There have been some great pass-catch combinations over the years in the CFL.
Sam Etcheverry to Hal Patterson. Ron Lancaster to Gluey Hughie Campbell. Tom Wilkinson to George McGowan. Warren Moon to Brian Kelly. Doug Flutie to Allen Pitts. Danny McManus to Darren Flutie ...
Ricky Ray to Jason Tucker is becoming another one.
When Ray was last in this league he made Tucker his go-to-guy for two touchdowns in a seven-for-132 yard game to make Tucker the Grey Cup MVP.
Last night, before 44,624, Ray and Tucker combined to get the Eskimos out of jail as they hooked up together for a nine-for-217 night, including an 82-yard touchdown.
Ray, who hit Tucker for 15 completions for 259 yards in those two Grey Cup games against the Montreal Alouettes, sent Don Matthews's team home with a 4-5 record and took the heat off the Eskimos heading into the Labour Day double dip and second half of the season with a 6-3 record.
Big game. Big game guy.
Tucker is winning that rep with his quarterback.
"The combination goes back,'' said head coach Danny Maciocia after the 36-26 Eskimos win.
"Ricky and Jason have a feel for one another. They can find one another.
"We can talk about Ricky Ray and Jason Tucker ever day,'' he said, then launched into a discussion about the no-names who came up with big games.
GAME IN DOUBT
But it wouldn't have happened if Ray hadn't found Tucker for the big plays when they really needed them and the game was in serious doubt.
Tucker, at the half way point of the season, is now a run-away leader in the pass receiver charts with 48 catches for 901 yards.
Ray, who without a running game has been forced to throw, throw, and throw some more despite being hit an inordinate number of times, hung in there and took some serious shots in order to make a couple of the big play passes to Tucker and the other receivers as the game opened up in the fourth quarter.
He went 28 for 39 for 438 yards.
At the halfway mark of the season Ray has completed 251 of 379 passes for 3,240 yards. The Eskimo records for most passes thrown, 664, completed, 380, and yards, 5,648, were all set by Warren Moon in the 1983 season.
"Jason Tucker is just a guy who runs good routes, who you can count on to get open about 90% of the time and doesn't give up on anything,'' said Ray.
As with every Eskimo win this year, the defence had a lot to do with it.
Giving up 53 yards is not generally a good way to start your day, but the Eskimos defence held on third and one on their own 20. Then they did it again on third down to give the offence the ball at midfield.
And one touchdown involved a one-yard, one-play touchdown drive.
You'd think Sean Fleming would be free from the boo birds in his new role as punter only. But his first punt was blocked, recovered on the one-yard line and quickly converted into a touchdown. He shanked his third punt and heard the boo birds again.
Meanwhile Hayden Epstein, the import kicker who takes practice kicks while the teams are being introduced, came in and nailed his first from 35 yards.
But Ray-Tucker was the story.
Ray, who had nine and 13 interceptions in his first two years with the Eskimos, tossed his 13th of the year in this one. If Tucker hadn't given it the extra effort to get his hands on the ball, he wouldn't have tipped it and it wouldn't have ended up in hands of the Alouettes defender.
"That could have been such a big play the other way,'' said Ray. "I just rushed it a bit. It went a bit high. Jason made a great try to get it. If he hadn't, it would have been incomplete. But I'm not going to knock that. He's just a good receiver. He knows how to work defensive coverage.''
TOOK SOME HITS
Ray took a bunch more hits in this one but, again, kept on ticking.
"I took some. But it's football. You can't expect not to get your uniform dirty.''
Tucker, as always, didn't have much to say.
"Things just come together between us. His job is to throw the football and my job is to catch it.''
It didn't look like just another day at the office.
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