Ricky Ray exceeds expectations

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:58 PM ET

Gee. How about that? Ol’ Ricky Ray can still play.

Where are all those people who were suggesting the Eskimos’ quarterback was all washed up at age 30 and the man most responsible for the sorry season Edmonton has been having?

Ray was his old slicing-and-dicing self before 34,479 Sunday at Commonwealth Stadium to lead the Eskimos to their second straight win of the season as he played behind a competent offensive line for the second straight game.

Imagine that.

Blockers blocking.

Not running for his life and with his best receiver back at 80% efficiency to work with, Ray completed 28 of 36 passes for a season high 384 yards with two touchdown passes against no interceptions and a touchdown run of his own. It was enough with the work of Fred Stamps and a great game from Greg Peach on defence to lead the Eskimos to a 37-35 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and keep their playoff hopes alive.

“It depends on how I play next week. This week I’ll be the best in the league,” said Ray of the way it works with some fans when it comes to quarterbacks.

“He is the best quarterback in the CFL,” assured receiver Stamps who caught 10 passes for 181 yards, his biggest game of the season since he caught 12 for 213 in Regina in Week 3.

Despite missing a third of the season due to injury, Stamps now has 68 catches for 949 yards. He’ll almost certainly hit the 1,000 mark in Hamilton Friday night in his eighth complete game of the season.

“Our offensive line has played great football the last two games. See what Ricky can do when he’s not on the run?” said Stamps of the unit Tim Prinsen took over from Jeff Bleamer and is now giving him all sorts of time.

“Everything starts with the guys up front,” said coach Richie Hall of what happens when the quarterback who takes a licking and keeps on ticking better than anybody else in the league, doesn’t have to worry about the licking.

“I’ve always said if you give him time and everyone catches the ball ...”

He doesn’t have his No. 1 running back Arkee Whitlock and Stamps is his only big time weapon.

But when you get great games from great players, great things can happen.

“It’s a big confidence boost,” said Hall of the last two weeks with Ray. “We need him to feel confident. When Ricky feels confident, the team feels confident.”

And, once again, it all starts with those guys up front.

“When he believes in those guys and feels secure, he’s going to play very well. And that’s the best game the offensive line has had this year from start to finish.”

“We got good blocking up front and the receivers ran good routes,” said Ray, not mentioning that there wasn’t the usual abundance of dropped passes either.

“That was probably our best performance of the whole year. We’re starting to do some good things. At the start of the year we couldn’t do anything right. It seemed like everything we tried to do went wrong.

“Last week we started moving in the right direction. I wouldn’t say I lost my confidence but I was sure wondering when things would go my way,” added the pivot who became the 11th in league history to hit 35,000 in yards passing.

He said the way the offensive line is playing now makes all the difference in the world.

“When you are back there and you have time to go to your second, third and sometimes even fourth read, it makes a big difference.”

And that’s without mentioning Fred Stamps.

Add Stamps finding his form in his third game back from injury and Ray has his favourite guy to play pass and catch with.

“I’m just feeling better and better and better every week. I’m not 100%. I’m weak right now. I’m maybe 80% in strength. But I’m just happy to be back. I was out for six weeks and it was tough. Now I’m getting rid of the rust from being out and I feel like I’m still going to get better,” added Stamps.

“He took a hiatus with his injury but he’s come back full force. He’s back to where he left off,” said Hall.

“He’s our best player on offence,” said Ray.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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