Stamps running back needs recognition

Jon Cornish of the Calgary Stampeders in action against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Calgary,...

Jon Cornish of the Calgary Stampeders in action against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Calgary, Saturday, October 1, 2011. LYLE ASPINALL/QMI AGENCY, file

Ian Busby, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:05 PM ET

The infection on Jon Cornish’s leg won’t keep him from running.

So the Calgary Stampeders running back plans on chasing down Jerome Messam.

While there are a few people in a rush to anoint the Edmonton Eskimos the West Division’s top Canadian award, Cornish wants them to wait a minute.

Messam may be on the verge of 1,000 rushing yards, but Cornish is only 59 back in yards from scrimmage heading into a Week 18 matchup against the Montreal Alouettes (Sunday, 11 a.m.).

“It’s the only stat I care about,” said Cornish, who returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday with his leg infection and is ready to play.

“As a running back, people look at rushing yards, but I just say, ‘Give me the ball anywhere.’ I don’t care. As long as I get touches.

“The game ball I have from the (Riders) game (on Oct. 1), it doesn’t say carries or catches. It just says 14 touches for 181 yards.”

Messam has received plenty of attention this season for carrying the load for the first-place Eskimos, and he needs just 36 yards to be the third Canadian rusher in the past 46 years to reach 1,000.

There is no question Messam is deserving of consideration as the West’s and league’s top Canadian.

But the former B.C. Lions tailback shouldn’t be a runaway winner with two games remaining.

While Cornish has only 754 yards along the ground, the fifth-year Stampeder wasn’t the starter until five games ago. In that time, the 26-year-old has 502 rushing yards, and he’s moved up from 25th to seventh in league yards from scrimmage.

Cornish argues he could keep up the pace throughout an entire season, which would put him somewhere around the 2,200 mark over an 18-game schedule.

“Considering it’s been good game, not so good game, I would say yes,” Cornish said. “The problem is when a defence lets you run on them, you get tired out. I went for 181 on Sask. I went for 159 on Toronto. It gets tiring.

“Give me the starting job and let me have (every down) and we’ll see.”

Cornish has a leg up on Messam in average per carry (7.9 to 5.6) and total touchdowns (eight to six). Some voters are going to see Messam’s rushing total and be amazed — and Cornish knows that.

“If he gets it, people will make it into a big thing,” Cornish said. “But there are a few things that directly compound the argument.”

To his credit, Cornish said he would like to see Messam hit 1,000. Having several Canadian running backs have success (Canuck Andrew Harris is also starting in B.C.) means the door is open for homegrown talent at that position.

The argument for years was you couldn’t have a Canadian as the starting tailback because there weren’t enough decent ones to replace them if they got hurt.

It’s a situation the Lions are dealing with right now, as Harris suffered a shoulder injury last week and is questionable to play against the Eskimos Saturday.

So when it looked like Cornish’s leg infection might become serious, it appeared the Stampeders offence might be in trouble.

It wasn’t just that the Stamps had no Canadian running back of his calibre to replace him. It’s that Cornish has made this offence more dynamic in a short period of time.

That’s exactly what a most outstanding player is supposed to do.

“I wouldn’t want to give myself too much credit,” Cornish said. “There are certain keys we need to win. Our offence has grown to accommodate each other.

“Now, losing a piece you expect to be there would make it harder to execute the way you would like.”


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