Nail-biting time

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:18 AM ET

Warren Moon and Brian Kelly are the most prolific duo in Edmonton Eskimo history.

But Ricky Ray and Jason Tucker are the heroes of today for the Green and Gold.

In fact, without the present-day quarterback/receiver tandem, the Eskimos would be living in the basement of the West Division with a bad case of a Grey Cup hangover this morning.

But thanks to two second-half touchdowns from Ray to Tucker, the Esks beat the Calgary Stampeders 18-14 last night at Commonwealth Stadium to even their regular-season record at one win and one loss.

"Oh man, (Tucker) stepped it up in the second half for us," said Ray.

The first major came midway through the third quarter when Tucker burned rookie halfback J.R. Ruffin on a 35-yard corner route to bring his team back from the dead, making it 9-8 visitors.

And nearly 15 minutes later, Tucker scorched linebacker Scott Coe in the corner of the south end zone to give the Esks their first lead of the game at 15-12 - and it was a lead they never relinquished.

"He is a great quarterback and he came through," said Tucker of Ray.

"He put it right where it needed to be."

Making the performance even sweeter for Tucker is the fact yesterday was his 32nd birthday.

"It is always good to get a victory on your birthday - you can't beat that," said Tucker.

NOTHING TO CELEBRATE

But at the end of the first half, there was nothing to celebrate in Eskimoland.

The defending Grey Cup champions ran to the locker room under a loud chorus of boos after a pathetic display of offence.

No touchdowns. No points. No creativity.

But head coach Danny Maciocia delivered a simple message to his troops.

"Take what they give you, stay away from penalties and good things will happen," he said.

And the Esks followed that game plan perfectly, showing that this team is more mature than previous squads.

"In the past, we kind of got frustrated and tried to force the issue downfield instead of letting it happen," said Ray.

"(Last night) we let it happen."

Ray finished the game with 392 yards passing, while Tucker had eight catches for 152 yards.

But the Green and Gold needed one final catch by halfback Shannon Garrett with 48 seconds left to seal the win.

OPEN IN THE ENDZONE

Stampeder quarterback Henry Burris had Ken-Yon Rambo open in the endzone to give Calgary the lead, but misfired and Garrett made him pay, ending a wild second half.

In stark contrast the first half could have put anyone to sleep.

Stampeder kicker Sandro DeAngelis provided the only points of the opening quarter on a 43-yard field goal.

The Stamps had to settle for another field goal in the second quarter after a Joffrey Reynolds's touchdown was taken off the board due to a holding penalty on Ken-Yon Rambo.

DeAngelis made it a perfect first half by giving the Stamps a nine-point lead at half.

SIDELINES: The Eskimos will top the nine-million mark in overall regular season attendance on July 7. With 40,491 in the stands last night, the club is just 3,346 people shy.


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