimo defensive back Donovan Alexander kept them from scoring with an interception of Riders starting quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie on the Edmonton 29.
Edmonton finally put the first points on the board to start the second quarter as Damon Duval kicked a 32-yard field goal on the heels of a failed direct snap attempt on a punt by Saskatchewan at midfield.
Four minutes into the second quarter, Edmonton went up 5-0 as the Riders conceded a safety.
The Eskimos scored the game's only touchdown with just under four minutes to play in the second as Messam showed some tenacity, bouncing off of a defender and then blazing 51 yards for the touchdown.
Saskatchewan looked to be gaining steam late in the first half but once again Alexander stepped up to pick off a Dinwiddie pass deep in Edmonton territory. The Riders got the ball back but once again were intercepted on a highlight reel snag by Eskimo Weldon Brown. Edmonton squandered both opportunities to keep it a 12-0 game at the half.
The Eskimos started off the third quarter with a Duval field goal.
Darian Durant, who didn't start the game as he is nursing a sore foot, came in to replace Dinwiddie in the second half.
Saskatchewan finally got on the scoreboard with three minutes left in the third on a punt single, a point the Esks got back on one of their own four minutes into the fourth.
Edmonton got another single on a missed field goal to round out the scoring in the yawner of a game.
The Eskimos are back at it on Saturday as they play host to Winnipeg. The Roughriders play again on Sunday at home to the B.C. Lions.
Notes: Eskimos linebacker T.J. Hill made an early return from the nine-game injured list, missing only three games after suffering a shoulder injury in the Labour Day Classic in Calgary… The Eskimos honoured former kicker Sean Fleming and linebacker Larry Wruck by putting them on the team’s Wall of Fame. The pair are the 27th and 28th former Eskimos to be so enshrined… The Roughriders came into the game a disheartening 0-6 against teams in the West… Edmonton sports an all-time record of 36-9 against Saskatchewan at Commonwealth Stadium… Riders defensive tackle Dario Romero played in his 100th CFL game… Eskimo offensive lineman Kyle Koch had to be carted to the dressing room after a suffering a knee injury in the first quarter.