Stuffing the run

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

The questions didn't seem to stop this week.

Danny Maciocia answered countless inquiries every day about his team's meagre running attack.

But the pivotal matchup in tonight's post-Labour Day grudge match doesn't involve the Edmonton Eskimos running game. Instead, the battle between the Eskimos top-ranked run defence and the dangerous Stampeders ground game led by Joffrey Reynolds will go a long way to deciding the winner at Commonwealth Stadium.

"It's the key to (tonight)," said green and gold linebacker A.J. Gass.

"Any time you can make a team one-dimensional it really allows the defence to free up.

"It lets our edge guys get a little pass rush and lets our cover guys cover."

Reynolds is the second-leading rusher in the CFL. His 713 yards puts him only behind ultra-talented Charles Roberts in Winnipeg.

However, the Eskimos repeatedly slammed the door in Reynolds' face on Labour Day.

VERY FRUSTRATING

At the end of a very frustrating afternoon, J.R. had one measly yard to show for eight carries.

"They did a great job rallying to the ball," explained Reynolds.

"If you look on film, I was breaking a couple of tackles (on Labour Day), but another guy was there too."

Reynolds's horrific struggles against Edmonton on Monday shouldn't be a surprise to anyone following the league.

The Eskimos have the best run defence in the loop, allowing an average of just 63 yards per game.

Nobody has rushed for 100 yards against this team since Roberts pulled the trick last October.

"We pride ourselves on being able to stop the run. Our first and foremost objective of the game is to stop the run," said Edmonton defensive end Joe Montford.

"Then we worry about sacks and stopping the pass."

Added Gass: "We've got guys playing their gaps, plugging holes and forcing running backs to run sideways."

Stuffing the run tonight will put Calgary quarterback Smilin' Hank Burris and his offence in a very ugly spot on second and long.

THUNDERSTICKS

With 45,000 fans either screaming or banging thundersticks, communicating on the line of scrimmage will be tough, to say the least.

That can cause penalties and -- eventually -- frustration, playing right into the home team's hand.

"When they're yelling (in the crowd), it seems like the ground is moving," said speedy Eskimo linebacker Singor Mobley.

But if Reynolds finds his stride -- like he has several times this year -- and finds holes, Eskimo fans might want to cover their eyes.

And Montford knows it.

"If we give them an opportunity to get Joffrey rolling, we have seen how good they can be with their running game going," stated Montford.

With the exception of the first game of the season, when JR touches the ball at least 14 times a contest, the Stamps win.

And a win tonight will put the Stamps right back in the fight with the Eskimos for second place in the West and a coveted home playoff date.


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