Sean Whyte’s nine-yard field goal with seven second remaining earned the Edmonton Eskimos an exciting 24-21 East Division semifinal win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Sunday.
Whyte’s game-winning boot came after Kenny Ladler intercepted Hamilton starter Zach Collaros at the 20-yard line. But Whyte got the chance for his kick because running back John White recovered his own fumble at the Hamilton 25-yard line for a five-yard loss.
White made up for it with a 23-yard run, putting Edmonton at the Hamilton two-yard line with 34 seconds to play.
White scored TDs on Edmonton’s opening two possessions and ran for over 160 yards as an effective counter to the stiff southwest 25-to-35 kilometre-an-hour wind. That’s no accident as the Eskimos boasted the CFL’s second-leading ground attack this season (103.7 yards per game).
Edmonton will visit the Ottawa Redblacks in the East Division final next weekend. The winner will represent the conference in the Grey Cup game Nov. 27 at BMO Field.
Hamilton made it interesting in the fourth with the wind. Brett Maher’s 85-yard kickoff single with 4:01 remaining tied it 21-21 and energized the Tim Hortons Field sellout of 24,182. The single came after Collaros hit Brian Tyms on the two-point convert following Jeremiah Masoli’s two-yard TD run at 10:29.
It was set up by Jeremaine Robinson’s recovery of Brett Maher’s 36-yard onside punt at the Edmonton 36.
Maher’s 24-yard field goal 40 seconds into the fourth cut Edmonton’s lead to 21-12.
Gable cut Edmonton’s lead to 18-9 with a two-yard TD run at 6:16 of the third. It capped an eight-play, 59-yard drive on Hamilton’s second-half possession but Maher missed the convert.
Edmonton took a 21-9 lead on Whyte’s 42-yard field goal at 12:17.
Edmonton (10-8) was fourth in West Division but earned the crossover after posting a better record than third-place finisher Montreal (7-11). Hamilton, also 7-11, won tie-breaker for second place.
The loss was Hamilton’s fifth straight at home and dropped its Tim Hortons Field record to 3-7 this year. The Ticats were also 2-9 versus West Division teams.
Hamilton played without injured receivers Andy Fantuz, Chad Owens and Luke Tasker and lost Canadian safeties Courtney Stephen and Mike Daly to injury in the contest.
Edmonton lost CFL passing leader Mike Reilly to injury in the second half.
Whyte’s 17-yard field goal on the final play of the first half earned Edmonton its 18-3 half-time lead as the Eskimos outscored Hamilton 11-3 with the wind advantage. White, who ran for 82 yards on 11 first-half carries, went 19 yards for his second TD of the game at 2:55 of the second before Grant Shaw’s 94-yard single on the ensuing kickoff put the defending Grey Cup champs up 15-3.
Hamilton ran for just one yard on six attempts in the first half and was a dismal 0-8 in second-down conversions. Tims had six catches for 103 yards while the remainder of the receiving corps had three receptions for 22 yards.
Hamilton was its own worst enemy in the first half. Jeremiah Masoli was stopped short on third-and-1 at the Edmonton 33 with the wind before having to settle for Maher’s 24-yard field goal at 14:41 of the first, despite driving to the Eskimos’ 12-yard line.