Not September's Stampeders

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:07 PM ET

CALGARY - Henry Burris tossed for 316 yards, including a Hail Mary touchdown strike just before halftime.

Joffrey Reynolds rushed for a season-high 80 yards on 14 attempts.

As for Drew Tate and Jon Cornish, they combined to touch the ball seven times.

The Edmonton Eskimos might want to toss that tape away.

As the provincial rivals prepare for Sunday’s West semifinal at Commonwealth Stadium (2:30 p.m., TSN, QR77), there’s no doubt the Stamps offence has a different look than it did during the last installment of the CFL’s Battle of Alberta, a Red & White 30-20 victory in the Labour Day Replay.

Advantage, Stamps?

“I don’t know if there’s any advantage,” Tate said with a shrug. “The only thing we have going for us, as a team, is we have a lot of confidence going into the playoffs right now. And this is the right time to have it.”

It’s been a season of change at McMahon Stadium.

Nearly two months ago, the Stamps removed Reynolds from the lineup, replacing the club’s all-time leading rusher with the B.C.-born Cornish.

Burris lost his starting job four weeks later, with the face-of-the-franchise quarterback now serving as Tate’s sidekick and short-yardage specialist.

It’s hard to argue with the results.

Cornish has averaged 87.3 rushing yards per game and has made seven trips to the endzone in seven starts in the Stampeders’ backfield. Tate, meanwhile, remains undefeated as a starting signal-caller, having notched wins over the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the Montreal Alouettes and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in his first three appearances.

“I would say we match up favourably against anyone,” Cornish said. “We can move the ball on anyone. We’ve proven that we can — running and through the air. We’ve taken on the two best rush offences in the past two weeks, and we’ve done really well against them. And, obviously, Drew is able to get the ball in the air to the people that matter. It works out well for us.”

The Stamps’ offence had mixed results in three regular-season outings against the Eskimos.

They generated 450 yards of total offence in the first meeting in late July but also had a couple of costly turnovers in a 24-19 loss at McMahon Stadium.

The Stamps offence was awful in the annual Labour Day Classic, committing four turnovers after an early score in a 35-7 blowout for the Eskimos.

The Stamps earned a sliver of revenge four days later in Edmonton, establishing the running game and mixing two touchdowns with five field goals in a 30-20 win. Cornish made the most of four touches in that game, racking up 90 combined yards on two rushing attempts and a pair of receptions.

While the Stamps’ new-look offence has been able to put points on the board in back-to-back-to-back victories, the Eskimos defence should get a boost of confidence from the success they’ve enjoyed against their provincial rivals.

Asked to size up the Stampeders’ semifinal opponent, Tate didn’t exactly provide any bulletin board material for defensive co-ordinator Rich Stubler and the Eskimos’ tackling staff.

“I have a lot of respect for them, because they’ve done a tremendous job against us in the three games,” Tate said. “They’ve got workers up front on their defensive line that have made it extremely hard for us to run, and their linebackers are extremely good in space, and they can run. And their back-end is really good. They sit, and they read in — they read the routes and the drops — and they make it really hard to push the ball down the field.

“Coach Stubler has a great scheme and uses all those guys effectively and puts them in position to make plays — and they’ve been doing that.”

Question is, can they keep it up against the new regime?

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson


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