Rookie fever!

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Danny Maciocia doesn't like the angle.

By winning the West final and getting to the Grey Cup in his rookie year as a head coach, Maciocia can become only the second Edmonton Eskimo coach ever to win the Grey Cup in his rookie season.

"I can't wait until no one can be able to call me 'rookie head coach Danny Maciocia' anymore," he said.

"I don't care about being one of those guys who did that. All I care about is winning.

"I love Edmonton. I love the players in that locker-room," said Maciocia, who became the first Eskimo coach ever to take the team from a third-place finish to the Grey Cup game.

A Canadian from Montreal who never played football, whose first pro football coaching job was as a volunteer with the Montreal Alouettes, has made it to the Grey Cup as head coach in his first year -- against the Montreal Alouettes.

FIVE WINS FOR MATTHEWS

The Montreal Alouettes are going to the Grey Cup for the 13th time while the Eskimos go looking for their 13th title.

While Maciocia is going for his first Cup, Montreal coach Don Matthews is attempting to win a record sixth. He's currently tied with Lew Hayman, Frank Clair and Hugh Campbell with five. Matthews also was an assistant coach with Campbell's Eskimos when they won five-in-a-row.

Wednesday's coaches' press conference will be an event.

"When the game ended and I thought about that, I said 'Hoo boy, what a game this is going to be," said Maciocia.

In Montreal this morning they'll be asking, 'Why is it always Edmonton?'

Not only has Edmonton-Montreal been your Grey Cup game for three of the last four years, it has been the Grey Cup game 11 of those Montreal's 13 years. The Esks have won seven of them.

They won this one because Maciocia -- who stubbornly refused to put Maas in a game until the last few minutes of the last regular-season game of the year -- went to him again to win another playoff game.

"I told him, 'I'm thinking of doing this and I can't give you a good reason why," Maciocia said of pulling Ricky Ray who had completed 17 of 28 passes for 207 yards and suffered some bad luck (a tipped ball interception off the hands of Trevor Gaylor).

He also turned the ball over two times on fumbles and the offense had stalled, the body language on the bench was bad and a 21-3 game had turned into a 21-21 game.

"I told Jason, 'I need to do something,' " said Maciocia. "Jason's answer was 'I don't know, Danny.' "

Maciocia said Maas has matured. "Four or five years ago he couldn't have done what he did today. He had control."

SURROUNDED IN CONTROVERSY

Maciocia, who has spent the season surrounded in controversy with his team, isn't switching horses now. Originally planning to wait until the weekend to name his starter after Maas saved the Eskimos bacon last weekend, Maciocia stopped an out-of-control quarterback controversy by naming Ray his starter Wednesday.

Last night he said he wasn't even going to wait until the Eskimos returned home: "Ricky Ray is our starter," he said.

"We had a near-perfect first half," he said of the team which made every tackle and didn't take a single penalty. Then with the lead, it was like they became comfortable, started missing tackles and took 66 yards of penalties in the second half.

When it was over, Maas almost put his head coach on an injury list which is going to be substantial going into the Grey Cup game.

"He slapped me on the back and almost put me in the upper deck," said the, er, rookie head coach.


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