EDMONTON - The Edmonton Eskimos are back off of life support.
Fred Stamps caught nine passes for 204 yards, including a crucial 48-yard touchdown grab in the fourth-quarter, as the Eskimos stayed alive in the hunt for a playoff spot with a much-needed 35-20 victory over the Hamilton Tiger Cats on Friday.
The Eskimos snapped a five-game losing skid to improve to 6-8 and move two points back of Saskatchewan, which is third in the CFL’s West Division.
More important, they moved two points ahead of the Ticats for a possible cross-over post-season spot through the East Division.
“It’s a very big win,” said Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed. “We knew the gravity of this game. We knew if we lost it that we would really be trying to roll a boulder up a hill. It’s simple. Give your playmakers a chance to make plays and put the ball in their hands. We weren't doing that earlier this season. Tonight we took our shots.”
The Eskimos have been criticized for not utilizing Stamps enough this season, but that was not the case this night.
“I want the opportunity to catch the ball and make the play,” Stamps said. “I don’t want anything forced my way because that is how you get in trouble, but when it comes your way you want to make the plays. I’ve just been waiting on my opportunity.
“We needed this win very badly to get momentum and confidence back.”
Eskimos quarterback Kerry Joseph, who turned 39 on Thursday, passed for 359 yards and three touchdowns to win his first game as a starter since July 24, 2009.
“Whether he is the starter or not, he prepares to win,” Reed said. “His heart is bigger than this province.”
Hamilton fell to 5-9 on the season.
“In the final estimation, across the board, the coaches and players, we just didn’t play well enough,” said Tiger Cats head coach George Cortez. “It’s disappointing every time you lose. There is pressure every week.”
It wasn’t a good start for either quarterback as Joseph was picked off on the second play of the game by Armando Murillo after his pass bounced off of Stamps. However, Hamilton’s Henry Burris gave the ball back on the next play as his pass was tipped and then intercepted by Brandon Lang on the Tiger-Cats’ 40, leading to a 48-yard Grant Shaw field goal to start the scoring.
Hamilton got into scoring range with four minutes to play in the opening quarter on a 42-yard punt return by Chris Williams, but gave up the ball again on an interception by Chris Thompson on the Edmonton 13.
The score remained 3-0 Edmonton after the first quarter.
The Ticats knotted the game early in the second frame on a 10-yard Luca Congi field goal, and he added a 39-yard field goal with five minutes to play to put Hamilton in front 6-3.
Edmonton regained the lead after a long drive was capped off with a six-yard TD pass from Joseph to Marcus Henry to go ahead 10-6 at the half.
The Tabbies came back from the break with a strong drive, finished off with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Burris to Bakari Grant just two minutes into the third, to take a 13-10 lead.
Following a highlight reel 44-yard catch by Stamps through double coverage, the Esks inched back ahead as Hugh Charles rambled 15 yards into the end zone to put Edmonton up 17-13.
The Ticats caught a break with just under two minutes left in the third quarter as Joe Burnett fumbled a punt on his own 14. Hamilton made good on the next play on a 14-yard pass from Burris to Andy Fantuz to move in front 20-17.
The see-saw battle continued to start the fourth as Edmonton regained the lead once again, this time striking for a seven-yard TD pass from Joseph to Matt Carter for a 24-20 advantage.
Edmonton added a field goal midway through the fourth.
The Eskimos broke the game open with six minutes left to play as Thompson picked off his second pass of the game deep in Edmonton territory and returned the ball to the Hamilton 51, setting up a big 48-yard TD pass to Stamps to put Edmonton up by 14 points.
The Tiger-Cats got back into scoring territory, but turned over the ball on downs at the Edmonton 28 with three minutes to play.
Hamilton had one more chance but Burris fumbled on his own 34, with Shawn Lemon picking it up, allowing the Eskimos to run out the clock.
Both teams are at home next week as the Ticats host the B.C. Lions on Friday and the Eskimos welcome the Saskatchewan Roughriders next Saturday.
Notes: It was the second and final meeting of the season between the teams. Hamilton mauled the Eskimos 51-8 in mid-September… The Eskimos were without the services of linebacker J.C. Sherritt, the CFL’s leading tackler with 104. Sherritt was out with a knee injury… Edmonton defensive lineman Ted Laurent returned to the lineup after missing two games after re-aggravating his ankle in Hamilton three weeks ago… Hamilton QB Henry Burris, 37, completed 88 per cent of his passes for 326 yards and five touchdown passes in his previous game against Montreal, earning himself Offensive Player of the Week honours in the process. Burris completed 28 of his 32 pass attempts against the Alouettes... It was the first game that Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed also served as offensive co-ordinator as Marcus Crandell was relegated to the quarterbacks coach role earlier in the week... The Ticats came into the game leading the CFL in both points scored (401) and points allowed (409)… Tabbies defensive tackle Eddie Steele was taken away by ambulance with a badly-injured leg in the second quarter.