Game had an air about it

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

Mike Pringle and Danny Maciocia have a lot of history. The bulk of it stems from their time together with the Montreal Alouettes organization.

Despite Pringle putting up incredible rushing numbers and Maciocia designing an offensive juggernaut, the pair never won a Grey Cup together in Montreal.

Maciocia opted not to hang around after Don Matthews took over in Montreal and signed on as the Edmonton Eskimos' offensive co-ordinator in early 2002 instead.

Pringle joined the Esks a year later.

Last November the duo succeeded in their quest to hoist the Grey Cup together. Naturally, they'd like to do it again this season.

Whether they do or not remains to be seen.

The Esks' 39-19 Thanksgiving Day thumping of the Alouettes was as sweet as big dollop of whipped cream on a slice of pumpkin pie for the men in Green and Gold.

Monday's win should be even sweeter for Pringle and Maciocia if you buy the urban legend which suggests the pair are tighter than drums every time Edmonton and Montreal collide on the gridiron.

Maciocia wasted little time shooting down the myth he's overly conservative in terms of game planning and play-calling in head-to-head meetings with Montreal.

"They are the best team in the CFL and they came in here and we had to play our A-Game," said Maciocia in the wake of the victory which halted Edmonton's three-game losing skid.

"But I don't overprepare. I'll prepare for Saskatchewan the way I prepared for Montreal and I'll prepare for Winnipeg the way I prepared for Montreal and Saskatchewan.

"That's my approach. If you get emotionally caught up, chances are you're going to hurt yourself. You just have to separate yourself from it and treat it like another game, really."

DRAWING UP THE PLAYS

With the 37-year-old Maciocia drawing up plays, the Esks are 2-4-0 in six regular-season meetings versus the Als and 1-1 in Grey Cup games.

Maciocia's game plan for Monday's contest was anything but conservative.

Esks quarterback Jason Maas threw for 454 yards and showed no reluctance to put the ball up and let his receivers run under it to exploit Montreal's inability to cover down field.

Maas aired the ball out on an 85-yard touchdown strike to Jason Tucker in the opening quarter and followed that up with a 73-yarder to Derrell Mitchell for another six points in the second quarter.

"We figured if we scored 25 points in that game, we'd be OK," Maciocia said. "That's what we figured we needed to win. We had 21 at halftime and they had 18."

It's understandable why Maciocia and Pringle might be predisposed to fret over facing the Als.

Maciocia grew up in Montreal's east end and literally volunteered his services before he started drawing a paycheque from the Alouettes and eventually worked his way into the offensive co-ordinator's position.

Pringle, meanwhile, always thought he'd break George Reed's all-time rushing record in an Als' uniform and ultimately retire with Montreal silks on his back.

INTENSELY PROUD

Moreover, both are intensely proud men with very low failure thresholds.

Pringle dismissed musings he plays or runs any differently against Montreal than against the seven remaining CFL clubs.

Although Pringle doesn't approach the head-to-head meetings differently, Montreal's defence continues to make a concerted effort to keep the hard-running back from adding to his career rushing total.

Pringle was limited to an average of 2.6 yards per carry in his first three starts versus his former team. His per-carry average was double that Monday afternoon.

"There's no 'afraid of' that comes to mind when we approach Montreal," offered Pringle, who had 13 carries for 67 yards and one TD as well as four catches for 41 yards and another major, which tied him with George Reed for the CFL lead in career touchdowns with 137.

"That's not a thought that goes into my or Danny's head. We just want to go out there and be physical. Danny wants to call a great game and make sure we come out victorious.

"I know a lot of guys over on the other side of the football field. When you play guys that you know, you always want to do well."

Esks head coach Tom Higgins doesn't buy into the legend either. Still, Higgins isn't dismissing the notion as altogether unfounded.

"A little more excited, a little more pep in their step," said Higgins. "Those are things I would use instead of anything as far as getting uptight.

"That's perceived negatively. However, there are times when I would use that word. It's only afterwards that you're going to say, 'Geez, he was uptight he wasn't excited the way he needed to be able to play.'"


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