Time for Stamps to shore up running game

SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:30 PM ET

CALGARY - When your quarterback is your top running threat, you don’t really have a ground game.

It’s more about survival than strategy at that point.

Calgary Stampeders pivot Henry Burris’ 21 rushing yards led the team in Saturday’s 32-19 loss to the visiting B.C. Lions.

He also outrushed starting running back Joffrey Reynolds on Labour Day and the previous week against the Montreal Alouettes.

The Stamps haven’t had a 100-yard rusher this season.

But while those numbers are certainly cause for concern, Stamps head coach John Hufnagel is more stressed about the small numbers — or lackthereof.

The Red & White had a difficult time converting on short-yardage situations against the Leos.

“The short-yardage (failures) are the biggest disappointment,” Hufnagel said. “We just cannot allow that to happen.

“We have to be able to block the front and get the running back past the line of scrimmage.”

On a first down-and-five yards play in the first quarter, Reynolds was stopped for a one-yard gain. On second-and-three in the second quarter, Reynolds was stopped for a loss.

The Stamps’ running back was stuffed on two other short-yardage attempts, including one near the goal-line.

“It’s something that needs to be improved,” Hufnagel said. “And until we make an improvement in that area, we’re going to struggle.

“I don’t want to throw the ball in that type of situation. So we’ll work at it and get better.”

They won’t have much time to improve on it prior to Sunday’s clash against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Moncton, N.B. The team will practice Tuesday, but Wednesday will be a write-off due to travel.

And the ground game could be a major factor on the weekend during the Touchdown Atlantic clash.

Weather conditions on the East Coast can be unpredictable, with rain often in the forecast.

And the game will be played on natural grass.

“It’s going to be different,” Hufnagel said. “We’ll have the right footwear with us.

“We won’t be able to practise in the stadium, but we will be able to do some running around to get somewhat used to the different surface.”

Dealing with a three-hour time-change and playing on natural turf are just two parts of what will be an eventful week for the team.

“It’s going to be an exciting week,” Hufnagel said. “No. 1, it’s an important football game. We’re coming off a bad loss, which was an important game against B.C.

“We need to go out and face a team that is going to be full of emotion, as well, because of what’s occured with them — (losses to the Edmonton Eskimos and to the Montreal Alouettes) — the last two games.

“It should be a great game. It should be a great environment.”

The Stamps will make hospital visits and attend high school football games among other community appearances during the Touchdown Atlantic celebrations.

But Hufnagel said his players are well aware that securing a ‘W’ is the top priority.

“We have to make sure that, even though we’re out of town and there’s going to be some festivities, we understand we’re there on a business trip,” Hufnagel said.

“We’ll have some fun while we’re out there, but we have to get ourselves ready to play a good football team.”

And get their ground attack grinding again.


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