Ricky Ray returned to regular season duty in the CFL on Friday night and put in a pretty good night's work on behalf of his Edmonton Eskimos. Taking fifteen minutes to get untracked Ray finally began moving the ball for the Esks in the second quarter and didn't look back until the final gun.
Edmonton kicked off the 2005 season in fine style with a 41-16 win over a game but outmatched Ottawa Renegades team. Joe Paopao's boys kept their heads up for the first half of the game, but by the third quarter it was apparent that on this night the Esks were far and away the better team.
Things started horribly for the Renegades who fumbled a punt deep in their own end of Commonwealth stadium giving the Eskimos a chance they really didn't need to put seven points on the board. But new Defensive coach Greg Smith would watch with pride as his D held up their end of the bargain by making a goal line stand, sending the Eskimos to the field goal unit, a bullet dodged for the moment, but as the game progressed there would be many more shots directed Ottawa's way.
Ray who has returned to the CFL from his NFL experiment, picked right up where he left off, throwing for 354 yards on 34 completions, throwing for two TD's and running for two on his own, he was a dominant player Friday, much like he was before he left for the US.
The problem for Ottawa was that of protection, Renegades QB Kerry Joseph was sacked seven times by Edmonton defenders, rushed for many more times resulting in incompletions, interceptions and sideline interviews explaining the breakdowns.
The Renegades won't have much time to figure out what to fix, the face Montreal at Frank Clair Stadium next Friday night and then travel to Vancouver to take on the Lions. A trifecta of hell for Joe Paopao who if nothing else will see how his team stacks up against the top echelon squads of the CFL. However the cost of these three games could be heavy, if game one is any indication points for and against may start to run wild by the time they play an improved Calgary squad in week four. By then they may very well be 0-3, something that Paopao and Marshall will be working hard to avoid.
For the Eskimos week one has been a good experience, Ricky Ray seems to be ready to roll, the defence is solid and the crowds are once again large, over 36 thousand taking in the season opener. The Esks have Winnipeg twice, Montreal and Ottawa again on their dance card for the next four weeks, many more chances for Ricky Ray to roll up the yardage and put some points on the board.