Adarius Bowman caught two touchdown passes and C.J. Gable added a pair on the ground as the Edmonton Eskimos defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 39-32 in Sunday’s CFL West Division semifinal.
It was Edmonton’s sixth straight victory and earned them a trip to Calgary for next Sunday’s division final against the Stampeders (13-4-1).
Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly completed 23-of-33 pass attempts for 334 yards with three TDs and no interceptions.
Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols, who didn’t appear to be hampered by a calf injury, was 35 of 48 for 371 yards with three TDs and no picks in front of an announced attendance of 27,244 at Investors Group Field.
The loss bumped up Winnipeg’s Grey Cup drought to 27 seasons.
Edmonton played in last year’s East Division final as the crossover team, losing to the eventual Grey Cup-champion Ottawa Redblacks.
Too little, too late
Both clubs were 12-6 in the regular season, with Winnipeg winning the two previous matches. The Bombers had entered the game by winning only two of their last five games.
Edmonton had a 39-16 lead at 3:20 of the fourth quarter when the Bombers attempted a comeback. Weston Dressler caught a 20-yard TD pass at 6:58 and a two-point convert pass to Matt Coates was successful.
Winnipeg got down to Edmonton’s 26-yard line, but Chris Givens couldn’t hang onto a pass and the Bombers turned the ball over on downs with just over four minutes left. It was their third turnover.
As time expired, Dressler caught a 13-yard TD pass and also grabbed the two-point convert throw.
Bowman caught TD passes of 17 and 42 yards. Gable’s TD runs were both from 15 yards out. League-leading receiver Brandon Zylstra also scored on a 33-yard catch-and-run.
Sean Whyte connected on a 20-yard field goal for the Eskimos and made all five of his converts. Punter Hugh O’Neill added a 65-yard single.
Winnipeg’s other TD was a seven-yard catch from L’Damian Washington. Justin Medlock booted field goals from 20, 38 and 47 yards and was good on his one convert.
Edmonton led 7-3 after the first quarter, the game was tied 10-10 at halftime and the Eskimos were ahead 25-16 after three quarters.
The Eskimos’ first possession of the game was a nine-play, 84-yard drive that ended with Bowman being wide open at the back of the end zone for a 17-yard TD reception at 6:06.
The Bombers responded with Medlock’s 20-yard field at 10:48.
Nichols led Winnipeg on an eight-play, 90-yard drive capped off by Washington’s seven-yard TD catch to give the home side the 10-7 lead, but Whyte’s 28-yarder at 5:30 tied it up 10-10.
O’Neill scored a point on a 65-yard punt single for the 11-10 lead at 1:59 of the third quarter.
A direct snap to Winnipeg running back/receiver Timothy Flanders on a fake punt lost yards and the Bombers turned over the ball, leading to Gable’s TD at 5:29 for the 18-10 lead.
Medlock was good on a 38-yard field goal to close the gap 18-13, but Edmonton answered back fast in a three-play, 75-yard TD drive. Zylstra, alone in the middle of the field, ran 33 yards straight into the end zone to stretch the lead 25-13 at 10:57.
Medlock ended the third-quarter scoring with a 47-yard field goal, but then Bowman hauled in his 42-yard TD pass just 1:21 into the final quarter to make it 32-16.
Gable’s second TD came two minutes later after Dressler fumbled and a coach’s challenge was unsuccessful so Winnipeg turned the ball over.