EDMONTON - Ricky Ray to the rescue?
The Calgary Stampeders have more than twice the playoff experience as the home team for Sunday’s Western Conference semifinal which is the Edmonton Eskimos first home playoff game since 2004.
But at the most important position, quarterback Ray has it all over new Stampeders new starter Drew Tate.
“There is going to be a lot placed on Ricky’s shoulders in terms of his leadership in the post-season,” said Reed.
“We’re going to ask him to manag the football game. He’s been the guy who has been there. He’s the guy who has won a Grey Cup. He’s been here through the good and the bad.
“He’s played in the post season a number of times. This guy is a proven, proven playoff performer and we don’t expect anything less that what Ricky is able to give,” he said of the QB who hit the 40,000-yard mark in passing and finished the season with three 300-yard passing games, ending up with a league leading pass efficiency rating of 99.3, with a 4,514-yard season
All that despite having all four starters injured in the middle of the season and major turnover on the offensive line including three different starting centres due to injury.
Ray has been in three Grey Cups and won two.
The 2005 Grey Cup MVP has also been in a team-leading seven playoff games in green and gold.
The Stampeders won their last three games of the season replacing veteran Henry Burris with Tate.
“I’m just studying that and I’m seeing a lot of things that are dissimilar but I’m seeing a lot that is similar as well,” said Reed at the Sunday session.
“Their play calling is the same with a little more misdirection with Drew because he’s a little more effective outside of the pocket. But outside of that I’m not seeing much different in terms of the way they manage the football game.”
Reed didn’t watch the 43-1 B.C. win over Montreal Saturday night which settled the Eskimos fate of ending the season in the semifinal instead of the final.
“When I was informed of the score I thought someone was playing a good joke on me,” he said.
But Reed said it was how he expected it to work out and had a one-day head start on preparing for the Stampeders as a result.
“It never works out when you lose control of your own destiny. And that’s what we did two weeks ago when we lost to B.C.
“We did a very good job Saturday starting to prepare for Calgary. We got a good jump that way. Saturday was all about preparing for Calgary.”
The preparations, he insists, will focus to a significant extent on Canadian running back Jon Cornish.
“He’s their version of our Jerome Messam. The guy is a very powerful back. Very elusive. he’s one of the faster running backs we’re going to face. He’s a big guy that’s a lethal combination with both size and speed, but we really feel if we can control our gaps we’ll have a good opportunity to contain him.”
There will be a focus, too on the Stampeders defence.
“In the three games against us, their defence has had no M.O. We have to understand how they attempt to put pressure on us and how we are able to protect Ricky and get guys open to be able to get some completions.”
His biggest concern is what we watched two weeks ago in B.C. when they gave up a 14-0 lead early.
“It’s a matter of us not wanting to get behind. We should have the opportunity to be right in the football game and be able to give ourselves an opportunity to win. But Calgary is such a good team that if we get behind it will probably be difficult for us to come back. In fact, I think they’re 100% successful when they go into half time with the lead. For us, we’re about 30% successful when we go into half time behind, so we have to be certain we start fast and execute efficiently. If we do that, we’ll have a good chance.
“We’ll have an opportunity to win if we play fast. If we play fast and control the time of possession and we can control their run game, I think we’ll have a very good opportunity to win. But if Jon Cornish is able to get to the second level and be very successful then it will be a very long day.”
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