Esks need to seize opportunity

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:43 AM ET

TORONTO -- Opportunity knocks. Again.

Will the Eskimos answer this time?

Opportunity has knocked enough times already for this manic-depressive football team. Usually the answer has been no.

"It always seems to work out that way," said Ed Hervey on the eve of today's tilt against the defending Grey Cup champions (11 a.m. CBC with actual commentators).

"We've been presented with another chance to seize a moment. That's what this game is all about now.''

The Saskatchewan Roughriders' five-game winning streak was stopped by the Montreal Alouettes Saturday night. Suddenly, the Eskimos have yet another chance to put their inconsistent up-and-down, in-and-out, terrific-team/terrible-team season behind them with a mere two game winning streak.

"That game affected Toronto too," Hervey said of the Argos hold on first in the East suddenly becoming insecure as a result of the Alouette win.

"We seem to rise to the occasion for the big game at home like we did with Montreal and B.C. But this is a big game on the road in a hostile environment against the Grey Cup champions."

Head coach Danny Maciocia knows the opportunity is there again.

"Let's see what we do with it.

"Do the math. If we win this game and return to Edmonton and beat the Roughriders at home next week, Saskatchewan can't finish second," he said.

A win today would leave the Eskimos two points ahead of the Roughriders. Win this and follow with another win (by more than one point) at home next Saturday against Saskatchewan, and the Esks would have a four-point edge on the Riders, also settling any tie at the end based on the two-game total-point series.

Ironically, Toronto and Saskatchewan are the only two teams the Esks have yet to beat.

But which Eskimo team will show up today? The really, really good one? Or the really, really bad one? I've covered 35 years of Eskimos football and I can't remember a year in which they had a team in which you had no clue what team they were going to be from one week to the next.

Does Maciocia have a clue which team is going to show up here today?

"I think I have an idea," he said.

"It's been an interesting week. I've had Jason Maas do everything he can do to draw the defence offside, to clearly go out of his way trying to get them offside," he said of the backup QB working the scout team offence.

"The deal was, if somebody went offside, we'd start the drill over," said the rookie head coach, who decided talking about taking too many penalties wasn't good enough.

The Eskimos went from 46 yards of penalties in the big win over B.C. to back to their undisciplined selves and took 139 yards against Hamilton.

A fascination about this game is that it's the perfect test drive of the alleged new-and-improved Edmonton offence with Dan Comiskey back on the offensive line and Troy Davis at running back.

"This game is going to be a pretty good gauge," admits Maciocia.

No team in the CFL is set up to defend the Eskimos as they were going into this game, a one-dimensional passing team.

"They take away all the things we do well," said Hervey.

"It's a very good defence against the pass," says quarterback Ricky Ray. "They've kept the same people together the last three or four years. That's what makes them so good.

"This is a very good game to go out there and get things going with a ground game."

Maciocia is even more direct about it: "We need the running game and we need it now - sooner than later if we're going to make any noise."

It's Thanksgiving. The frost is on the pumpkin. Noise would be nice.


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