The carnage! The stench!

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

CALGARY -- All they had to do was seize the moment. Instead they had a seizure.

It was there. Gift wrapped in green and white. Compliments of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Seize the moment and a 29th home-playoff date and a 17th Western Final of the 34-year record run of making it into the playoffs would be theirs.

Instead, for only the fifth time in that record run, the Eskimos won't play a post-season game in Commonwealth Stadium.

And get this. As a result of losing 43-23 to Tom Higgins' Calgary Stampeders here yesterday, the Eskimos have put themselves in a position of having to do what they've never done in their 57 years of storied history in the CFL!

Not once have they ever finished third and gone on to win a Grey Cup, even gone on to get to a Grey Cup.

The Eskimos gagged on the game, swallowed the olive and otherwise took the big gulp in losing to Higgin's inspired outfit.

Instead of taking advantage of the golden gift provided by Saskatchewan's surprising victory over the B.C. Lions the night before and being one win from a 13th Grey Cup game, the Eskimos lost a collision with a cattle car. The carnage! The stench!

Now, not for the first time this season, Danny Maciocia has to get out his pooper scooper and clean up the mess they made. Maciocia has one week to put his Humpty Dumptys back together again to come back here and beat a team which has now won seven of their last eight and just handed them their helmets covered with mustard by Nik Lewis.

All year the story with the Eskimos has been not knowing which team would show up. For the first time in a month, it was the gastly guys in green and gold again.

BIGGEST GAME

The team which came here for their biggest game of the season was the same seriously stunned squad which went to Hamilton and lost 40-14 to the last place Tiger-Cats, the week after snapping the B.C. Lions 11-game winning streak.

Perversely, in there somewhere is Edmonton's hope. Maybe the other Eskimos team, the one which played their best football of the season in their previous three games, will show up here next Sunday.

It's not that this was a no-show. Ricky Ray led the Eskimos down the field for a 10-play, 68-yard drive and a 7-0 lead on the first series. It looked like a 22nd first place finish about to be delivered. But after that, led by the defence, they delivered a dud.

Just days earlier Maciocia was contending that he finally felt his team had become Eskimos and that he was completely confident the way they would play.

Last night he and most of his football team were stuck for words.

"That was extremely disappointing. We were given the chance to finish first and obviously we didn't cash in on it," said the rookie coach. "We feel bad because of the opportunity which had presented itself. Now we have to go home, regroup and get our heads screwed on straight."

BIG PLAYS

Maciocia said the Stampeders made all the big plays. That Calgary could put up 43 points on Edmonton's No. 1-ranked defence in the league was one thing. That Calgary could pass for 311 yards and amass 441 yards of total offence against the same group was another.

The Eskimos, as always, won the time-of-possession battle 34:15 to 25:45 and registered 30 first downs to 20. But they were big-played to death. By the Stampeders. And themselves.

Ricky Ray has now gone five games without throwing a touchdown pass. Five!

He threw three more interceptions and turned the ball over on a fumble as well in this one. No touchdown passes and now seven interceptions in the last five games tells a very scary story.

With Jason Maas getting his first snaps of the season and putting the ball in the endzone in four plays, it'll be open line, open season like it was with goaltending during the Oilers seven-game losing streak.

"We had a chance to take first place and control our destiny and didn't get it done," said Ray. "We have to find ways to make more big plays. With the guys we have on offence we should be making more big plays.

"We have a lot of things to fix. We've got to go home and do it. That's all there is to it. That's a hard loss to handle but we have to go home and get it handled."

Ed Hervey seconded the motion.

"If we don't, it'll be a long day next Sunday, that's for sure."

And a long, cold off-season in Edmonton.


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