Case for defence

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:07 AM ET

Ricky Ray took a lickin' and kept on tickin'.

Danny Maciocia won his first game as head coach.

But, sorry, the story was with the defence.

"Oh, man, that was stupendous,'' said Joe Montford, the future Hall of Famer who was almost invisible with what everybody else was doing around him.

"I told you. I said 'we're going to settle for nothing less than six sacks.' They had seven. Three by Rashad Jeanty.

"Awesome,'' said veteran Eskimo defensive back Donny Brady of the new and improved defence.

"They brought in great guys who have fit in perfectly and showed tonight they're all going to carry that onto the field, too.

"And we made mistakes. Wait until we eliminate some of those,'' he said of the group which held the Ottawa Renegades to eight first downs, only three in the first half.

SCARED PEOPLE

"Wasn't that something?'' said Bruce Beaton. "You have to go back about a decade to think of an Edmonton defence that really scared people. But this defence showed everybody around the league tonight that they are really going to scare people.''

But Maciocia, who spent the first half thinking everything was going wrong, suddenly looked up and saw that his first game as a head coach was going to be a blowout. And he said it best.

"When we play mistake-free and smart, this could be a heck of a place to be in '05.''

There have been more entertaining and exciting games in Eskimos history. But 36,912 fans saw something special first time out from the D, which graded A+ out of the gate.

Offence sells tickets and defence wins championships. Ticket sales aren't a problem around here, unlike in Ottawa where they have fewer than 5,000 season tickets and have to go home for their one-day-only $99 sale today after losing this one 41-16.

For the Eskimos it beat the 33-9 loss to Montreal to open the season last year, not to mention the 44-15 loss in Ottawa which left the Eskimos with an 0-3 record out of the gate.

Not that this one started great.

"In the first quarter, it looked like Day 1 of training camp,'' said Maciocia.

"When the team came in at half-time I told them 'I don't have any adjustments, just get your heads out of you-know where.' ''

Maciocia was happy with Ray, who took some pounding including one hit going out of bounds on the Ottawa three yard line in the third quarter which was a direct hit on his injured right knee.

"He told me 'I'm ready to go.' And he was pretty good,'' he said of the QB who was 31-for-45 with two one-yard touchdown plunges and two big-play touchdown passes to Jason Tucker, the guy he made the MVP the last time he played for real in the Eskimos uniform at the 2003 Grey Cup game.

"He's so smart. He's so accurate. He's just so composed. He has ice in his veins.''

TORTURE TEST

Ray felt he didn't just win, he passed the torture test.

"I definitely took some hits tonight. I had one solid one on the knee there.''

But like everyone else in the Eskimo room, Ray ended up talking about the defence.

"Man, that was a great first game they played tonight. They made all the difference. We had a slow start on offence, but we were able to stick with the game plan and keep plugging along until we got it going.''

Until Malcolm Frank guessed wrong and gambled on an interception which turned into a 54-yard touchdown for Jason Armstead to go with his 87-yard punt return major, the Edmonton defence looked like they weren't going to give up anything but singles.

"We kinda let ourselves down by giving up a touchdown,'' said Montford.

"I thought I could get that ball,'' said Frank. "You either make the tackle or get the interception and I didn't do either.

"This defence is going to go out there every game this year with the idea of not giving up a touchdown and this should have been the first one of them.''


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