Missing killer instinct

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET

EDMONTON -- Nothing will come easily for the Calgary Stampeders this season.

That painful reality hit home again last night like a punch in the ribs despite a crucial and oh-so-satisfying 16-11 win over the Edmonton Eskimos.

The Stamps had plenty of chances to turn the contest into an easy two points but frittered away almost every first-half opportunity to convert the provincial grudge match into a one-sided romp.

Not that winning in Edmonton has been easy in recent memory. The Stampeders have loaded two points onto the bus for the long ride home just once in the last seven meetings. Last night the struggles started right from the opening kickoff, a fumble by Edmonton's Tony Tompkins that two Stamps failed to recover on the slippery, soggy Commonwealth Stadium turf.

As usual, the Stamps defence was splendid, providing Henry Burris and the offence with more than enough chances to pile up points.

Picking off three Ricky Ray tosses in the first 30 minutes while limiting the sensational Eskimos passer to just 123 first-half yards was a monumental accomplishment, one the Stamps offence apparently didn't appreciate.

The trio of picks -- two by cornerback Nate Terry and another from Randy Chevrier -- were converted into just three points while the Stamps managed just 13 first downs all night.

"We didn't do things as well as we wanted to tonight but we did enough to get the victory," said Burris, who said he tore a ligament in the thumb of his non-throwing hand in the start of the second quarter.

"We had things going pretty well in the first half ... we had a chance to blow it open and we had some opportunities get away from us by not putting the ball in the endzone and we missed a couple of field goals.

"We had a chance to go up big and they did a good job defensively, limiting us to three points. Thankfully we did just enough to get the victory."

Usually reliable placekicker Sandro DeAngelis hooked a 41-yard effort after Chevrier's pick and although he managed to connect on a 16-yard chip shot after Terry's first interception, the second turnover resulted in another miss from 30 yards out.

In the third quarter, Burris threw away another opportunity after getting the ball at midfield after an Eskimos turnover on downs.

While the Stampeders were winning on the scoreboard, head coach Tom Higgins got a bit of rough ride on the video replay screen. Dubbed Ned Flanders during his Eskimos tenure, Higgins had to endure a couple of colourful cheap shots via clips of The Simpsons.

While the 42,654 chilly Eskimos fans on hand enjoyed a chuckle, one of the few highlights of the night for the Green and Gold, Higgins appeared oblivious on the Stampeders sidelines.

Higgins has watched his Stampeders fall to second-last this season in the critical giveaway-takeaway statistic, a key element in its struggles this season. But the win was still satisfying for the head coach, punted from the Eskimos organization last fall after 11 seasons with the franchise.

Although his offence wasn't able to capitalize last night, the defence consistently shut down Ray much like it did in the second half of the 25-23 Labour Day loss earlier this week.

Suddenly, the Stampeders are also back in the chase for second place in the CFL West.

"The difference in the game was were able to create turnovers," said Higgins.

Now they just have to start creating points.


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