Lions looking to stop Jon Cornish and the Stampeders
B.C. also hoping to avenge season-opening loss
The B.C. Lions are clear on their mission as they prepare to host the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday.
Stop Jon Cornish.
The Lions want to make sure the Stamps running back does not repeat his performance of a week earlier, when he scored four touchdowns in a win over the previously unbeaten Saskatchewan Roughriders, while romping for 175 yards.
"It's going to take all of us," said Lions defensive lineman Keron Williams. "You can't have one person out there tackling him, because he's too good. Their offensive line is too good."
The Lions (4-2) have a chance to move into a tie for first place in the West Division with the Stamps and Riders, who are both 5-1.
"Their offensive line and Cornish, they're real talented, obviously, and they've been having a lot of success," said Lions linebacker Adam Bighill. "They play physical, so it's a big chance to stop them."
The Lions are looking to avenge an embarrassing 44-32 season-opening loss to the Stamps in Calgary on June 28, when the game was decided early. Cornish ran for 172 yards and two touchdowns in that game as the Stamps extended their mastery over B.C. dating to the 2012 Western Final.
While trying to stop Cornish, the Lions will also attempt to make a better showing of their own running game. Lions tailback Andrew Harris, who has built a rivalry with the New Westminster, B.C., native in recent years, ran for only 20 yards in the season-opener and expects himself and the team to be better.
"It's one of these games where it's a statement for us," said Harris. "We lost some confidence against them playing in the Western Final. We want to get that morale back and get back to winning ways as a team."
Harris' comments reflected the Lions' ongoing effort to paint themselves as underdogs. The Winnipeg native described his rivalry with Cornish as "friendly" and claimed he is just happy to be mentioned in the same conversation with him.
Meanwhile, Lions coach Mike Benevides called the Stampeders "the better team."
"We have to prove that we can hang with these guys," Benevides said.
But Cornish, who has enjoyed a number of strong games against the Lions, is not buying B.C.'s underdog brand, expecting a strong effort from the hosts in a stadium in which they have dominated since it received a new roof in 2011.
While he always strives to improve from one game to the next, he is not banking on a repeat of his four-touchdown effort, either.
"You have to forget whatever you did in the past game, because it doesn't matter," said Cornish. "Sure, it might put us in a better record or whatever. But unless we come out and do what we do every week ... it's forgotten. So you have to have a big game every week."
Cornish, who is second in rushing in the CFL with 676 yards, a 7.3-yard average and seven touchdowns, also wants to have a big game in comparison to Harris, who sits third with 459 yards, a 5.5-yard average and four TDs. While Cornish contended the media has made more of the rivalry than he does, he welcomes the hype.
"The media definitely helps in bringing out good games, because any time you have incessant coverage of a specific pairing of two players, I don't know, it makes you have to rise to the occasion," said Cornish. "I enjoy rising to the occasion, so it's not a bad thing."
Lions quarterback Travis Lulay thinks the hoopla surrounding the Canadian running backs is great for the league, and he does not mind the ongoing discussion about them, either.
"[People] will talk about it forever, because they're both Canadian guys," said Lulay. "But as far as respect goes, it has nothing to do with passports or anything. It's not like they're good Canadians. They're good football players."
Cornish never gets tired of playing in B.C. Place Stadium, either. It's a place where he feels extremely comfortable.
"This is the only locker-room I've ever used here in B.C. Place, and I played here in high school as well," said Cornish. "It never gets old. I like to think of this as my second city, and I really enjoy playing here."
But the Lions want to make sure he does not enjoy himself too much Saturday.