Third and twoPringle comes so close to breaking George Reed's record
EDMONTON -- It was the kind of bone-chilling night running backs love and beer salesmen dread. A frigid 5C at kickoff with a slate grey sky hanging over Commonwealth Stadium, it threatened to turn the Igloo into an ice box while quarterbacks, receivers and the packed crowd were losing the feeling in their hands.
And it was also the perfect stage for Edmonton Eskimos' Mike Pringle, one of the best backs in CFL history, to run into the record book.
He fell two yards short.
Cold-weather football is the domain of great backs and Pringle proved again last night he is one of the best to ever play in Canada, charging past Stampeders tacklers like a freight train early on.
But in the dying minutes, needing just one yard to burst past Saskatchewan Roughriders legend George Reed, Pringle failed to do what Reed seemingly always did -- gain one punishing yard.
Knowing the Eskimos would hand the ball off to Pringle, the Stampeders loaded up the line, stonewalling the back and delaying his dream one more week.
"They had everybody -- I looked across the line and I think even (Stamps head coach) Matt Dunigan was in the box," smiled Pringle, 37.
"The record's going to fall, God willing. I only need two yards next week and I think I can get two yards."
Last night, Pringle carried the ball 26 times for 114 yards but he entered the contest needing 116 to inch past Reed, whose career rushing record of 16,116 yards had stood since 1975.
It was a mark some thought would last forever until Pringle arrived on the scene.
It's now an inevitable achievement when the Eskimos face the B.C. Lions next week.
After signing as a free agent with the Eskimos last spring, it was only a matter of time before the CalState Fullerton product would get his name in the record books.
The Los Angeles native rushed for more than 1,600 yards in six of his last nine seasons but it was his six seasons in Montreal (1996-2002) when he established himself as one of the premier power backs in league history.
Pringle broke loose for a 22-yard carry the first time he touched the ball last night while posting 63 yards in just six carries in the opening half, leaving the packed house anticipating a record night.
Although it isn't fair to compare 13-year veteran Pringle to Calgary's rookie back Victor Ike, Pringle underlined the Stampeders' woeful lack of a running attack and the need to airlift new recruits into camp in the upcoming weeks.
Ike carried the ball eight times for a grand total of eight yards.
The classy Reed was in attendance last night for an on-field presentation that never happened.
"I think they were trying too hard to get the record instead of just playing a normal game," said Reed, who later met with Pringle in the Eskimos locker-room. "They needed to run the ball more earlier."
Now 64 and selling cars in Calgary, Reed rushed for more than 1,400 yards his final season and certainly had plenty of gas left in the tank when he decided to walk away.
Common sense suggests Pringle will do the same at the end of this season before making the Canadian Football Hall of Fame his final destination.