It's all about winning

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:04 AM ET

Ricky Ray: Winner.

At the end of the day, that's what he wants them to say.

"When you judge quarterbacks, you judge the great ones on championships won. You can be judged a great running back, like Barry Sanders, without winning a championship. But when it comes to quarterbacks, it's all about winning," he said.

The quarterback is two-for-two at getting the Edmonton Eskimos to the Grey Cup.

Ray is 34-14 in the regular season - 21-4 at Commonwealth Stadium.

In addition, he's 2-0 in West playoffs, both West finals here. He's 1-1 in Grey Cup games. It isn't a playoff game Sunday in McMahon Stadium in Calgary against the Stampeders. But it is to Ricky Ray.

"The mindset is a win gets you a home playoff game, whether it turns out to be the final or semi-final. You need every advantage you can get in the playoffs.''

If this was a normal final game of the regular season instead of the monster game it has become with the loser finishing third and forced to play all their playoff games on the road, the focus would be on Ray's chance to set some records.

Ray needs 12 completions to break Doug Flutie's CFL record of 466 from 1991.

"I hope I have more than 12,'' he laughed.

Ray needs 367 yards to break Warren Moon's team record of 5,648 yards passing.

"I'd have to have a whale of a game to get that,'' he said. "I'm not looking for that. I'd rather win games and championships than set records,'' he said.

There are 40-some stalls in the naked dressing room, but when it comes down to this time of year, the guy sitting in one is the one guy who has to be exceptional.

HAND ON THE BALL

Or as coach Danny Maciocia put it prior to practice yesterday: "He's got his hand on the ball every play. Everything involves the quarterback in this kind of game.''

Maciocia says Ray has the perfect mentality for it.

"He's got a thing about him, a presence. The bigger the game, the bigger the situation, he finds a way to rise to the occasion. There's something about him. The most impressive thing is his poise, his composure. The guy doesn't get frustrated.''

This, and quite likely a subsequent West semi against the Stampeders, is going to test the qualities which supposedly make Ray great. Patience. And smart decisions.

"We're preaching patience. We have to be able to beat them underneath,'' says Maciocia. "We have to find the open man in the open zone.''

Ray had neither the last time the two teams played. He forced passes into coverages and ended up throwing three interceptions.

"In this game your percentage has got to be pretty high,'' said the quarterback, who has gone 456 for 675 for 67.4% with 25 touchdown passes against 21 interceptions. That last stat he's not too proud of on either end, considering his touchdown-to-interception ratio was 59-22 in his first tour with the Green and Gold.

"The interceptions are something I'm not proud of this year. We were in too many situations where I had to force passes into coverage.

"Calgary gives you stuff but you have to have the patience to take it and not force passes into their coverage,'' he says of almost entirely zone coverage designed to take away everything over top and tease you into trying.

"We have to do well on first down and not get into first-and-long situations like the last game,'' he said of the Labour Day replay at Commonwealth Stadium.

'DIFFERENT OFFENCE'

The Eskimos have two players who weren't there then: Troy Davis at running back and Dan Comiskey on the offensive line.

"We very much have a different offence than the last time we played Calgary,'' said Ray.

"I have to use it to give this team every opportunity to win,'' added the quarterback, who is 5-2 career against the Stampeders, 2-1 in McMahon.

"The reason you play the game is to win.''

Ricky Ray Season starts Sunday.


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