Off to bad start

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

With one eye-popping hit and the sight of Jason Tucker's helmet flying through the air, the Edmonton Eskimos' 2006 season started with one heck of a bang.

Hung out to dry by an errant pass from Khari Jones on the first play from scrimmage yesterday, Tucker was hammered by defensive back Omarr Morgan, which sent his helmet flying and left him crumpled on the ground.

"I was coming across, the ball got tipped and after that I don't who or where it came from," he said after the game.

"It took a minute for me to realize where I was, but I finally came back to my senses."

Called a cheap shot by his teammates, there was no flag on the play.

But more importantly for the Eskimos, Tucker - arguably the best receiver in the league - only suffered a small cut on his chin.

But unfortunately for the Green and Gold, the game didn't go much better after that ugly beginning.

Hampered by seemingly countless mental breakdowns and blown assignments on offence, the Eskimos looked dreadful in front of an announced crown of 25,114 fans at Taylor Field while losing 14-8 to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in their first pre-season game.

"It was ugly," blurted Eskimo head coach Danny Maciocia afterward.

"We had 60-some odd bodies on the sidelines ... and they're so excited that sometimes they forget their assignments."

Two identical mental gaffes on special teams essentially cost the Esks any hope of winning.

Halfway through the second quarter, Rider placekicker Rob Pikula literally one-hopped a brutal field goal attempt from 46 yards - but the Esks were called for too many men on the field.

With new life, Pikula nailed his next attempt to put the home team on the board.

And then early in the second half, the Eskimos somehow managed to pull the exact same ugly trick on another field goal attempt.

This time it cost them a touchdown, as running back Kegan Coleman bounced into the end zone four plays later to give the Riders a 10-8 lead - and they never looked back.

"I don't know how many times I covered (the issue of too many men) this week," said a frustrated Maciocia.

The mistakes overshadowed a perfect afternoon by Sean Fleming in the field goal department and a solid outing by third-string quarterback Jason Johnson.

By going 7-for-10 in the first half for 69 yards, the third-year pivot might have just moved one spot up on the depth chart, especially after a brutal outing by Jones.

"I thought it was a solid performance," said Johnson, who finished the day 10-for-18 for nearly 90 yards.

Jones - on the other hand - missed receivers all over the field, including Trevor Gaylor in the end zone.


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