Stampeders O-line change pays off

J'Michael Deane, centre, has made the most of his Calgary Stampeders training camp and will fill in...

J'Michael Deane, centre, has made the most of his Calgary Stampeders training camp and will fill in at right tackle for the injured Dmitri Tsoumpas July 1 in the 2011 home-opener against the Toronto Argonauts. MIKE DREW PHOTO/CALGARY SUN

SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:46 PM ET

CALGARY - John Hufnagel had every reason to be nervous.

The Calgary Stampeders GM/head coach has watched his offensive line underperform against the B.C. Lions in the previous game.

With injuries plaguing the line, Hufnagel shuffled the deck heading into Hamilton.

Spencer Wilson made his first start of the season at left guard, which moved J’Micheal Deane to right tackle, a position he hadn’t played since college.

And the result spoke for itself.

“First of all, I’m impressed with the two young pups and how well they played,” Hufnagel said upon returning to Calgary after Thursday’s 31-20 win in The Hammer.

“That was good to see. I expected them to play well, but until you see it, you’re always anxious about it.

“Our offensive line did a great job all night long of moving people.”

Hufnagel said the line as a whole was in sync against the Tiger-Cats, which resulted in a drastically improved running game and improved pass protection.

“They were assignment correct — something they weren’t against B.C., which created some problems and those problems multiplied as the game went along,” Hufnagel said.

“But (against Hamilton), both physically and mentally, they did a good job.”

Wilson was asked if the start was everything he hoped it would be Thursday.

“It must have been,” the 6-foot-7, 325-pounder said. “We had a good game, and I had a smile on my face all last night.

“It felt real good. Just to be out there and be playing in a game again felt really good.”

The 24-year-old Toronto product said it was satisfying to silence the critics.

“It definitely felt good to answer the call we needed to, especially coming off that last game,” Wilson said.

“I’m not sure of the stats, but the amount we were able to run and protect for (quarterback Kevin Glenn), it was a good game.

“We out-physicalled them. We got on them and were aggressive.”

The stats backed up what turned out to be a brilliant performance.

Stamps running back Jon Cornish not only cracked the 100-yard mark for the first time this season but churned out a career-best 170 yards along the ground.

In his previous four games, Cornish had a combined 161 yards from scrimmage.

He had 217 total yards Thursday.

“Any time you can rush for 170, it’s a testament to the strength of the o-line,” Cornish said.

“I think the guys who came in — Spencer and J-Mike — stepped up. When you have a guy coming into his first game against a great defence like Hamilton’s, it’s a bit questionable.

“But (Wilson) did a great job. They all did.”

scott.fisher@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNScottFisher


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