September 12, 2012
CFL Blitz: Golden age of Canadian running backs
By IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency
A year after a Canadian running back broke the 1,000-yard barrier for the first time in more than a decade, two more are poised to do even greater things.
If things keep going as they are, both Jon Cornish and Andrew Harris will completely overshadow what happened in 2011.
But if Jerome Messam does find his form with the Edmonton Eskimos, the West Division can truly say they it is experiencing a golden age of homegrown tailbacks.
While Messam gained plenty of notoriety for his 2011 season, winning the CFL’s most outstanding Canadian award, it was clear by the end he wasn’t breaking through by himself.
In fact, there was a strong argument when the Miami Dolphins signed Messam to an option-year contract, they weren’t getting the best Canadian running back.
All Cornish and Harris have done in the time since Messam went down south and returned to the Eskimos is set themselves on a record pace.
Cornish had a brilliant seven starts with the Calgary Stampeders at the end of 2011 to raise expectations coming into this season, but he’s exceeded them.
With 185 yards against the Eskimos last Friday, Cornish topped the 150-yard mark in rushing for the third time in five weeks.
If Cornish gets another 150-yard-plus outing this season, he will join John Avery (five in 2002 with Edmonton) as the only two players in the past 18 seasons (since 1995, when game-by-game stats were first tabulated) to have that many in one campaign.
Cornish, a product of New Westminster, B.C., is already in elite company with Troy Davis (2002), Mike Pringle (1995, 1998 and 2000) and Charles Roberts (2005) as players with three 150-yard plus outings in a single season.
Due to a five-game run where he’s piled up 628 yards, Cornish has vaulted himself into the rushing lead, giving himself a 147-yard edge over Saskatchewan Roughriders running back Kory Sheets in second place.
If Cornish were to win a rushing title, it would be the first time for a Canuck since Orville Lee did it with Ottawa back in 1988, but even then, Lee only had 1,075 yards. Cornish is on pace for 1,488 yards, which would put him in the title race during any season.
While Cornish is fourth in yards from scrimmage, this is where Harris shines for the B.C. Lions.
The third-year Winnipeg product sits third in rushing but his 404 yards receiving is good enough for third on his team and puts him second in yards from scrimmage.
The only Canadian to ever lead the CFL in yards from scrimmage (since stats were recorded) wasn’t even a running back but a receiver. Terry Evanshen had 1,662 yards from scrimmage in 1967 with the Stampeders.
Harris sits 60 yards behind Sheets, while Cornish is only 76 behind the leader. It could be a double-whammy record this season, and it can only be a positive thing for the league going forward.
If Geroy Simon misses this week’s game against the Argonauts, it will be just his fifth time sitting out since 2001 over a span of 197 games … By Thursday, the Lions will know if they have a linebacking controversy. That’s when Solomon Elimimian is due to return to the Lions if he doesn’t land another NFL shot. With Adam Bighill doing a great job replacing Elimimian at middle linebacker, the Lions will have the enviable problem of too many good players for starting positions on defence … With a five-game losing streak ongoing, Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach George Cortez has already done something his predecessor never did. When the Ticats were mediocre under Marcel Bellefeuille, they never lost five in a row … Supposedly, it’s hard to beat a football team twice in a row. So how come there were three sweeps during the four Labour Day back-to-backs? … Give credit to Avon Cobourne for coming off the bench and giving the Ticats a spark . The former starting running back has played just two games this season, but he has 213 yards from scrimmage … Players aren’t supposed to lose their jobs due to injury. Right. That never happens. Just ask Steven Jyles.