Loss hurts so good

Edmonton Eskimos QB Jason Maas plays receiver during practice yesterday. (Edmonton Sun/Perry Mah)

Edmonton Eskimos QB Jason Maas plays receiver during practice yesterday. (Edmonton Sun/Perry Mah)

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

Getting the living beejeebers beat out of you is a good thing? Having the crap kicked out of you is an advantage?

It's been an interesting exercise trying to get inside the helmets of the defending Grey Cup champion Edmonton Eskimos this season. You never know what you'll find in there.

But viewing getting hammered 40-16 in Taylor Field in the second-last game of the schedule as a positive is a twist you don't expect, as the Eskimos contemplate Sunday's West Semifinal against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

It concerned me I've been spending too much time around this team lately, because I found it does make some sense.

"They showed everything," said Singor Mobley. "And getting pummelled the way we did really hit home to us."

IF IT AIN'T BROKE ...

Malcolm Frank says if you were the Saskatchewan Roughriders, would you change much you did when it resulted in a 40-16 win the last time out?

"They're going to stick with what they did. We're going to look at what we did wrong."

Any fan who watched the Roughriders score 31 unanswered points in the second quarter can tell defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall what to concentrate on this week with his incredibly inconsistent group.

"Our guys are looking forward to the opportunity to redeem ourselves from what happened there. That was a pretty disastrous second quarter. The idea is to learn from it.

"We had our struggles over there. But we played them pretty well here," he said of the 31-7 win in the front end of the schedule.

"The biggest difference between the two games is that Henry Burris really hurt us with his legs in Regina," Marshall said of the quarterback's 77 yards rushing in the game.

"He pulled the ball down and ran for a touchdown himself and on two or three occasions he was able to move the chains to get out of trouble."

While Kenton Keith suffered a concussion in the game and hasn't played since, the Esks also have a handle on Corey Holmes from that game, too.

"There's a little bit of difference between the two guys. But the big similarity is that they are both very quick and have very good vision seeing the hole, cutting to the hole and running through it."

Matt Dominguez, the receiver who came back to the team from the New York Jets' camp with six games to go in the season and won his first five, is also more familiar.

"Since he's come back, he's slowly been building and becoming more and more an offencive threat," said Marshall.

So it's simple, then?

"Regardless of who is at running back, we have to limit their effectiveness with the run game. That's where it all starts with them. They are the No. 1 run team in the league. We can't let Henry make big plays with his legs, and we can't let them hit the long pass."

The thing about the Eskimo defence is that it is capable of competing with any other outfit in the league. But it's checked in with so many clunkers - like that game in Saskatchewan that Marshall called "embarrassing" - that other than Jason Maas at quarterback, it's the real wild card in this football game.

Stats-wise the Eskimos ended up sixth, seventh and eighth in a lot of categories this year.

"We need to make plays consistently," said Marshall. "When we do that, we're pretty good. When we don't, we struggle."

One area where the Eskimos have done well (and where the Roughriders rank eighth) is the giveaway-takeaway category. Only the Montreal Alouettes and B.C. Lions ranked higher in terms of turnovers.

TURNOVERS ARE THE KEY

"Win the turnover battle with them and you win the game," says Marshall of the Roughriders, who were a minus 11 in the category this year.

"We have to make plays when our opportunity arises. Each guy is going to have three or four opportunities to make plays."

The key, the defensive leaders insist, will be to shut Saskatchewan down early.

"We just need to jump on them," says Frank. "They haven't had much success in this stadium and we need them to start thinking, 'Here we go again'. Any kind of confidence we can get to show we can hang isn't going to hurt, either."

Mobley says everybody knows the lay of the land between these two teams.

"There's no love lost between these two teams. They don't like playing here. Right there we have an advantage. It's always on their minds. But it's mandatory we have our stuff together early."

Marshall likes the mood and attitude around his team this week.

"We've had the extra week to get healed up. We're refreshed of body and mind. It's a new start..."

And they're still feeling the effects of a really good old-fashioned spit-kicking.


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