Esks not looking good!

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:27 AM ET

At least the Edmonton Eskimos can take solace in the fact that star quarterback Ricky Ray and stud running back Troy Davis escaped the ugly exhibition season without injury.

But after that, there aren't a lot of positives for the Green and Gold to take with them into next Saturday's regular-season opener against the Calgary Stampeders.

The defending Grey Cup champions finished the pre-season with a 0-2 record after losing 22-7 to the Saskatchewan Roughriders last night in front of 27,840 people at Commonwealth Stadium.

An invisible run defence against Saskatchewan's tailback Kenton Keith, several costly penalties and a complete inability to find the end zone ruined the Esks' first home game since running the table in the playoffs on the road last year.

But while many fans will worry about the fact the Esks didn't score a touchdown in the 2006 pre-season, it's the penalty nightmare that has head coach Danny Maciocia steaming.

"It was stupid penalties," said the coach.

"We killed drives on offence. We kept drives alive on defence.

"We're not playing smart.''

Edmonton had 16 penalties for a whopping 195 yards.

Maciocia and his crew will spend today assessing the ugly game film to make their final roster decisions, as the team must declare its 46-man roster by 10 p.m. tonight.

Unfortunately for the Esks, there won't be many highlights besides solid outings by Ray, Davis and some members of the offensive line.

After Edmonton grabbed a 6-3 lead early in the second quarter last night courtesy of Sean Fleming, Keith took over.

He broke through the Green and Gold's front line with a barely a hand on him and then romped 65 yards to the end zone with eight minutes left in the first half to give the Riders a 10-6 lead.

"We didn't read the tackle block. We should have stuffed that one," said Maciocia.

About six minutes later, it was time for the Edmonton secondary to melt down. Highly-touted halfback Reggie Durden took an extremely costly facemask penalty to keep alive a Saskatchewan drive at midfield.

"Heck, no, that was no facemask penalty, I squeezed from the neck," disputed Durden, still upset after the game.

But then three plays later, cornerback Keyuo Craver was flagged for pass interference on another second-down play.

And the Riders made the Esks pay, punching the ball into the end zone on a one-yard Kerry Joseph sneak to make it 17-6.

Fortunately for Edmonton, Keith was pulled out of the game at the end of the first half after gaining a remarkable 105 yards on just six carries.

But that gift from the Riders didn't help the Esks in the third quarter.

Even though Ray continued to drive the team impressively in the middle of the field, the Esks couldn't find the end zone while the Riders continued to padded their lead to 22-7.

FINISH LINES: Ray was 22-31 for 191 yards in three quarters of work. "I felt pretty good out there ... but we just need to finish drives," he said.


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