Around The CFL: Riders and Eskimos claim semifinal victories

By: Andrew Bucholtz

Monday, November 13, 2017

The CFL playoffs got rolling Sunday with the East and West semifinals. Here's a look at what happened in each game.

East semifinal: Saskatchewan Roughriders 31, Ottawa Redblacks 20:

This clash of once and future Rough Riders/Roughriders worked out very well for the visiting team. 10-8 Saskatchewan was on the road against 8-9-1 Ottawa thanks to the CFL's crossover rule, but the Roughriders looked comfortable early in this one, taking a 14-8 lead after the first quarter and a 21-8 lead into the half. They were up 31-14 heading into the final frame, and while the Redblacks managed a couple of late flurries, that wasn't enough. However, while Ottawa didn't win on the scoreboard, they did win the touchdown celebration game with this limbo move:

The big star of the day for Saskatchewan was running back Marcus Thigpen (seen above), who collected 169 rushing yards and a touchdown on just 15 carries, an average of 11.3 yards per rush. Quarterback Kevin Glenn also deserves praise; there were plenty of questions about his starting job heading into this one, but he delivered a solid performance, completing 18 of 28 passes (64.3 per cent) for 252 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Trevor Harris threw for 457 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort, but was picked off twice and held to a 61.7 per cent completion mark by the Roughriders' strong defence. That ensured that the Redblacks won't defend their Grey Cup title, and that this year's clash in Ottawa won't involve the home team.

West semifinal: Edmonton Eskimos 39, Winnipeg Blue Bombers 32

This one was close through the first half and tied 10-10 at the break, but the final score was only deceptively close. Edmonton took over with a 15-6 third quarter and really pulled away thanks to a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Mike Reilly to Adarius Bowman and a touchdown run from C.J. Gable, giving them a 39-16 lead with 11:19 left. Winnipeg was able to pull back a bit, cutting the deficit to 15 with seven minutes left, but the Bombers' final touchdown and two-point conversion came in the dying seconds, well after the game had been decided.

Presumptive Most Outstanding Player favorite Reilly, the CFL's leader in passing yardage this regular season, had another terrific game Sunday. He completed 23 of 33 passes (69.7 per cent) for 334 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, and also rushed seven times for 32 yards. Meanwhile, Gable carried the ball 16 times for 107 yards (6.7 yards per carry) and two touchdowns, while Bowman made three catches for 71 yards and two touchdowns and Brandon Zylstra had eight grabs for 156 yards and a touchdown. Matt Nichols threw for 371 yards and three touchdowns in a losing cause for Winnipeg, but much of that yardage came after the game was out of hand.

This coming Sunday, the Toronto Argonauts will host the Roughriders in the East Final (1 p.m. Eastern, TSN/ESPNews), while the Calgary Stampeders will host the Eskimos in the West Final (4:30 p.m. Eastern, TSN/ESPNews). The winners will advance to the 105th Grey Cup, which will be played Sunday, Nov. 26 in Ottawa.