Tabbies to Tre, Tre again

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

It's easy to understand any sentiment tonight's clash is a sure thing for the Calgary Stampeders.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are improved, but still have a long way to climb to be a team considered as good as the Stampeders.

And seeing as Jesse Lumsden is out of action with a knee injury, a simple theory would be the CFL affair at McMahon Stadium (7 p.m., TSN) has become that much easier for the hosts.

"Really, it's not something we discussed openly," Stamps head coach John Hufnagel said. "The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are a very physical football team. Their strength is running the football. Yes, Jesse was leading the league in rushing, but Tre Smith, who is a part-time runner for Hamilton, was the fifth leading rusher in the league.

"I do not see the personality of their football team changing."

Until word came late Tuesday of Lumsden's injury, the Stamps were preparing for a Ticats squad that would be led by the league's leading rusher.

Instead, Hamilton's feature back will be Smith.

The game plan won't change, Calgary's players insisted.

"It'd be a bigger adjustment if Hamilton didn't have a guy capable of carrying the load," said rush end Mike Labinjo. "Tre Smith is fifth in the league in rushing and averaging 13 yards a touch, so it's not like we can take our immediate game plan and just scrap it.

"Yes, Lumsden is a different style of back, he's more of a bruiser and Tre Smith is more of a slasher, but Hamilton's going to keep trying to pound the ball and we can't get away from that."

It's worth noting Calgary's defence has been outstanding this young season against the run.

Over three contests, the Stamps have allowed only 141 net rushing yards, an average of 47 per game, which is by far the fewest in the league. (Hamilton has averaged a league best 218 rushing yards per game.)

The tragedy is that Calgary won't truly be able to test itself against a Hamilton team at full strength.

"When you play another team, you want them to be at their best, and they're not at their best unless they have Jesse," said Stamps linebacker -- and former Ticat -- JoJuan Armour. "But, you know, B.C. didn't have Joe Smith and went out and won. So anything can happen and you have to play fast and physical."

And plug the middle, a job that will fall on, among others, Miguel Robede.

"I'm really excited," Robede said. "I know that it's going to be a hard, physical game and I've been preparing for it. I think I'm ready."

Robede's performance will also be worth watching for another reason.

When current Hamilton defensive co-ordinator Denny Creehan had that post in Calgary, it was no secret he didn't have much belief in Robede, the first-overall pick of 2005.

Tonight's clash is a golden chance for Robede to prove something.

"I guess I could look at it that way, but I don't look at it that way," he said. "The way I see it, every game I play I'm putting my resume on the board. One day or the other, coaches that like me or coaches that didn't like me are going to see what my resume is about when they see the game or do cut-ups (of film).

"It's a challenge every game for me to prove myself."


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