Tomfoolery!

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

It was so stupid on so many levels it was stupefying. It will go down as one of the biggest brain freezes in the history of frozen-field football.

Former Eskimo head coach Tom Higgins' call was ...

Check that -- he's still the coach. But a significant number of the 37,359 fans who watched one decidedly dumb call turn into the turning point to send the Saskatchewan Roughriders to a 14-6 win over the Edmonton Eskimos in the Western semifinal are guaranteed to be calling for his head like they were after his late-game gamble that many believe cost the Eskimos the 2002 Grey Cup.

"It was a shock," said Singor Mobley.

"People are going to say it was the turning point of the game and I'd have a hard time arguing with them.

"There is a time and place for everything, and I don't think that was the time and the place."

BLOWING SNOW

It's one thing to put a football game in blowing snow on the toe of Sean Fleming. It's another to put it on his arm!

In a third-and-20 situation!

On your own 41-yard line!

With 1:13 remaining in the first half!

With the Eskimos leading 3-0!

Fleming threw it. Mike Bradley couldn't get to it. The Roughriders took over on the 41. Eskimos' Robert Grant took a face-mask penalty. Three plays later it was in the end zone.

Why would a head coach call such a play?

"It was there," he said.

Say what?

So what?

Fleming throwing? Bradley catching? Third and 20? Own 41? Up 3-0? Who cares if it was there?

"We felt we could execute it and we didn't," Higgins added.

Did I mention it was -1 degrees C at game time? That the wind was blowing? That it had started snowing? That the Roughriders were starting to wonder if it was going to be another one of those days in Commonwealth Stadium?

"I looked at some of their faces and they had doubts," said Mobley of how it would be if they went to the half without a point on the scoreboard.

Ed Hervey caught 13 passes for 155 yards in this one. How do you think he felt about being beat by a dumb-ass coach's call?

"It was a lot like the 2002 Grey Cup," said Hervey, who along with Terry Vaughn (six for 85 yards) came through in the big game.

Hervey didn't know what to say.

"I don't know where the hell that came from," he said of the play. "It made a tough game harder."

Hervey gave it the "What-do-I-say?" expression.

"I didn't make the call. Talk to the guy who made it. They were ready for it. It's a call he made. He's got to live with it."

At halftime, Saskatchewan coach Danny Barrett said it "showed disrespect."

After the game he said, "We were prepared for it. We just didn't expect them to do it that deep in their end so close to the half."

Quarterback Henry Burris said former Eskimo quarterback Nealon Greene spotted it developing.

"Nealon called it on our bench. He started screaming, 'They're running the fake!' It was just amazing that they ran it. When we got the ball we had to make 'em pay for it."

The Eskimos had a 21-16 advantage in first downs, a 394-to-293 edge in net yards, won the giveaway/take away category (unless you count on downs) 3-1, took fewer penalties ...

It keeps coming back to Higgins's call -- not that there aren't other guys who should be wearing goat horns after this.

Mike Pringle didn't give the Eskimos a running game again. You have to figure he's history.

Jason Maas was 33 for 47 passing for 351 yards. Great stats. Great stat season. But he didn't get the Ws. And he didn't get it done in this one. Six points? Sorry, you have to find the end zone. He had the Eskimos marching early but fumbled on a third-and-one gamble.

"There were plays out there to be made. We didn't score any touchdowns. It's a hard pill to swallow."

BURRIS MADE 'EM PAY

Fleming gets the second-biggest set of goat horns next to that of Higgins. He was 0-1 passing, missed field goals from 31 and 43 yards and punted into the end zone when he was supposed to angle it out to give the ball to the Roughriders on the 35. It was a 7-6 game and Burris made 'em pay again by putting together his other touchdown drive.

Fleming said the wind was swirling, that he hit the balls solid and where he was aiming them. They just didn't go there.

As for the gamble?

"High risk, high reward," he said.

There's a flip side to that. Fans are going to want Higgins to pay for it.

"I take full responsibility. It falls on my shoulders," he said.

Fans, who were comfortable with the idea of Higgins being back after he dodged the bullet of missing the playoffs for the first time in 33 years, may see it as a firing offence.

But forget the fans. It's the players who may not be able to come back after this and give the guy a vote of confidence.


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