Cornish entrenched as Stamp's top rusher

Calgary Stampeders Jon Cornish is tackled by Remond Willis and James Patrick of the Saskatchewan...

Calgary Stampeders Jon Cornish is tackled by Remond Willis and James Patrick of the Saskatchewan Roughriders during their game in Calgary on October 1, 2011. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)

Ian Busby, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:18 PM ET

Jon Cornish took the short swing pass, raced past his blockers for a 32-yard gain and bounced back to the huddle.

The Calgary Stampeders gave him the ball again, and the Canadian burst through the Saskatchewan Roughriders for 24 yards.

Now that Cornish has been given the ball, he’s not going to give it back.

In his first home outing since becoming the starter ahead of future Hall-of-Famer Joffrey Reynolds, Cornish ran the ball 13 times for 149 yards and two touchdowns.

“Other than the first series, it feels like we’ve been doing this for a while,” said Cornish, who had those two huge gains on the Stampeders’ first possession in Saturday’s 40-3 victory.

“I knew what I was capable of. I was on the sidelines seeing how I would do things differently.

“People have said I’m similar to Joffrey, but we’re different players. It’s nice to have the opportunity to be there and do it my way. He always made such strong cuts.

“I learned so much from him, but I didn’t want it this way. It still sort of feels like it’s his job. It’s going to take a long time for it to settle in for me.

Anyone who was surprised at Jon Cornish’s Saturday afternoon stroll through the Roughriders defence must not have watched closely the past five years.

In playing second fiddle to Reynolds since arriving from Kansas in 2007, Cornish has occasionally made huge plays.

Even if John Hufnagel had planned on going back to Reynolds after a couple of games, how could he now that Cornish has taken off?

Now, Reynolds and his starter’s salary are labouring away on the healthy scratch list, but Hufnagel isn’t planning on making a change — to the starting roster or to move the six-time 1,000-yard rusher.

Having a player of Reynolds’ calibre as a reserve is certainly a good insurance policy if Cornish or bakcup LaMarcus Coker were to get hurt.

“I have no thoughts about trading him, and I’ve had no discussions,” Hufnagel said about Reynolds.

“But I don’t think I will disrupt our lineup right now. Jon is carrying the ball more, and his special teams is reduced. The other guy (Coker) is taking over that.”

Cornish has shown over his CFL career that the more work he gets, the better he performs. In the games where he has six or more carries, the New Westminster, B.C., product has a 7.9-yard average.

His 13 attempts Saturday were a career high, and Cornish responded with his first 100-yard game.

“If you run the ball a little bit and just not on obvious running downs, you don’t get that feel for what the defence will do,” Cornish said. “The offensive line can get that feel. The line was driving people back. Watching the tape, it was really fun to see it.”

Next Saturday’s first-place showdown with the B.C. Lions in Vancouver will be a special one for Cornish. He’s had many great nights in B.C. Place Stadium, where St. Thomas More High School used to have their playoff games.

Cornish showed he has the talent to become one of the premier running backs in the CFL. TSN analyst Duane Forde was on board before this season, naming Cornish the CFL’s top Canadian player.

Now, the 26-year-old is living up to the hype.

“I was kind of worried when that happened,” Cornish said. “It’s a lot of pressure at the start of the season. We were still feeling things out early this season.

“Having the opportunity now behind a maturing, well-honed offensive line is a great thing.”


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