CALGARY - It’s tough to guess who was more worn out after Sunday’s season-opening victory at McMahon Stadium.
The workhorse running back?
The workhorse receiver?
Or the touchdown horse?
Running back Jon Cornish is off to a good start in his quest to win the CFL’s rushing crown after racking up 84 yards and two majors along the ground, and receiver Nik Lewis caught everything except head coach John Hufnagel’s chest-cold, as the Calgary Stampeders scored four touchdowns and rolled to a 38-10 rout of the Montreal Alouettes.
Cornish had the busiest night of his career with 18 carries and admitted during a post-game interview on the stadium big-screen that he was a bit gassed in the second half. He was so tired, he was nowhere to be found as the media surrounded his locker for a word after the game.
It was also a night to remember for Lewis, who had a career-high dozen catches — the same number he posted in the 2008 Grey Cup game — for 105 yards. The 30-year-old slotback booked his spot on the weekly highlight-reel by leaping over Alouettes defensive back Michael Carter on his way to the endzone in the third quarter.
“Nik wants to make it difficult for me in the off-season when we talk contract,” Hufnagel deadpanned post-game. “If he keeps doing this, it will be.”
With Cornish and Lewis in the lineup and quarterback Drew Tate at the controls, it’s going to be difficult on opposing defences, too.
The Stamps rolled out their new-look offence in front of only 26,387 fans — and about 10,000 empty seats — Sunday at McMahon Stadium, but those who didn’t doze off during the NHL’s so-called free-agent frenzy or the blowout final of Euro 2012 must’ve liked what they witnessed.
After a game that was never really close, the Stamps (1-0) are now in a four-way tie for top spot in the West Division. The Alouettes (0-1) kept the pace in the still-winless East.
“This gets the season off to a great start,” said Stamps defensive halfback Brandon Smith, who wowed the crowd with a one-handed interception grab in the second half. “A team like Montreal can beat any team on any given day. They are always at the top of the league every year. To beat them in this fashion is a big boost for the team.”
While it was no secret Cornish and Lewis would be the centrepieces of the hometown club’s offensive scheme, the Stamps’ first touchdown of the campaign was courtesy an unlikely source.
Just over five minutes after the opening kickoff, middle linebacker Juwan Simpson stripped the ball from Alouettes receiver Jamel Richardson and rookie safety Keenan MacDougall — the University of Saskatchewan Huskies product appearing in his first professional game — scooped up the loose pigskin and rumbled 63 yards to the endzone for the major.
Unfortunately, MacDougall also had a front-row seat for Brian Bratton’s touchdown grab in the second quarter, the Als’ only six-point score of the night.
Cornish scored his touchdowns on three- and four-yard gains, while Tate finished 25-of-35 for 299 yards with one touchdown — a 13-yard strike to Lewis — and two interceptions.
Tate remains undefeated in four regular-season starts, with his only loss as a starter coming in last year’s first-round playoff exit.
Three-down football legend Anthony Calvillo had a tough night, completing only 16-of-31 passes for 174 yards and getting picked off by Smith and Quincy Butler as part of an impressive showing by the Stamps’ defensive unit.
Stamps kicker Rene Paredes was good on three field-goal attempts, while the Als’ Sean Whyte aced his only three-point try.
The Stamps now hit the road for a two-game trip, which starts next Saturday at Rogers Centre against the Toronto Alouettes.
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