Golden chance missed by Esks

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Special to The Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:24 PM ET

For Edmonton Eskimo fans, it was a three-hour train wreck.

For the Calgary Stampeders and their faithful, it was a perfect result.

With a golden opportunity to all but secure second-place in the CFL western division for the rest of the year, the Edmonton Eskimos delivered their worst offensive performance of the year in their new gold jerseys last night at Commonwealth Stadium, losing 16-11 to the Calgary Stampeders.

The loss means the race for second place is still very much alive, with the Stamps just four points behind Edmonton with seven games left in the regular season.

"It probably ranks up there as one of the most frustrating games (in an Eskimo uniform), especially playing at home like this in front of a big crowd," said Edmonton quarterback Ricky Ray.

The official stats show just one sack for the Calgary Stampeders, but Ray was running for his life seemingly countless times.

"Their defence has basically shut us out for six quarters and it's frustrating," said offensive lineman Bruce Beaton, harking back to Calgary's domination of Edmonton in the second half on Labour Day.

"We have to look at the film and if we want to be the type of team we want to be then we have to start (today) to make sure we take it to the next level.

"Our defence is the real deal. We have to pick it up on offence; match their execution and match their intensity and get it done."

The Green and Gold only generated two legitimate scoring chances through the entire game.

Jason Tucker made a beautiful grab for a late touchdown, but the other deep ball to him in the end zone earlier in the second half fell harmlessly to the ground.

Harmless is also an easy description for the Eskimos running attack. Ron McClendon - back in the staring lineup for an injured Mike Jenkins - rarely saw open field, rushing for just 41 yards.

"(Our) defence had another stellar performance," said Calgary Stampeder head coach Tom Higgins, who won in his first return to a wet Commonwealth. "It was tough sledding out there just to operate the way we do normally."

For a second consecutive game it was tough sledding for Edmonton returner Tony Tompkins. On four punt returns, Tompkins actually lost a total of 10 yards.

The numbers were just as ugly on the penalty front. The Eskimos were flagged 18 times for 107 yards.

The Green and Gold actually opened the scoring on a Hayden Epstein's 21-yard field goal.

Sandro DeAngelis evened the score with a 23-yard field goal on the next drive.

After the Eskimos stalled on offence - yet again - the Stamps marched the ball nearly 80 yards in the second quarter, capping the drive with a 30-yard touchdown by Ken-Yon Rambo.

Calgary backup QB Jason Gesser delivered the scoring strike. Burris sprained his left hand on a running play near midfield, forcing Gesser into just his second regular-season game in his rookie CFL season.

Gesser was a perfect three-for-three on the drive for 45 yards.

DeAngelis capped the scoring for the first half with a 16-yard kick through the uprights, which actually was the deciding blow.

With Burris back at the controls, the Stamps marched into scoring territory in the third quarter with DeAngelis making it 16-3 with a 38-yard boot before Epstein punted a single.

Tucker, with a brilliant one-handed grab, scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to make it look respectable on the scoreboard, but nobody was fooled in the home team locker-room.

"It's definitely not a happy moment in our lives," said Eskimo offensive lineman Kevin Lefsrud.

"The nice thing about football is you to get to line up and do it again next week."

LATE HITS: Mother Nature dashed any hope of a good walk-up crowd last night. The post-Labour Day grudge match traditionally means a huge crowd at Commonwealth Stadium.

In fact, 62,444 poured into the stadium in 2003 one year after 61,481 walked through the turnstiles. But yesterday's edition attracted 42,654 fans, the lowest post-Labour Day gathering in at least 10 years.


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