Johnson: Cornish alleges Esks head coach Reed told a tall tale to fire up Edmonton defence
Someone told Esks players that Stamps running back was saying he would rush for 200 yards against them
Kavis Reed stands in the dock. Accused of spreading scurrilous falsehoods.
(Outstanding charges of culpability in an unspeakably heinous 1-8 Edmonton Eskimos’ start are for another court of opinion to pass sentence on).
“They were pretty pumped up,” acknowledged Jon Cornish, squinting in bright sunshine at McMahon Stadium on early Wednesday afternoon. “Apparently, one of their coaches ... well, a few of their players came up to me after the game and told me that I apparently had told somebody that told their coaches that I was going to rush for 200 yards on them, I was giving them no respect. Stuff like that.
“That’s what I was told by their players.
“I know who said that. Kavis Reed. He said similar things two years ago in the Western semifinals. But that kind of stuff only works a few times.”
Worked a treat Monday, that’s for certain.
And, well, what’s a little fabricated fib here or there when slamming the binders on Jon Cornish can be the end result? That’s a guilty verdict a guy will take every time.
After taking a week off to nurse a thigh contusion, a ravenous Edmonton Eskimo defensive front — apparently whipped into a froth by dismissive remarks wilfully, he-says-wrongly attributed to Cornish — pretty much swallowed the reigning CFL rushing champ whole on Labour Day, the sting of a 37-34 loss the only thing preventing each of them from letting out a long, loud, florid belch of satisfaction. After all, it’s not every day Jon Cornish is held to 60 yards rushing.
That total represents his second-lowest of the season. But consider that the nadir, 42 against Saskatchewan in Week 2, came on only eight carries. Blame a lack of touches on that night to forget.
This time ’round he had 19 totes, for a paltry 2.8 per pop. His seasonal average is 6.5. Whenever he touched the ball, No. 9 drew a crowd bigger than George Clooney cruising a singles club in Lake Como. Cornish got no peace, little freedom. And he was right, in thinking back, that there was a ferocity in the pursuit, and in administering the coup de grace, that seemed to go beyond merely competitive and into the realm of personal.
“Yeah, it was tough runnin’,” conceded Calgary Stampeders’ offensive co-ordinator Dave Dickenson. “It’ll probably continue that way. They’re good up front. They played us well.
“Most of the time when a running back has success it’s because he’s building momentum, getting through that first wave. We were having trouble getting through that first wave. Our line, our fullback, need more push. And Jon has to keep seeing what he’s seeing, and trusting in what he’s doing. We’ve got to do a better job of getting our guys prepared, but you’ve also got to give that defence credit.
“People know that Jon, right now, is our best player. I’m the type of coach if it’s not working, I’m movin’ on. I want five yards on first down. When you’re only getting two or three, it’s not enough.”
What kind of burns Cornish about the alleged remark is not that the Eskimos boss was trying to spur a reaction from his slumping troops; no, that’s expected. But such this-guy-told-me-that-someone-who-overheard-such-and-such-tell-his-second-aunt’s-cousin stuff is fairly transparent, and not very flattering.
“I just don’t like being ... misrepresented. I’m not the kind of player that would say anything like that prior to a game. I give the teams we play against lots of respect.
“So for me to hear that ...
“Honestly, I feel like it’s kind of ...”
“Yeah, kind of. I take pride in just playing football. There’s a lot of people that try to use me as motivation, as has been evidenced over time. It takes some getting used to. But I learned (this) after the game. If I’d learned it during the game, I might’ve been able to make some adjustments.
“It’s hard to play against people who hate you.
“When they’re playing that fired up, I’m not going to have a very fun day. With that said, we’re going to do a few thing differently and I think it’ll be a little more, uh ... comfortable for me.
“They have a great defensive line. A bunch of strong guys. They get their hands on me and I’m going to eat dirt, or rubber, in this case. But it’s nice to understand why they were playing as insanely well as they were.
“Now we have to match that.”
Who knows what kind of ammo seed Kavis Reed is plotting to plant in the heads of his D-line for Friday’s rematch yonder up north.
One thing about Cornish, though. He’s always displayed an amazing ability to reply. To hit back. A sub-par yardage performance is almost always followed up by an absolute blinder. For instance, that 42-yard disappointment versus the Riders was largely forgotten after compiling 90 and 109 yards the next two weeks against the Montreal Alouettes; he rolled up 175 against Sask at home after (for him) a so-so 88-yard evening in Winnipeg.
Hold Jon Cornish to 60 yards at Commonwealth Stadium, on home turf, and the Eskies would doubtless fancy their chances of the upset.
“I’m still,” acknowledged Cornish, “working to get over this injury and I think this is the game to do it. They did a great job (Monday). When I encounter a situation that, um, let’s say ‘beats me’, I try to overcome it the next time I play.
“Ideally, it’d be 100 per cent good every week.
“But you’ve got to be able to bounce back. I think that’s the key to a good athlete: When you have your lowest points, how do you respond?”
George Johnson is the Herald’s sports columnist. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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