Cornish leads Stamps rush

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:29 AM ET

CALGARY - When the ones were out, the best player was No. 9.

The Calgary Stampeders probably would rather forget Friday's pre-season opener against the Edmonton Eskimos, but one thing was clear when the projected starters were on the field.

This could be Jon Cornish's year.

Picking up right where he left off in 2011, Cornish was the main bright spot when quarterback Drew Tate was leading the first-team offence during an error-filled 20-17 exhibition win over the Eskimos at McMahon Stadium.

Following a Fred Bennett interception -- the first of two for the promising newcomer -- Cornish showed the same ability that made the Stamps unseat future Hall of Famer Joffrey Reynolds last season.

Cornish bounced one rush outside for an 11-yard gain and a first down. On the next play, he pushed the pile for 10 yards to move the sticks again.

The drive ended when Tate tossed an interception that Eskimos defensive back Joe Burnett returned 80 yards for a touchdown.

Cornish would last one more drive before taking a seat, but he left hot.

After catching a three-yard pass, Cornish was piled up by a gang of Eskimos and came up without his helmet on. Cornish was dinged with an unnecessary roughness penalty for scrapping.

While there will be plenty of eyes on Tate when the regular season starts, Cornish will be the focal point of the Stampeders offence.

The No. 1 running back left after putting up a 7.4-yard average on five carries, which mirrors his 2011 season when he had a 7.3-yard average.

With the benefit of a full season, Cornish would be on track for a rushing title if he stays healthy.

Tate didn't have a great first outing, going 6-of-12 passing for 66 yards and that interception TD, although he didn't have the benefit of top receiver Ken-Yon Rambo and veteran left tackle Edwin Harrison.

Kevin Glenn, who will provide depth as the No. 2, had a much better time, leading the offence on a pair of field-goal drives, and finishing 8-of-11 passing for 73 yards.

In the second half, rookie QB Bo Levi Mitchell took over the offence and managed to move it with decent efficiency, getting into position for a pair of field-goal attempts. He went 8-of-12 passing for 81 yards.

Sophomore Brad Sinopoli led the Stamps on their only scoring drive, hitting Marquay McDaniel on a 15-yard TD pass and then connected with McDaniel on the two-point convert to tie the game late.

There were a few things that will show up on the game tape, both good and bad. Here are the highlights:

"˘ Bennett had two INTs, both off Eskimos starter Matt Nichols. Last year, Demetrice Morley had a pair of interceptions in the pre-season and he ended up as a starter. Bennett had a third one negated by a too many men penalty on the defence.

"˘ Rob Maver had a nice night. He had a long punt of 55 yards and nailed a 50-yard field goal in the second half. Another 32-yard field-goal attempt went off the goal-post. He ended up kicking the game-winner from 30 yards out with no time left on the clock.

- Nik Lewis, who missed practice this week with a hamstring problem, showed some mid-season form. He leaped over Burnett on his first reception.

- Defensive back Chris Randle knocked down a pair of passes while showing strong coverage.

- Linebacker Deron Mayo was the first downfield twice on coverage, making a pair of great special-teams tackles.

- Running back Bryson Tucker dove for a punt and managed to knock it free for Eskimos defenders to jump on. A more experienced returner would have let it bounce.

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter @SUNIanBusby


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