After a massive off-season roster and coaching staff overhaul in Edmonton, a tough go in pre-season play could be expected.
But Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed was hoping for a much better showing than a 37-22 loss to the Calgary Stampeders on Friday night that left him shaking his head.
“I'm not happy that we didn't execute well,” he said. “I'm unhappy that we took penalties that kept drives alive and gave them opportunities. I'm unhappy that we didn't do things in an Eskimo way. We did not play Eskimo football in the first quarter and it put us in a big hole. I'm concerned by the way that we did and did not play.”
Edmonton lost both of its pre-season tilts and continued to struggle against the Stamps, winners of all three games against their provincial rivals last season, including two games where they posted more than 50 points.
Henry Burris threw a pair of long first quarter touchdown passes as the Stampeders improved to 1-1 in pre-season play, a much better effort than their first game when they were shut out by the B.C. Lions.
“I was pleased to see the offence make some plays out there and put the ball in the end zone,” said Calgary head coach John Hufnagel. “We improved from last week, which is what I was hoping I was going to see.”
Edmonton looked to have taken a very early lead on the first play from scrimmage as Joffrey Reynolds fumbled on his own 42 and the ball was picked up and taken into the end zone by Eskimo defender Will Harris. However Reynolds' knee was deemed to have touched the turf before the fumble upon video review and Calgary got the ball back.
The Stamps made the most of the reversal on the next play as Burris found a wide-open Romby Bryant for a huge 63-yard passing major for a 7-0 lead just over a minute into the game.
Calgary capitalized its second possession as well, marching 77 yards before Reynolds capped off the drive with a two-yard plunge to give the Stamps a 14-0 lead with five minutes to play in the first quarter.
The Stampeders took a three-touchdown lead just a couple minutes later as the Eskimos coughed up the ball on a bobbled punt snap, quickly leading to a 28-yard passing major from Burris to Ken-Yon Rambo on a successful corner route run.
Calgary took a 24-0 lead midway through the second on a 21-yard field goal by Andrew Fabian on the heels of the Eskimos turning the ball over on downs at their own 35.
Edmonton finally got on the board with five minutes to play in the first half after a couple of long passing plays by Ricky Ray, the second of which was a 29-yard toss to Jason Barnes in the end zone.
Ray was glad to finally connect after his team struggled to gain yards to start the contest.
“We had some deep balls there in the first quarter that it would have been nice to hook up on,” he said. “They really came up defensively and challenged us. For us to be a big offence, we know we've got to make a few more of those big plays.”
Yet another Edmonton turnover led to Calgary putting up points as a Charleston Hughes interception off of Ray led to a long 45-yard field goal by Fabian.
The Eskimos were able to cut the lead to 27-14 with just eight seconds left in the first half as Ray hit Fred Stamps for a three-yard passing TD.
Both teams switched quarterbacks for the second half with Kerry Joseph coming in for Edmonton and Drew Tate for Calgary.
Calgary got back on the board with two minutes left in the third frame as running back LaMarcus Coker found a hole and outraced a host of pursuers 47 yards into the end zone to put the Stamps ahead by 20 points.
Edmonton countered with a long scoring play of its own two minutes into the fourth quarter as Ray Fisher was able to apply a burst of speed to catch up with a Joseph pass and go 62 yards for the TD to make the score 34-21.
Damon Duval added another point for the Esks on a missed field goal.
Fabian, an Albertan making his CFL debut, closed the scoring with another field goal with three minutes to play.
“The kid had fun,” Hufnagel said. “He had a blast out there and he showed that he probably has a very nice future.”
The Stampeders officially kick of the 2011 regular season at home to Toronto next Friday. The Eskimos are in Saskatchewan on Sunday, July 3.
Notes: Calgary finished first in the West Division in 2010 with a record of 13-5, while Edmonton was fourth with a 7-11 record... The Stampeders were blanked 24-0 by the B.C. Lions in their only other pre-season tilt. Edmonton lost its previous pre-season game 23-22 in Saskatchewan... Calgary absolutely owned Edmonton in last year's seasonal series between the two Alberta-based teams. The Stamps went 3-0 against the Esks last year, including victories of 52-5, 56-15 and 36-20... Edmonton running back Arkee Whitlock missed the game with a hamstring injury... The Eskimos had a number of decisions to make following the game, still carrying a roster of 76 players. The CFL's cutdown day is Saturday, which means the clubs must get down to their 46-man rosters, not including injured players.