Question answered!

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:10 AM ET

Who's No. 1? That was the question Edmonton Eskimos' head coach Danny Maciocia refused to answer before last night's season opener at Commonwealth Stadium.

The answer grew clearer as the crowd of 36,912 trundled toward their seats for the CFL fixture between the Esks and Ottawa Renegades.

Jason Maas sporting a baseball cap on the sidelines telegraphed Maciocia's decision regarding his starting quarterback. Ricky Ray firing his initial warm-up tosses to Maas at the bench removed any doubt.

With a brace protecting the right knee he hyperextended in the team's first pre-season tilt, Ray rushed for two touchdowns and fired a pair of TD strikes to Jason Tucker as the Esks handed the Renegades a 41-16 loss.

The victory was the first in a home opener by the Esks since they upstaged Ottawa 40-24 at Commonwealth in 2002.

"I feel I can take this game and just build on it and get a little bit of confidence," smiled Ray, who made Tucker his favourite target in the 2003 Grey Cup game.

"You've got to turn around and do the same thing next week. You've got to go out and play well and try to get another win."

Ray took a licking and kept on ticking in completing 31 of 45 passes for 354 yards and carried the ball five times for another 10 yards.

"I took some shots and I'll be sore tomorrow.," winced Ray, who took a solid hit on the right thigh inside the Ottawa 10-yard line near the end of the third quarter.

"I felt good all day and my knee didn't bother me. It's a physical game. I took one shot out there but it didn't bother my knee at all, so that was good."

Even with the game well in hand, Maciocia gave no thought to hooking Ray in favour of Maas or third-stringer Jason Johnson.

"It never crossed my mind," offered Maciocia following his first win as a CFL head coach. "We're going to take the field and our attitude is we're going to line up to dominate.

"There'll be situations where that will come up during the season, I hope. But for this one we wanted to start with Ricky and end with Ricky."

Slotback Derrell Mitchell led all Esks receivers with eight receptions for 128 yards but Tucker had the hot hands in the end zone.

"We're just getting back into the groove," beamed Tucker, the '03 Grey Cup's most valuable player. "It's the first game and you just want to put up a good showing.

Were it not for Ottawa's Korey Banks stepping in front Ray's pass at the Gades' three-yard line, Tucker could have completed the TD hat-trick late in the fourth.

"It's the same Ricky," Tucker said. "He knows his reads and he knows where the ball has to go at all times. I'm going to try and do what I've been doing, making the great catches."


Photos