Makin' the breaks

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

Ricky Ray quietly emerged from the back of the Edmonton Eskimos' locker-room and hit the nail on the head.

"I mean, as bad as we have played," said Ray yesterday, "to be sitting here with three games to go saying we still have a chance (at qualifying for the playoffs) is pretty amazing."

REMARKABLE

Indeed at 5-10 in the West Division cellar, it is remarkable the Esks' aren't already eliminated from the post-season dance.

But for the Green and Gold to keep their very slim playoff hopes alive, there needs to be improvement in a big hurry - and Ray believes he's one of the players that needs to get better.

"For sure," he said, without a second of hesitation.

"It is not like I am out there throwing four touchdowns and 400 yards a game.

"I am still making a few mistakes here and there."

And those few mistakes in the last month have been very costly.

While the fourth-year veteran is unquestionably the club's most outstanding player nominee for the annual CFL awards, it has been a roller-coaster 30-day stretch.

While he played a major role in saving the team's bacon in Regina two weeks ago by orchestrating the winning touchdown drive inside the final two minutes, the four-year veteran was also stripped of the ball on the potential game-winning drive in Hamilton on Sept. 16.

And on Thanksgiving Day, he threw a very costly interception that Jordan Younger took 72 yards to the end zone to make it 10-0, which is a hole Edmonton never climbed out of.

"(Younger) was sitting on the route a little bit and I was just a little bit late to it - a little behind," explained Ray, who never ducks responsibility.

The soft-spoken leader also fumbled late in the fourth quarter in Toronto when the Esks seemed ready to take the lead. That turnover killed any remaining hope for a comeback.

"(Riall Johnson) did make a good play," explained Ray, before taking some of the responsibility. "All you can do is figure out what you could do better and for me it's trying to cradle (the ball) a little bit more and little bit tighter and keep him from doing that."

Mookie Mitchell doesn't believe Ray should take any blame for the fumble.

"(Johnson) made a good move on Joe (McGrath) and Ricky was just sitting there getting ready to make the throw," said Mitchell.

"You can't blame your quarterback for that because Joe got beat on that.

"If I had to nominate a guy this year for our team MVP it would be Ricky."

Even with a young, inexperienced offensive line in front of him, Ray leads the league in passing with 4,339 yards and will likely be the only player to eclipse the 5,000-yard mark this year.

But the numbers should be better, he believes.

"Yeah, I am up there in yards, but quarterback efficiency - I would like to be up around 100," he said, knowing his rating is hovering around 90.

TD-INTERCEPTION RATIO

One reason why is his touchdown-interception ratio. A two-to-one scenario is the goal, but he's not even close, throwing 19 touchdowns compared to 16 interceptions - the second-highest total in the league.

"There is a lot of improvement for me out there," he said, before heading to more team meetings.

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RAY'S ROLLER-COASTER

Sept. 16 - Stripped of the ball in the final minute in Hamilton, killing a comeback.

Sept. 30 - Orchestrates the game-winning touchdown drive in the final two minutes.

Oct. 9 - Throws an interception for a touchdown and is stripped of the ball in the fourth quarter.


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