Last-second letdown

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

EDMONTON -- The demise of the Battle of Alberta football rivalry was greatly exaggerated.

And it turns out thoughts the Edmonton Eskimos would be the doormats of the CFL's West Division were overblown as well.

Ricky Ray threw three touchdown passes, including a 36-yarder to Jason Tucker with 55 seconds remaining, as the Eskimos beat the Calgary Stampeders 34-31 last night in front of 32,706 spectators at Commonwealth Stadium.

The winning drive came after Henry Burris hit Nik Lewis on a 20-yard touchdown with 1:42 remaining to take Calgary's first lead after erasing a 14-point deficit.

"It's always a dogfight when we play up here," said Burris, who finished 23-of-35 passing for 330 yards with three TDs but two interceptions.

"The two wins we had up here last year were the same way. Edmonton is tough at home and this is part of the Calgary-Edmonton battle. We didn't play as well tonight, but they did the things they needed to in order to win."

Each team now sits at 1-1 on the season. The Stamps play on the road in Montreal next Thursday.

For more than three quarters last night, the Stampeders were listless in all phases.

Then, defensive lineman Julian Jenkins went down with a horrific leg injury and the Stamps woke up. Jenkins was chasing down Eskimos running back Calin McCarty when he broke his leg heading into the pile.

On the Stampeders' next offensive possession, Burris found Brett Ralph wide open behind coverage for a 65-yard touchdown with 5:34 left to cut the lead to just two.

"You don't want to see that happen to any of your players," Burris said. "To have an injury like that is devastating. We wanted to go out and win that game ... We want him to know we would continue to battle for him."

Ray was strong throughout, going 27-of-44 passing for 448 yards including two TD passes to rookie Kelly Campbell, who finished with eight grabs for 158 yards and was Ray's go-to guy whenever he needed a big play.

"They made some excellent catches out there," said Stampeders coach John Hufnagel.

"They have a lot of skill. There's no easy way to lose. The good teams make the plays at the end to win the games. They made those plays."

The biggest play was Ray to Tucker on what will be one of those end-of-season highlight clips.

It was patented Ray, going over the shoulder of his receiver and just out of the reach of the defender Calvin Bannister.

"We planned on them throwing the corner route a lot and that's what they did," Hufnagel said.

Turnovers and penalties hurt the Stamps offence.

Demetris Summers fumbled and Burris threw a pick to Eskimos linebacker Shannon Garrett near the end of the second quarter that helped give the Eskimos a 14-point lead at the break.

The Stamps took 11 penalties for 88 yards, including two big ones -- a 33-yarder on Dwight Anderson and a 10-yarder on Brandon Smith -- in the first quarter.

"Our first half wasn't good on either side," Hufnagel said.


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