Climb time for Esks

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:05 PM ET

With another stinging loss still very fresh in his mind, Ed Hervey sat in a quiet and emptying visitor's locker-room at B.C. Place late Friday night vowing the Edmonton Eskimos will improve.

"This team is definitely going to be a better team in the second half of the season," said the offensive leader.

Of course, a cynic will suggest there is no way to go but up for the Green and Gold after a 3-6 first-half campaign that was marred by glaring mistakes.

Time and time again, the Esks suffered mental breakdowns and gave up huge plays at the worst moments through their opening nine games - which is the main reason why they're in the West Division basement, eight points behind first-place B.C. and four points behind second-place Calgary.

LATEST NIGHTMARE

The latest addition to their nightmare film of big plays and costly mistakes came Friday during a 30-28 loss to the Lions, when holder Jason Johnson somehow let a seemingly perfect snap from Mike Maurer slip right through his hands on the last play, giving Sean Fleming no chance to attempt a game-winning field goal.

But Hervey genuinely believes there is a a silver lining to this rocky beginning with a group of young and relatively inexperienced CFL pros on defence and on special teams.

"We have gone through our growing pains," he explained. "Now we have a week off and heading into the second half of the season we know what it takes to win games by losing these close ones."

Rookie Adam Braidwood certainly agrees and hasn't lost any faith.

"If I didn't think we could have a winning season, I would pack up my bags and go home and call it a day," said Braidwood. "I think we can move on and definitely build off (the first half of the season) and play better."

Not surprisingly, head coach Danny Maciocia agrees, but also believes it's time to get away from the game for a short time. Understandably very frustrated and disappointed, Maciocia feels the 11-day break the players have with their bye in the schedule is a good thing.

"I think we all need to get away," said Maciocia, who was bound for Montreal early yesterday morning for his own short break.

"Just spend some time with our loved ones and recharge the batteries and come back to work."

And Maciocia can take solace in the fact that when his players report to their first meeting next Wednesday and hit the practice field on Aug. 31 in preparation for the annual Labour Day tilt in Calgary, they'll know what's at stake.

"This is do or die now. We have to start putting some Ws on the board," said Fleming. "We have to be done with the learning curve.

"Our young guys really need to step up and help us. It's not about teaching guys about playing football.

"Our veterans have done a decent job, but we need to pick ourselves up too and start finding ways to win."

D-LINE'S EFFORTS

And there were signs - from veterans and rookies - of improvements on Friday, as the defensive line put together a nine-sack effort against the Lions, marking the third-highest sack total in a single game in franchise history.

And the offence displayed a never-say-die-attitude, even though the club was trailing 30-18 in the fourth quarter.

Scoring 28 points, the Esks had their highest output of the season while doing their best job this year of stretching the field with 25-yard-plus plays to Hervey, Jason Tucker and Mookie Mitchell.

Those improvements need to become a trend in the second half of the season for the Esks to climb out of their hole and make the playoffs for a 35th straight year.


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