Esks can't hold late lead against Stampeders

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

CALGARY -- The Edmonton Eskimos should be thankful the Edmonton Oilers stole the spotlight at home, because watching the Green and Gold's regular-season opener was downright painful.

About the only positive for the Esks in last night's 24-14 loss to the Calgary Stampeders is the fact very few people within 100 kilometres of Edmonton actually saw the embarrassing display of football, meaning the cries of anger and frustration will be rather quiet this week.

But that's it for a silver lining.

To be blunt, the defending Grey Cup champions have several problems to solve - and learned almost nothing from their pre-season mistakes.

NEEDING ANSWERS

With less than a week to prepare for their home opener against these Stampeders, the Esks need to find answers if they want to avoid falling to 0-2 to start the year.

In no particular order, the list of glaring issues:

Turnovers: Edmonton coughed up the ball seven times, including a stunning fumble by new punter Rodney Williams near his own goal line. Long snapper Taylor Inglis put the ball right in the bread basket, but Williams couldn't squeeze the pigskin, giving the ball to the Stamps at the three-yard line.

Ricky Ray also threw a pick while Troy Davis fumbled.

"We can't turn over the ball that number of times," said head coach Danny Maciocia.

"I don't buy that first week (excuse).

"We just have to secure the football and be aware that people are going to come down and try to hit you and try to strip you."

A lack of run defence: After Kenton Keith lit them up last week, Joffrey Reynolds made the front seven look foolish at times last night, rushing for 153 yards.

"We need better tackling," blurted a frustrated defensive end Chuck Alston.

"We have to get more pressure on the quarterback and keep contain.

Almost no scoring punch: In 12 quarters this year - including eight in the pre-season - the Esks have scored just two touchdowns. Ray can pile up yards between the 30-yard lines, but the team can barely locate the end zone.

"We had a ton of yards accumulated and nothing to show for it," said Maciocia, whose crew racked up 399 yards of total offence.

If it weren't the Stamps's ineptness on offence, the Esks would have been buried in the first half, down 21-0.

Williams's stunning gaffe on his first regular-season punt attempt gave Calgary the ball on the Edmonton three-yard line - but the Stamps had to settle for a field goal.

KNOCKED THREE TIMES

By the time the first quarter ended, the Stamps had knocked on the door three times, but had just a 7-0 lead.

Edmonton finally found the end zone with a 12-yard strike from Ray to Mookie Mitchell, but Fleming's botched single left it 7-6 at halftime.

Trailing 10-7 in the fourth, the Esks appeared to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with Mathieu Bertrand's seven-yard TD catch.

However, Henry Burris's 33-yard perfect spiral to Nik Lewis in the final two minutes sealed the deal to make it 17-14. Jeremaine Copeland added another touchdown moments later to add insult to injury.

FINISH LINES: An electrical storm delayed the start of last night's game by 35 minutes.


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