A Maas-win for Edmonton!

"I'm not going to lie. I know you have to win on the big stage and this is the biggest stage there is this week." QB Jason Maas (Edmonton Sun/Darryl Dyck)

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

There are defining moments in many a career. For Jason Maas, this is his.

Just win, baby.

"It's very simple," says Eskimos head coach Tom Higgins.

"Quarterbacks are evaluated on efficiency and touchdown-to-interception ratios and a lot of things, but in the end it comes down to how many playoff games they win.

"Now is the time for Jason Maas."

Sunday, 2 p.m., Commonwealth Stadium.

"This is his. Right now," says offensive co-ordinator Danny Maciocia.

"If you go out and win in the playoffs, they're going to label you a winner. Jason Maas is a winner. This is his opportunity to prove it. Right now."

The only other time Maas had this opportunity, he failed. Spectacularly.

THAT WAS THEN

"That was 2001. There were 12 turnovers out there. You can't compare that Jason Maas to this Jason Maas," said Maciocia.

"You can't even compare him now to then. This is his football team now. In 2001 he was sharing it. This team feels like they can get it done with Jason. He has a confidence now that rubs off on everybody on the field, in the huddle and in the dressing room."

There's no denying the numbers. Maas put up terrific numbers in his first full year as starting quarterback - his fifth season in Green and Gold.

He was 361 for 549 passing for 5,270 yards. Only Anthony Calvillo put up more yards. His completion percentage was 65.8, tied for tops in the league with Casey Printers. His pass-efficiency record ended up at 105.1, second to Printers.

But in the end, it's Ws and championships.

"That's how you're evaluated," said Maciocia.

"Jason Maas will be a winner. At the end of his career, he'll have won a lot of games and more than a few championships.

"He just needs to take it and do it."

When it comes to the big picture of his career as a quarterback, Maas knows this isn't just another game.

"I think it's big," he said.

"I'm not going to lie. I know you have to win on the big stage and this is the biggest stage there is this week."

Last time on the big stage, Maas had stage fright.

"I was pretty young my last playoff game," he said of the loss to the Stampeders in the so-called "Northern Exposure" game, in which it was written the 'EE' on the Eskimos helmets stood for "Eviscerated" and "Embarrassed" and the headline writers pronounced his performance as "Maas-erable."

On the five fumbles, three interceptions and four turnovers on downs. On eight straight series the Eskimos turned the ball over.

"I've been around the block a few times since then," said the QB, who was injured and forced to watch Ricky Ray work wonders in taking the team to the Grey Cup the last two seasons.

"I'm approaching this playoff game like you never know when the next one will be."

Maas said part of him wanted to go over to Taylor Field and play this game, considering what happened to him there the last time.

"I was preparing all last week to go to Saskatchewan," he said. "Watching the game between the Roughriders and the Lions, I felt like I was going to go to Saskatchewan all the time."

He'll take the home-field advantage where he's 7-2 this year and where the Eskimos have won 27 of their last 31 games, including their last two playoff games.

He figures the Eskimos have another advantage.

"We had the bye week to prepare for Saskatchewan. They had to prepare for B.C. last week.

"We have had a lot of time to figure out what went wrong. We figured a lot of it out in the second half over there. We fought back hard in the second half and scored those two late touchdowns which ended up making the difference in getting the playoff game here. But we can tell ourselves we outplayed them in the second half."

CHILLED OUT

Before that point, Maas looked like he had Popsicles for fingers.

Check out the forecast for this weekend, and there are the expectations he'll be playing in the same weather conditions Sunday.

"Snow. Cold. It looks like it's going to be a lot like that game. And I guarantee Jason will not have any problems with his fingers in this game," said Maciocia.

"We know what happened. We got it resolved. Another element came into play. We straightened it out. I'm not telling anybody what it was until after the season. But, trust me, it's been resolved."

"I can't make many guarantees in this game, but that's one thing I can guarantee."


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