He's got some work to do but C.J. Gable hasn't given up on his goal to re-write the CFL record book this season.
Prior to the opening kickoff, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' dynamic running back stated he wanted to become the first player in league history to register 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same campaign. Robert Drummond of the Toronto Argonauts came close to achieving the rare double in '97, running for 1,134 yards and registering 85 catches for 840 yards despite missing three games.
A CFL player would have to average 56 yards rushing and receiving per game over the 18-game regular season to achieve the mark. The six-foot-one 208-pound Gable has 119 yards rushing and 169 yards receiving so far this year with Hamilton (1-4), but says the 1,000-1,0000 campaign remains very achievable.
"Yeah, I think it can still happen," Gable said. "You never know, one game I might get 200 yards receiving or 200 yards rushing."
The 26-year-old native of Sylmar, Calif., was certainly a big-play performer as a rookie last year with Hamilton. The first freshman to start an opener at USC — he did so against Arkansas in '06 — ran for 782 yards on 130 carries (six-yard average) and seven TDs while recording 54 catches for 598 yards and five touchdowns en route to being a finalist for the CFL's outstanding rookie award.
Gable again showed his explosiveness Saturday night. He rushed for 62 yards and a TD on six carries while adding three catches for 105 yards in the Ticats' 33-23 home win over Ottawa.
The former Trojan turned a simple screen pass from Dan LeFevour into an 83-yard completion late in the game that set up LeFevour's one-yard TD run that broke a 23-23 tie.
"It felt good but I'm always ready when my number is called," Gable said. "You never know in this game."
Gable is a threat to do something big every time he touches the ball. Trouble is, Hamilton was playing catchup in its opening three games — all losses — which can limit just how many rushing touches Gable gets.
Gable has 33 touches through four games this season (23 rushes, 10 catches). Another factor impacting how many times he gets the ball is Gable's ability to provide solid protection on pass plays.
Dan Lefevour named the CFL offensive player of the week
Kent Austin, Hamilton's GM and head coach, has called Gable the league's best blocking back.
"In a couple of games I was getting impatient and frustrated with myself," Gable said. "So I had to tell myself to relax, play the game and trust the coaching calls and when my time comes be ready."
Another factor Saturday, too, was LeFevour's running ability. In his first CFL start, LeFevour threw for 361 yards and a TD but also ran for a game-high 109 yards against Ottawa.
LeFevour will be under centre Thursday night against Winnipeg and Gable said rival defences have to account for the quarterback's ability to make plays with his legs, which in turn helps create running lanes for Gable.
"They know that Dan can stretch the field to so if you key on me he's going to take off," he said. "If you key on him then that will leave me open."
Winnipeg (4-1) looked very solid defensively in its 23-6 victory over the B.C. Lions. The Bombers intercepted Kevin Glenn twice, recorded five sacks and also recovered a fumble.
"They're a really good defence," Gable said. "They fly around and we just have to play mistake-free."
Winnipeg will also be minus its leading receiver as Nick Moore (22 catches for 320 yards) is sidelined with a foot injury. Moore had seven catches for 99 yards against B.C. but former Ticat Aaron Kelly — who had five catches for 100 yards and two TDs in the Bombers' season-opening 45-21 win over Toronto — returns after missing two weeks.
"Obviously he (Moore) is a good player," said Bombers rookie head coach Mike O'Shea. "Thankfully we've got Aaron Kelly to step in ... Aaron is going to make sure we don't miss anything."
Willy said Kelly brings plenty to the Bombers' offence.
"His vertical routes are something we like to take advantage of," Willy said. "He's done a good job of getting back into it and he's going to be great for us."
Kelly is looking forward to facing his former team. He spent two seasons in Hamilton before joining the Bombers in 2013.
"I had two weeks off to get healthy and get right," he said. "I definitely didn't want to miss this game and a chance to come back to Hamilton and play."
Against Ottawa, Hamilton's offence really got going early. The Ticats had two touchdowns and 158 yards in their first five plays from scrimmage and Gable said the unit always wants to start fast.
"That's how we should be every game," he said. "Once we start going, it's hard to stop us."