A win that solves little

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:41 AM ET

It wasn't exactly exciting. It was exceptionally excruciating.

It was a win. But it wasn't a win which satisfied many or solved much.

It was a game which will keep Monday morning quarterbacks second-guessing for days and, depending on how things work out, maybe weeks.

It was a one-point Edmonton Eskimo win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders which left the season series tied in total points.

Three straight seasons now the two teams have had exactly the same for-against totals in games against each other. As a result, the Eskimos can now finish anywhere from first to fourth!

The one-point win guarantees a 34th year in the playoffs, but it might be with an asterisk if the Eskimos end up being the crossover team and have to go East to play in the playoffs - which is what would happen if there were a three-way tie for second.

A WILD FINISH

It was a game only a league commissioner could love. The bottom line is that it virtually guarantees a wild finish in the West.

Where does one begin?

Why didn't rookie head coach Danny Maciocia go for a single point in the final minute to ensure the two point victory? Or why did Maciocia run Ray for a third-and-one touchdown instead of Troy Davis, who was running over the Roughriders?

TV replays were inconclusive whether Ray actually was over the goal line. Roughrider coach Danny Barrett said "All I know is that our guys are pretty upset.''

Ray said at first he thought he was stopped.

"I didn't think I got in. I thought, man, they stuffed me. I landed on my back. When I looked, the goal line was under my back.''

Maciocia faced a barrage of 'Why?' this and 'Why?' that after the game.

Maciocia said he didn't call for a Davis run for the same reason he didn't call Mike Pringle for the carry which would have broken George Reed's TD record last year.

"I'm not having somebody run five yards to get one when you're out-manned at the line,'' he said.

Why didn't Maciocia have Fleming set up for a field goal and kick the ball for a single?

"Winning the game was much more important. A field goal try could go wide and Corey Holmes had just returned one for a touchdown,'' he said.

An out of bounds punt?

"They'd have taken over on the 35 yard line. This is the CFL. Twenty-eight seconds is a lot of time in the CFL.''

Maciocia said media and fans could second-guess all they want.

"A win is a win. I'm happy to be here.''

THROUGH THE WRINGER

He admitted he'd never been through a wringer quite like this one before.

"You guys may not be able to run me out of town,'' he laughed. "I might not make it.''

For the record, I wouldn't have gone for the field goal either. I wouldn't have trusted special teams if Fleming had missed. But I would have gone for the punt, taken the point and trusted the defence.

But the talk at the water cooler this week should be about Ricky Ray and the red zone.

Why, with the Eskimos seemingly having solved their offensive line and running game problems with the addition of Dan Comiskey and Troy Davis, are they suddenly unable to score from the red zone or plus territory as Maciocia calls the 25-yard-line and in?

One touchdown in last week's win in Toronto. One debatable touchdown yesterday on five trips to the red zone.

Now that they have all the weapons, why can't Maciocia and Ray make use of them to score touchdowns?

It was delicious, in a way, that Sean Fleming, replaced by Maciocia with import Hayden Epstein earlier in the season, had to go four-for-four in field goals to win it.

The Eskimos had 356 yards offence to 212 by Saskatchewan. Ray was 20 for 32. Davis carried 17 times for 96 yards and caught six passes for 65 more.

And they can't score? There's a flip side to that, said Bruce Beaton.

"If we hadn't made that trade for Comiskey and Davis, we'd have lost these two games and you'd be just destroying us.''

There is that.

It's probably a good thing that Maciocia and the Eskimos haven't taken themselves off the hot seat. It's still all there for them. All they have to do is win. Builds character.


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