EDMONTON - It took until the fourth quarter for the Edmonton Eskimos to wake up, but when they did, the Montreal Alouettes had no answer.
Mike Reilly scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns in his return as quarterback to help the Eskimos to a 33-16 victory over Montreal on Friday, ending Edmonton's two-game skid.
Reilly said the team was not happy with the first half of the game, which was tied 6-6 at halftime.
"We were trying to kind of build the intensity the whole game, we came in and we had a big talk at halftime just amongst us as players and I was pretty fired up," said Reilly, who completed 22 of 32 passing attempts for 271 yards. "I just felt like we were capable of doing that the entire game and we were just killing ourselves with mental lapses.
"And you don't want to let a team like Montreal hang around. You want to put points on the board and not make it tough on your defence. When they scored to go ahead, the urgency switch got flipped."
The Eskimos improved to 8-3 and moved into a tie for second place in the CFL's West Division with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. All three of Edmonton's losses this season have come against Calgary.
Eskimos head coach Chris Jones said he has come to expect that kind of drive from his starting QB.
"He's a competitor and we expect Mike to do the things he did tonight, extend drives with his legs and make the throws necessary," he said. "We had a few drops here and there or his night would have been even better."
Montreal had a two-game winning streak snapped to fall to 3-8, however the Alouettes still have a share of the lead in the struggling CFL East, tied for first with Toronto.
"It was a game where we just couldn't get the offence that we would have liked to have had, but that's what happens when you play against a pretty good defence," said Montreal head coach Tom Higgins. "We hung in there defensively, and all of a sudden it started to break and it opened up out there. Edmonton ends up winning and we have to re-evaluate. We faded a bit in the fourth quarter and couldn't finish."
Jonathan Crompton made his third consecutive start, but admitted he had trouble getting going in the early running on Friday.
"It was a hard-fought game. It was two hard-nosed teams coming out there and battling," he said. "Obviously we would have like to have made a couple of more plays than we did. I have to take ownership and make sure we execute better early in the game. That's on me. If I had made a couple of more plays early and we move the ball early, things would probably be different."
Montreal has failed to capture a road win this season in five attempts.
"Wins are getting tough to come by, and winning against the West is tough to come by," Higgins said. "All of our wins are at home and thank goodness we will be playing at home again real soon."
The game started slowly, with Edmonton taking a 2-0 lead midway through the opening quarter on a safety. The Eskimos added a 39-yard Hugh O'Neill field goal to lead 5-0 at the end of the first.
Montreal responded with a 39-yard field goal of its own from Sean Whyte early in the second quarter.
Edmonton took a 6-3 lead with five minutes left after a missed O'Neill field goal attempt.
The game's first big play came with four minutes remaining as Kendial Lawrence returned a punt 51 yards in Montreal territory, however it wasn't long before Tyler Thomas fumbled the ball away on a rushing play, with Winston Venable scooping it up for the Alouettes.
A 46-yard field goal by Whyte with 15 seconds remaining in the second quarter made it 6-6 at halftime. Montreal only had four first downs in the first half.
Edmonton surged back to a 9-6 lead three minutes into the third quarter on a 16-yard O'Neill field goal. The field goal was a disappointing result after Reilly made a 54-yard passing play to Fred Stamps to get the Eskimos into the red zone.
Whyte kicked a 42-yard three-pointer to tie it 9-9 with five minutes in the third quarter left.
The third quarter ended with yet another field goal as Edmonton went back up by three on a 31-yarder by O'Neill.
The pace picked up in the fourth quarter, however.
Montreal finally became the first team to find the end zone 30 seconds into the fourth as Crompton passed to a wide-open Duron Carter for a long 64-yard touchdown strike.
"The touchdown really seemed to be a bit of a wake-up call for us," said coach Jones. "We blew a coverage and gave up a big play and ended up being behind for the first time and it seemed to light a fire under us."
Edmonton came roaring back to regain the lead two minutes later as a 48-yard passing play to Adarius Bowman eventually set up a one-yard TD plunge by Reilly to put Edmonton up 19-16.
The Eskimos stayed in the higher gear and put together a competent drive that was capped of when Thomas found a hole and scampered 20-yards across the goal line with seven minutes remaining in the final frame.
Edmonton continued to look like an entirely different team in the final quarter as they made it 33-16 on a seven-yard Reilly TD run with 1:37 remaining.
Notes: Reilly returned to the lineup after being replaced by Matt Nichols for his team's back-to-back losses to Calgary after suffering a thumb injury early in the Eskimos victory over Toronto on Aug. 23. … With Edmonton kicker Grant Shaw lost for the season with an upper body injury, Hugh O'Neill took his place for the second straight game. Veteran kicker Luca Congi was signed earlier in the week by the Eskimos, but did not suit up against Montreal… Alouettes quarterback Jonathan Crompton started the season with the Eskimos, but found himself as the fourth-stringer and was released on July 9. Crompton earned wins in his first two starts with Montreal, helping his team defeat Ottawa and Hamilton before returning to face his former club on Friday… The Alouettes are still in search of their first road win, the deepest they have gone into a season without getting one since 1983. No Montreal team has had fewer than three road wins in a season since the franchise rejoined the league in 1996.
By Shane Jones, The Canadian Press