Esks' Nowacki boosts Ray's numbers

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:34 AM ET

EDMONTON - Ricky Ray earned a 10 out of 10 in Sunday’s win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Make that 10th out of 10.

The Edmonton Eskimos quarterback moved into the top-10 in CFL career passing with a 294-yard, three-touchdown performance through the air on the way to a 42-28 road win to open the season.

But he needed just 94 of those yards to surpass Kent Austin’s 36,030 total, which Ray did in the second quarter on an 11-yard completion to Andrew Nowacki on Austin’s old turf.

“I didn’t know I was in the top 10. I knew I was close, I didn’t know how far away,” Ray told reporters after learning of the milestone Tuesday. “That’s pretty cool. There’s been a lot of great quarterbacks who played in this league. A lot of great quarterbacks who played for this organization.

“That’s definitely an honour to be in the top-10.”

Ray wasn’t the only one to learn of the feat after the fact.

“I had actually no idea until I got home. I was watching the replay and I heard it,” said Nowacki, the longest-serving Eskimos receiver. “It’s funny because I think Rick broke one of Warren Moon’s records with a little pass to me, too. So it seems like any time he gets close to breaking a record, he finds me for that pass.”

Back in 2007, it was a five-yard touchdown pass to Nowacki in a win over the Montreal Alouettes, where Ray overtook Moon’s record for most passing yards in Eskimos history.

“I beat Warren Moon’s yardage record with a Nowacki catch, so he’s been on the receiving end of a couple good records for me,” said Ray.

This time, it was a first-down pass to the sidelines to sustain a scoring drive for an offence that showed more life in one game than it did all last season.

“In our game, it’s not always about making the 35-40-yard plays downfield. Oftentimes, keeping drives alive keeps the defence on the field.

“And the longer we do that, the longer we keep our defence fresh and theirs out on the field, getting more and more tired.”

But it’s no coincidence Nowacki’s name keeps coming up, considering the eight seasons in Green and Gold he has shared with fullback Mathieu Bertrand are second only to Ray’s nine as the longest-serving Eskimos.

“I think Rick knows where I’m going to be on the field and he can put the ball in tight situations, and I’m going to come up with it,” Nowacki said. “It’s a comfort level between us, being here so long, and we’re starting to develop that with the rest of the corps as well.”

At 31, Ray is the youngest on the list and one of three active players behind 36-year-old Henry Burris, who is in ninth with 37,840 yards, while 38-year-old Anthony Calvillo, is 3,909 yards away from eclipsing Damon Allen’s record of 72,381 yards — which is the most thrown by any quarterback in the history of gridiron football and could happen this season.

IN AND OUT: OL Greg Wojt sat out of Tuesday’s walkthrough with the flu. WR Marcus Henry (hamstring) remained out after missing all of last week.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

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