Eskimos have to put the brakes on Stampeders running back
Calgary's Cornish has racked up 436 yards against Edmonton this season
EDMONTON - There have not been many opponents who have eluded J.C. Sherritt, the Edmonton Eskimos tenacious tackler, in the Canadian Football League this season.
But toss out the name Jon Cornish and the linebacker promptly sets his jaw.
Cornish, the Calgary Stampeders bustling running back, has racked up 1,388 yards this season — a mere 49 yards shy of a 56-year-old record set by Normie Kwong. An Eskimo at the time, Kwong was the last Canadian running back to cover that much territory, running for 1,437 yards in 1956.
More importantly, 436 of Cornish’s yards have come at the expense of the Eskimos.
“As a linebacker, these are the kind of games you want to be in. It’s in cold weather against a running game with everything on the line,” said Sherritt, who leads the CFL with 119 tackles, 10 shy of the CFL’s all-time single-season record of 129, set by Calvin Tiggle in 1994.
That he’ll square off against Cornish on Friday at Commonwealth Stadium, in a game that could decide the Eskimos playoff fate, only seems fitting.
The Eskimos host the Stampeders in their final game of the regular season and if the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defeat the Toronto Argonauts on Thursday, Edmonton has to win to move into the post-season.
Stopping Cornish will obviously be essential to that game plan.
The Stampeders (11-6) have scored a league-high 505 points and registered a league-high 19 rushing touchdowns this season. Throw in a potent passing game, which is expected to be under the control of both Kevin Glenn and Drew Tate, and the Eskimos (7-10) have their work cut out for them.
“We know what we need to do. Cornish has pretty much had our number this year,” said linebacker T.J. Hill. “From a defensive standpoint, we know we need to stop him.
“Once he gets started, they get into a rhythm and that running games opens up their passing game. We have to be sound with our gaps. We have to be fundamentally sound. This is our playoff game.”
Head coach Kavis Reed said that it will also be essential for the Eskimos to establish a ground game, given that it will be played on a frosty field at Commonwealth Stadium.
On top of that, Reed said there can’t be five dropped balls — like there was in Montreal against the Alouettes on Sunday — or three procedure calls or an untimely unsportsmanlike penalty.
Defensively, Reed said it will be essential to tackle, something the Eskimos didn’t do a very good job of in the three games they played against Calgary this season.
“Obviously, he’s a great player,” said Sherritt, “but we have to eliminate our mistakes. With a back that is that good, if you get misaligned or you’re not in the right spot, he’ll make you pay for it. He can catch, he can run, he’s strong.”
“They’ve been torturing us all year,” said defensive lineman Almondo Sewell. “There’s no secret about it. We’ve been hanging in in a lot of games, but that running game ... we have to stop the run.
“It’s about being in the right place at the right time and taking the right angles. As coach Kavis said, if you have the right angle, you’re not going to miss any of those tackles. We just have to come out and play like we usually do, not come out flat. Just get to it right away.”
-Hugh Charles, the Eskimos effective all-purpose back who missed last week’s game with a knee injury, will be on the field Wednesday to see if he’s any closer to returning.
-Fullback Mathieu Bertrand, knocked out cold in Sunday’s loss to the Alouettes, was back on the field on Tuesday, but will still have to be cleared to play. “I don’t know if it was a concussion or not. When you get a concussion, you can get light headed or a headache or you don’t sleep. I didn’t have any of these symptoms,” said Bertrand, who has since seen a replay of the play on TV. “I had wondered what happened because I don’t remember walking off the field.”
-Defensive back Rod Williams will not practice Wednesday, but he hasn’t yet been ruled out for Friday’s game.
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