EDMONTON (CP) - They are two teams going in completely different directions.
Matt Nichols threw two touchdown passes as the Edmonton Eskimos won their fourth in a row with a 30-5 victory over the winless Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday night.
The Eskimos (4-1) now sit in sole possession of first place in the Canadian Football League's West Division and haven't allowed a touchdown in two straight games.
Eskimos defensive back Pat Watkins, who had two interceptions including one for a touchdown, said the defence and the offence are really supporting each other.
"We feed off each other,'' he said. "When they make big plays then the defence is on the sidelines ready to get back on the field because we feel like we've got to show our offence that we're the best unit on the Edmonton staff.''
Edmonton head coach Chris Jones was also impressed with his team's defensive play.
"Five points, anytime you can hold them to five - unless you've got four or less - then you're probably happy,'' Jones said.
The loss kept Saskatchewan winless at 0-6.
"We made a lot of mental mistakes and took some bad penalties. When that is happening it is hard to move the football and get into scoring range,'' said Riders receiver Chris Getzlaf. "I'm pretty sure everybody in here is disappointed with where we are, but I think we have a great group of guys who are going to continue to stick together and fight together no matter what. Hopefully we can get this thing turned around.''
Edmonton started with a long and competent opening drive, capped off by a 27-yard TD pass from Nichols to Kenny Stafford. Nichols is the only remaining undefeated starting quarterback in the CFL this season.
The Eskimos added a 31-yard Grant Shaw field goal to lead 10-0 at the end of the first quarter. The Roughriders closed the score to 10-4 at the half with a punt single and a 34-yard field goal by Paul McCallum.
Saskatchewan's third-string quarterback Brett Smith finished the game completing 15 of 22 pass attempts for 132 yards and two interceptions as he took the place of injured QBs Darian Durant and Kevin Glenn.
The Riders recorded another punt single early in the third quarter before Edmonton responded with a 44-yard Shaw field goal.
The Eskimos found the end zone again with five minutes to play in the third, after Smith was picked off by Watkins, who took the ball back 46 yards for the score.
Smith was intercepted again by JC Sherritt on the next series, leading to a 14-yard field goal by Shaw to make it 23-5 for Edmonton.
The Eskimos continued to control the game six minutes into the fourth as a nice 31-yard pass and run by Shakir Bell set up a nine-yard passing TD from Nichols to Kendial Lawrence.
Nichols has won all four of his starts this season since taking over from the injured Mike Reilly.
Edmonton is on the road for its next two games, heading to B.C. to face the Lions next Thursday. The Riders are next in Toronto next Saturday to tackle the Argonauts.
Saskatchewan coach Corey Chamblin said he's not ready to throw in the towel just yet.
"It's not an eight-game season or a nine-game season. It's an 18-game season,'' he said. "I am built to fight to the end. The season is never lost. The Grey Cup may be lost, but we still have something to fight for, even if it is our pride.''
HEAD COACH COREY CHAMBLIN
- At halftime we thought we had a chance. It was there but like everything else, with those one or two plays it put his behind and put us too far to come back.
- That's his job (Chris Jones' blitzing). If I was in his situation I'd do the same. Walking in as a lame duck, they tried to put the fire out.
- We kept fighting, that's the only thing we can be happy about. The guys aren't finger-pointing. They're hanging in there trying to find a way to win.
- Offensively they were clicking for awhile. As we build on D, we're building on offense too. It's a never-ending cycle now.
- The biggest thing is, when you have a QB, everybody has to be positive. You can't have mistakes around a young QB and then you push to make it better. He did something to try and get us out of a hole, but we made too many mistakes around him.
- We're taking too many penalties. Some are selfish and some are mental. We have to hang in there and make the right plays.
- They loaded the box. You don't want to run into a brickwall.
- Fight through it. This is a tough situation and you have to fight through it.
DE JOHN CHICK
- I was proud of how the defense played today. You don't like to give up seven on the first drive. Lack of takeaways was a problem too but it was a good first step.
- It always feels good to get sacks but the scoreboard says something else. You can always do more. That's where you're at. Stats are nice but shoot, I'd take a W over that any day.
- Absolutely. I felt from the beginning of the season I need to lead. As the leaders, we need to find a way to get more out of ourselves and emphasize what we need to do come game time.
K PAUL MCCALLUM
- This is a young team. It was a veteran team in Vancouver. We have a lot of injuries and mental mistakes. We're shooting ourself in the foot and taking ourself out of scoring positions. We have to keep plugging away. It's not going to get any easier. We have to stick together and keep fighting.
- I didn't even know (*he kicked his 700th career field goal). That's pretty cool. If I'd known that, I would've kept the ball. It's a team sport so it's nice to do that but it puts a big damper on it when you don't come out with the victory. I'm trying to keep the spirits up. You can't listen to all the negative stuff. We have to focus on what we can control which is working hard in practice and not making mistakes in the games.
- It was positive at halftime. There wasn't a sense of urgency. They scored on their opening drive but we hung in there. I thought at halftime we just had to play smart, eliminate the penalties, and we'd be okay.
- Lawrence is a great returner and the guys did a phenomenal job covering. With the way Ray's kicking the ball, you couldn't ask for anything better.