09/01/2014 09:14 EDT | Updated 11/01/2014 05:59 EDT

Eskimos go back to the drawing board after 28-13 loss to Stampeders

CALGARY - Chris Jones fully expected the Edmonton Eskimos to come out with a better effort against the Calgary Stampeders on Labour Day at McMahon Stadium.

Jones was at a loss for words as to why his team couldn't muster up a better effort against the Stamps in a showdown for top spot in the CFL standings.

"I can't put my finger on it," said the Edmonton coach after the Eskimos (7-2) dropped a 28-13 decision to the Stampeders (8-1). "I'm still searching for answers as to why we wouldn't play with more energy in a situation like this, but I fully expect us to bounce back. We didn't all of a sudden get to be a bad football team. This is certainly a disappointment, but it's certainly not going to stop us from trying to win."

With the victory, the Stamps also won the season series against the Esks. The same two teams will face each other on Saturday night for a rematch in Edmonton at Commonwealth Stadium.

"We can't turn the ball over and we've got to do a good job tackling," said Jones of what it will take to beat the Stamps, who also downed the Esks 26-22 on July 24 in Edmonton. "We've got to do a much better job controlling the line of scrimmage both offensively and defensively and then you can't take the big penalties in big situations. We've got to play some good solid football."

Linebacker JC Sherritt added that the Eskimos will also have to find a way to contain Calgary running back Jon Cornish, who torched the Edmonton defence for 163 yards on 17 carries and a late touchdown in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.

"When he's rolling, that's when they really get good," said Sherritt, who finished with three tackles on defence in addition to another special teams tackle. "We know that we've got to stop him first and foremost and that's the beauty about the Labour Day is we're going to get our shot here real soon. When you lose to a rival and a team that you're battling for the top spot with, we know how important it is. We've got a dirty taste in our mouth."

With starting quarterback Mike Reilly still nursing a thumb injury, backup Matt Nichols drew the start for the Esks, but he wasn't able to connect with any of his receivers in the end zone.

"We kind of had some tough field position," said Nichols, who completed 18-of-29 passes for 252 yards. "I felt like we were moving the ball, but then kind of stalling out at midfield. We just had some penalties at bad times. I missed on a few throws here and there, a couple dropped balls, just the little things. Those little things add up and can stall out an offence."

In previous years, Edmonton hosted the Labour Day rematch on Friday, but the game was moved a day later to give the teams an extra day to rest up and prepare.

"We'll go back to the drawing board and be ready for Saturday," Nichols said. "For everyone's bodies and getting back into it and getting ready for another game, the extra day is big for the players. It's always a tough week when you only have a few days off in between games, but at the same time you don't have to do the extra game planning. You kind of know what they're going to come out and do against you, so we just need to play better and get rid of some of those penalties on offence."

As for which of his quarterbacks will get the start on Saturday, Jones said he won't be able to answer that question until later in the week.

"Mike's hand, it's been kind of coming on and off over the last few day," Jones said. "One day it feels good and one day it doesn't feel good. It's going to be touch and go as to whether or not he's ready to go."