Paying the penalty

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:24 PM ET

If you're into denial, then it was the Calgary Stampeders 16, the Oregon Ducks Maybe it was those bright gold just Ducky duds making their debut as third jerseys on the wet-weather day which cut the Labour Day Rematch crowd down to

But the Edmonton Eskimos didn't look much like the Edmonton Eskimos. OK. Check that. My mistake. They looked exactly like the Eskimos from the second half on Labour Day in Calgary.

It was another 60 minutes just like the last 30 minutes in McMahon.

"That's exactly how it looked,'' said the now 7-4 Danny Maciocia after the team which looked like it could be something special at the start of the season lost almost all hope of catching the 10-0 B.C. Lions in first place - and must now be considered just another team in a playoff race in the West.

"We pretty much stunk,'' said Maciocia.

"That was extremely disappointing. This team has to wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and decide who we want to be.''

MIRROR, MIRROR

The coaches, maybe, should find themselves the biggest mirror of them all.

This was a coaching staff which had four days to figure out what to do about the way in which the Stampeders defence neutered them in the second half against Calgary and didn't come up with anything. OK. Two draw plays. That was it.

"Have you ever seen Ricky Ray that confused? I've never seen Ricky Ray that confused,'' said Stampeders' former head coach - now general manager - Jim Barker on his way out of the stadium.

Ray, who would have been presented with a purple heart if it wouldn't have clashed so badly with the please-don't-adjust-your-TV-set jersey, was under constant pressure from the beginning. Again.

He had no running game (unless you count his own 51 yards). Again. He had no offensive line. Again. You don't have to enroll in Football 101 to see what's wrong here.

"At least we had a passing game before today. Tonight we didn't even have that,'' said Maciocia.

The coach questioned the effort of almost everybody on offence in this one. "We were terrible in my opinion. We just stunk on offence.''

Ray threw three first-half interceptions - one to former Eskimo teammate Randy Chevrier and two to Nate Terry - one for 63 yards and the other for 50. The first by Terry was a result of Ray being hit as he released the football. The second was a throw-it-and-pray job which might have worked if it wasn't a throw-it-and-pray lob. All he had were six-yard under-the-umbrella passes. And he was throwing them on second and 10.

"We didn't find the routes underneath, routes were over-extended and Ricky couldn't get his feet underneath him,'' said Maciocia. While Maciocia said he thought of sending back-up Jason Maas in there at one point (I personally figure he should have if for no other reason he might have felt comfortable in those duds, being a former Oregon Duck). But he decided not to do it.

"There's only so much he can do,'' said the coach of Ray. "He can't do this on his own. We have to give him some help,'' added the rookie coach who, it has to be said, along with his staff, was out-coached by Tom Higgins and staff in this one, particularly defensive coach Dennis Creehan.

POLE VAULT ATTEMPT

But coaches don't take penalties. The Eskimos took 18 penalties for 108 yards. Ray, who went 35 for 47 for 279 yards, also carried 11 times, including one pole-vault attempt at a first down in front of the Stampeder bench.

It's bad enough that the guy has no offensive line and no running game but twice the Eskimos had a second down and a half-yard to go and didn't take advantage of what Ron Lancaster used to call a free play, when he was a quarterback, and had Ray call his own number instead.

"We're not playing sharp football. We're taking too many penalties. We're not where we need to be.

"We need to get a lot better, not only in our running game and our pass protection game, but I need to get better at protecting the ball and making the right reads,'' said the quarterback who is still on target to break almost all the passing records this season.

"I had three interceptions. I've had too many games with three interceptions. I'm now leading the league in interceptions.''

That, too.


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