Troy, Troy, Troy again

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

TORONTO -- So that's what it's like to play with a full deck of cards.

For 14 games the Edmonton Eskimos didn't have a running game.

Yesterday they did.

It made all the difference.

No way would the Eskimos have been able to beat the defending Grey Cup champions 17-13 in their home stadium before 34,116 - the largest crowd since 1993 - without one.

"It was great. Having all the parts to play with is big for us," said quarterback Ricky Ray of his first game back from the NFL in which he was working with something other than a one-dimensional team.

Behind a dramatically different offensive line led by Dan Comiskey, Troy Davis carried 19 times for 112 yards - the most yards on the ground in one game this season by an Eskimo running back by a bunch.

Davis also caught two passes for 21 yards.

"I don't know if it's a bench- mark. But I suspect a lot of defences are wondering what they do now that we can pass and run. It certainly makes us a lot more difficult to defence," said Ray.

"It definitely makes my job way easier," added the quarterback who completed 20 of 27 passes for 224 yards - the first time all year Ray's attempts were less than 30-something.

Ray handed to Davis for 14 yards on the first play of the game, gave him the ball for 10 more on the second play and, in all, handed him the ball four times for 41 yards on the first drive of the game. Then, head coach Danny Maciocia went away from the running back, who had three days to learn his plays.

GOT GREEDY

"They were tempting us to throw the football," said the head coach. "They went into man coverage and I got greedy expecting to be able to go over top of the coverage."

When the game was on the line, with Ray needing to keep the football for the final 3:32 of the game, starting on his own 29, Maciocia had him handing the ball to the former Hamilton Tiger-Cat who led the league in rushing last year.

Three yards. Ten more on a shovel pass. Four yards. Eight yards. Three yards. One yard. Fourteen yards.

That put the Eskimos on the Toronto four and Ray was able to take a knee for the final two plays and not bother trying to get into the end zone.

"That was a great drive to kill the clock," said Ray. "You can't put together a drive like that if you don't have a running game."

While Davis gets the headlines, the big difference was that the Eskimos had an offensive line. Dan Comiskey joined the hogs in their corner of the dressing room, where a separate celebration was going on.

"I think we'll keep you as part of the team now," said centre Kevin Lefsrud.

"I feel like I'm home again," said Comiskey, who came with Davis in the deal with the Tiger-Cats earlier in the week.

"It's a great group of guys around me. To be back with these guys again and get it going like we did again, that was pretty exciting. The best part was not just coming back but bringing a teammate with me that I like and respect," he added of Davis.

We'd tell you how special this game was for Davis if the guy had taken advantage of his new environment to get rid of his reputation of being a jerk when it comes to dealing with the fans and their representatives in the media. But he didn't.

He refused to talk. From that point of view it was a hell of a hello, but not much of a how-do-you-do.

OPEN ARMS

Not that anybody isn't going to welcome Davis to Edmonton with anything but open arms. Right now the Eskimos need a running back more than a spokesman.

And it wasn't that there was a lack of Eskimos to sing his praises, starting with the head honchos.

"He's a great player. He really gives us another dimension. And he comes exactly when we need him. Hopefully he'll play a big part in the playoffs," said Ray.

"No. 1, Davis," said CEO Hugh Campbell.

"How many times did it look like he was stopped, then there was a little skirmish and suddenly there he was four yards past the skirmish."

But it was Maciocia with the biggest smile.

"Troy had three days to learn the play book. I was the only coach who questioned if he would be ready to come here and play. I asked him every question I could think of. He had an answer for every one of them."

"We haven't had anything like that with this team in almost two years," he said, referring to one of the league's all-time greats, Mike Pringle.

"Having a running game makes it so much easier to coach. And so much more fun."


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