Feeling g-Lum? Ticats rushing star sidelined

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:48 AM ET

Charlie Taaffe -- sage man he is -- was about to sit down and address the media.

That's when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach rhetorically asked, "What's the over-under on the first question?"

"You're thinking it's Lumsden?" one of those gathered asked.

To which Taaffe replied: "I think that's pretty easy money there."

The loss of running back Jesse Lumsden to a knee injury on the eve of Hamilton's game tonight against the Calgary Stampeders (7 p.m., TSN, subject to local blackout) was certainly the hot topic of conversation when the Ticats hit town.

The next biggest query was regarding the man who'll try to replace the CFL's top rusher at McMahon Stadium.

As in, who exactly is Tre Smith?

Somebody, Smith admitted, who has "big shoes to fill."

No kidding.

Lumsden is more than just the league's leading rusher. He's the home-country hero and a marquee player.

"It's an honour to be in the position he was in," said Smith. "But he'll be back next week, it's not like he's gone forever.

"I'm just going to go out and play my hardest."

Lumsden's impact on the Ticats can't be understated.

But Smith's shown in his rookie season to be no slouch either.

Heading into this week's action, the 24-year-old from Auburn University is fifth in league rushing, with 182 yards on 14 carries -- an incredible average of 13 yards per carry -- and one touchdown, which was a 75-yard scamper against the Montreal Alouettes in the season-opener.

Needless to say, Hamilton plans to rush the ball even without Lumsden, with Smith and Terry Caulley ready for duty.

"That's what we do best. Those guys are good backs," Taaffe said. "Terry ran great last year in Jesse's absence and Tre's shown already this year that he can create big plays. That run he made last week when get go spun around was an unbelievable run.

"We're improving in the throwing game, but for us to just abandon what we do best would be crazy."

There will be no confusing Smith with Lumsden.

Lumsden has great speed, but also uses his 6-ft.-2, 226-lb. frame to punish would-be tacklers.

Smith is generously -- very generously -- listed as being 5-ft.-11 and 195-lb. and is more of a finesse runner.

"It's not a blow to our team," insisted Ticats centre Marwan Hage. "We have great running backs. You'll see, everybody's going to do their job. Our running game's going to be very efficient."

Smith, however, wouldn't take his opportunity of being thrust into the spotlight to make any bold predictions.

"I'm just gonna play my hardest, that's all I've ever done ... and see what happens," said the product of Venice, Fla. "I'll just do what we've been doing in practice.

"I'm going into the game exactly the way I've gone into every other game. I'll just give it my all."

As for Lumsden's health, Taaffe insists the injury is a one-week thing.

"It's more of a cautionary thing. He looked like a Chiquita banana earlier in the week -- a little black and blue," Taaffe said.

"He carried the ball basically 40 times the last two weeks, and the way he runs he gives out punishment, but also takes some.

"He could have played this week, but it's a long season and he's going to have a lot more opportunities and a lot more carries, so we decided to let him rest."\


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