Against the wind

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

REGINA -- Mother Nature is going to be the third team on the field this afternoon with the Edmonton Eskimos and Saskatchewan Roughriders.

A wind warning for Regina for this afternoon was issued yesterday, calling for sustained winds of 60 km/h with gusts reaching 90 km/h.

The wind is scheduled to "diminish slightly" tonight, according to Environment Canada.

But with kickoff slated for 5 p.m. at Mosaic Stadium, the Esks and Riders could be playing in nasty conditions in a critical game.

It all means passing the ball could be very difficult and the running game extra important.

The Riders boast the third-ranked run offence in the CFL, producing an average of 121 yards per game.

Edmonton is ranked sixth defending the run and last in the league when it comes to rushing the ball on offence.

Calvin McCarty will start at tailback because AJ Harris - the previous Edmonton starter - has been placed on the one-game injured list with an undisclosed problem.

(Harris practised to start this week and claimed he was healthy after last Friday's game.)

In a game the Green and Gold need to win to avoid finishing last in the West Division for the second straight year, quarterback Ricky Ray and the rest of the Esks' offence has to produce at least five yards on first-down plays.

If that doesn't happen, the Riders defence will be salivating as Edmonton will be in a very ugly position.

Led by co-ordinator Richie Hall, Saskatchewan's defence succeeds when the Esks are forced into obvious passing situations on second down and long.

"He has an attack style defence in second and long and they try to use those athletic guys in multiple ways up front to confuse your protection schemes," said Edmonton offensive co-ordinator Rick Worman.

"It is harder to dig yourself out of that hole (of second down and long) with the style of defence they have."

And in wicked wind conditions, second and long would make passing very difficult.

It's the game within the game today for the Eskimos in Regina.

Being in second and short opens up Edmonton's offensive playbook and keeps the defence on its heels.

That is a must for the 9-7 Eskimos if they want to put the brakes on an ugly offensive trend against Saskatchewan.

In the last four games Ray has started against the Riders, Edmonton is 1-3 and has struggled to move up and down the field.

In three of those games, Ray has thrown for less than 250 yards.

The stretch of four games has produced six sacks against, five interceptions and just three touchdowns.

It has led to Worman using an unique saying for the traditional EE logo this week.

"Execution and efficiency is our logo for double E," he remarked after yesterday's light practice in Regina.

FINISH LINES: THE CLINTON WAYNE EXPERIMENT IS OVER - AT LEAST FOR NOW. THE NON-IMPORT DEFENSIVE LINEMAN WILL NOT DRESS FOR THE ESKIMOS TODAY, SUN MEDIA HAS LEARNED. BACK-UP OFFENSIVE LINEMAN AARON FIACCONI - WHO WAS PROJECTED TO BE A REGULAR HEALTHY SCRATCH YESTERDAY MORNING - HAS TAKEN WAYNE'S SPOT ON THE ROSTER. FIACCONI WAS A SURPRISE PARTICIPANT IN YESTERDAY'S PRACTICE IN REGINA. WAYNE DIDN'T PRODUCE A TACKLE OR SACK IN EIGHT GAMES THIS YEAR.

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EDMONTON ESKIMOS

Record: 9-7

WHO TO WATCH

Calvin McCarty, RB

Getting his third start of the year, McCarty has put up at least 70 rushing yards in each of his previous two starts, but has fumbled three times in those two games.

KEY MATCH UP

RB Wes Cates vs. EDM O-line

Second in CFL rushing entering this week, Cates has 1,152 yards for a 5.9-yard average and 10 majors on the ground.

INJURIES

SB Jason Tucker (neck), Joe McGrath (MCL), RB Damien Anderson (shoulder), S J.R. LaRose (leg), SB Fred Stamps (leg)

ROSTER MOVES

In: DT Dario Romero, DB Bradley Robinson

Out: DT Joe Anoai, RB AJ Harris

NOTABLES

Edmonton has scored 11 majors in its last dozen trips inside the opposition's 20-yard line. Over the year, Edmonton scored touchdowns in the red zone in 54.7% of their opportunities ... The Eskimos need to avoid entering the fourth quarter in a trailing position. Saskatchewan is 7-0 this year when leading after three quarters ... As expected, Brandon Guillory has been benched, allowing DL Jim Davis on the field.

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SASK. ROUGHRIDERS

Record: 10-6

WHO TO WATCH

Steven Jyles, QB

His legs - not his throwing arm - should be the Esks biggest concern. Jyles has rushed 12 times for 97 yards this year, for an 8.1-yard average.

KEY MATCH-UP

SB Andy Fantuz vs. EDM DB Jason Goss

Recovered from a broken leg and making his first start in 12 games, Fantuz's respected ability to find gaps in defences will be a challenge for Goss.

INJURIES

DE Stevie Baggs (MCL), WR Adarius Bowman (leg), WR DJ Flick (leg), OL Jeremy O'Day (knee)

ROSTER MOVES

IN: DE John Chick, Fantuz, WR Corey Grant, OL Belton Johnson, LB Anton McKenzie, DL Seante Williams

OUT: Baggs, QB Dalton Bell, WR Chris Jones, WR Vincent Marshall, OL Steve Morley, DB Konrad Wasiela

NOTABLES

Seven of the last eight Rider majors have been scored by players born in Saskatchewan: Neal Hughes (three), Chris Getzlaf (two) and Stu Foord (two) ... Luca Congi enters this week with a CFL-leading 87.8% success rate on field goals ... Saskatchewan has clinched a playoff spot for the seventh consecutive year, the longest stretch since 15 straight years in the post-season from 1962-76.


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