HAMILTON -- Before boarding a plane for Edmonton yesterday morning, Eskimo head coach Danny Maciocia tried his best to squash any sort of bubbling quarterback controversy.
Although the Eskimos produced their worst offensive display of the season Friday night in Hamilton - losing 40-14 to the Tiger-Cats - Ricky Ray will still pilot Edmonton's offence next weekend in Toronto.
"If we blame Ricky Ray (for Friday's loss), we are sadly mistaken," said Maciocia. "Ricky Ray doesn't block. Ricky Ray doesn't tackle. I'm going to go to Ricky (in Toronto on Thanksgiving Day). Take a look at his play two weeks ago."
That was a much happier time for the Eskimos - and one of the best games of the summer for Ray.
After fans had been calling for backup Jason Maas earlier in September, Ray was nearly flawless in Edmonton's victory over the previously unbeaten B.C. Lions.
He completed nearly 80% of his passes two weeks ago at Commonwealth Stadium. But Friday night was a different story against the Cats, although they have the CFL's worst record and a young secondary.
Ray missed several open receivers and threw two interceptions - including a very costly one in the fourth quarter on Edmonton's last drive of hope with nearly 10 minutes remaining.
With 217 yards passing, it was Ray's lowest total this season, but he was battered several times in the first half and faced almost unrelenting pressure in the second half. In fact, he was sacked three times and was belted for a safety in the final 30 minutes.
"It's not one guy out there doing it himself. We have to clean up a lot of things in a lot of different areas," said Ray. "I feel it is a team effort out there. We didn't play well as a team."
Just how bad was it Friday night at Ivor Wynne Stadium for an Eskimo team that has lost five of its last eight?
With 247 yards of total offence, it was the worst offensive output of the season.
On defence, Hamilton's Troy Davis was able to rumble for 108 yards. Even raw rookie Jesse Lumsden ran over the league's best-run defence, averaging seven yards on three carries in the fourth quarter.
At 40 points against, it was the most points allowed by the Eskimos this year - and highest total since losing to Saskatchewan last October.
It was also the most lopsided loss since Toronto hammered the Esks 39-14 last August.
On special teams, the Green and Gold surrendered 121 punt return yards, the highest total of the year.
Even if Kahlil Hill's 80-yard punt-return touchdown is taken out of that total, the Eskimos still gave up more yards than in the past three games combined, when they shut down B.C.'s Aaron Lockett and Saskatchewan's Corey Holmes.
And the Eskimos tied a season-high mark with 18 penalties. Included in that red-flag barrage were six offside/procedure penalties.
"Every time we lose it's us turning the ball over, killing ourselves with penalties and playing sloppy games," said Ray.
The Eskimos now have eight days to prepare for the Toronto Argos, the Eastern Division leaders.
Will Maciocia make other roster changes before flying back across the country next Saturday afternoon for the Thanksgiving Day tilt?
"We'll consider everything, but at the same time, you got to be careful because you can get clearly discouraged by this type of performance and start looking for things that aren't actually there," he explained.
On the positive side, the Eskimos still control their own destiny.
By virtue of starting the season on a major roll at 5-1, the team can still finish ahead of Calgary and Saskatchewan by winning their remaining four games.
After playing Toronto, Edmonton returns to host the Riders and Lions before playing the Stampeders in Calgary to finish the regular season on Nov. 6.