Mike didn't have a ball

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

Mike Pringle wasn't a very happy camper.

The CFL's all-time leading rusher was visibly upset early in the third quarter of yesterday's playoff-clinching 40-34 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Rather than hand the ball off to Pringle early in the third quarter, Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Jason Maas called his own number and took the plunge from the one-yard line for his second rushing major of the game.

The touchdown would have been the 137th of his career and moved Pringle past George Reed on the CFL all-time regular-season TD list.

Pringle, 37, stripped off his helmet as he made his way to the Esks bench and appeared miffed with both Maas and offensive co-ordinator Danny Maciocia.

"When the ball is on the one, it's difficult to give the ball to your running back who's five yards back so he can score a touchdown," said Maciocia.

"It's been two years that Mike Pringle has been playing this way. He's a competitor. He wants the ball all the time. He's like Terry Vaughn, Ed Hervey.

"When the game is on the line, he's a player who thinks he can make the difference. I like Mike, and we're going to need him in the next couple of weeks."

WIN WAS THE BOTTOM LINE

Having spent five seasons as the Montreal Alouettes offensive co-ordinator, Maciocia knows Pringle like the back of his hand -- perhaps better. But with the outcome of the tilt very much in doubt at the start of the second half, Maciocia wasn't going to put Pringle's record pursuit above the team's fortunes when it came to calling plays.

"I'm here to win football games, and he needed one touchdown (to break the record)," Maciocia said. "When you look at an 11- or 12-year career, he probably left a touchdown out on the field some place.

"We wanted to win a Grey Cup together and we did. We wanted to set the rushing record and we did it. He still shares the record with George Reed. He should be proud of that record as well."

Pringle sat on the Esks bench long after the game was over and eventually faced the media still wearing his full uniform, minus the helmet.

"That was a designed play and that's what we prepared for all week," said a stone-faced Pringle, recounting the play.

"When we were in that formation, we all knew what the play was going to be. When we were in that situation, that's the play we were going to call.

'I'M AN EMOTIONAL GUY'

"I'm a very emotional guy and I'm competitive and I just want to win. And we did that today."

Although Pringle was echoing Maciocia's sentiment on sharing the record with Reed, his body language and demeanour in the dressing room said otherwise.

"It's not like I don't have the record and it's not like I'm not playing next year," Pingle said. "All I need is one touchdown.

"One of the reasons they brought me here was to eat up some of the clock and score touchdowns in the red zone. When we're in that area, I definitely want my hands on the football. I knew what the situation was."

Pringle finished the day with 19 carries for 65 yards to run his regular-season total to 1,142 yards on the year and upped his all-time total to 16,426.

Earlier on the drive, Maas handed Pringle the ball on Winnipeg's 10 and he carried for a yard. A pass interference penalty on the ensuing play moved the ball to the one.

Once the TV cameras moved on, Pringle erupted after he felt he was being badgered long and hard by a local scribe on the subject of his reaction following the Maas touchdown.

"Get out of my mother------ face," Pringle screamed repeatedly as three teammates dragged the future Hall of Famer away from the reporter.


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