Esks passer pummelled

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

As if Ricky Ray wasn't hurtin' already, the Calgary Stampeders carted out a country band to serenade him at halftime.

It's enough to break a quarterback's heart.

While 35,744 fans at McMahon Stadium yesterday had the honky- tonk blues, Ray was under the stands in the Edmonton Eskimos locker-room with the black and blues.

Applying ice to various limbs, Ray regrouped for a final 30 minutes that was just as painful.

The Stampeders sacked the Eskimos quarterback five times while also delivering several blows after the ball left the pivot's hand in a 44-23 win over the Esks.

First-year linebacker Khalid Abdullah even provided the exclamation point, tossing Ray out of bounds for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty in the fourth quarter.

Linebacker Cornelius Anthony sacked Ray three times, defensive end Rahim Abdullah rocked him with a helmet-to-helmet hit, while Terrence Patrick also got in on the act.

"Ricky Ray is a deadly threat, so you have to attack the edge and get to the body and that's what we tried to do -- neutralize him as much as we could," said Anthony, who has taken ownership of the linebacking spot formerly held by John Grace, the CFL's reigning most outstanding defensive player.

Anthony said the relentless pursuit of Ray must have played on the pivot's mind.

"If it was me in there, I would be thinking about it," Anthony said.

"For the number of times we got hits on him, he did a good job of composing himself for the next play."

Rahim Abdullah walloped Ray for a seven-yard loss in the second quarter, while the front seven was providing continual pressure to flush him out of the pocket, throwing Ray off his game.

"The quarterback doesn't like getting hit, especially a guy like Ricky Ray because, for him, timing is everything," said Abdullah, a former teammate in Edmonton.

"We tried to get to him as many times as possible."

Ray completed 18 of 29 passes for 279 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

He also rushed for 36 yards on four carries.

While scrambling from pressure in the third quarter, he found Trevor Gaylor with a 32-yard TD pass to pull the Esks within seven, 27-20, but it was as close as they came to mounting a comeback.

"I don't know if we wore him down with the hits or he wore himself down running around like he did," said Sheldon Napastuk, who appeared to sack Ray in the third quarter but wasn't credited for the play.

"Ray just never got into a rhythm. He came out throwing accurate strikes and had us on our heels. Then the DBs locked it down and the pressure just started getting to him."

The Eskimos appear to still be recovering from the pre-season retirement of veteran o-linemen Bruce Beaton, Kevin Lefsrud and Chris Morris. Veteran guard Dan Comiskey also sat yesterday with a concussion.

The Eskimos entered the game having allowed 27 sacks, among the worst in the CFL, although Ray entered the game leading the league with more than 2,700 yards passing.

"(Calgary) did a good job, got some pressure on us, got some sacks and kind of kept our drives (stalling)," Ray said afterward.

Stampeders head coach Tom Higgins happily pointed out Ray's painful night was part of the game plan for the unit, which entered the night with 23 sacks.

"Getting after the quarterback was one of the keys.That being said, (the defence) was very upset with allowing to run around a little bit," Higgins said.

Upset, maybe, but not nearly as sore as Ray.


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