Jon Cornish has a tough act to follow.
Cornish leads the Calgary Stampeders into action against the struggling Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Friday. The six-foot, 205-pound native of New Westminster, B.C., was a one-man show in last week’s 20-18 win over Edmonton, rushing for a career-high 185 yards and a TD.
That earned the 27-year-old running back his third straight CFL Canadian player of the week honour and fifth this season. Cornish also moved atop the league’s rushing standings with 827 yards, 147 more than Saskatchewan’s Kory Sheets.
A heady accomplishment, indeed, considering Cornish rushed for minus-1 yards on six carries in Calgary’s 34-8 loss to the B.C. Lions on July 28.
“Any time I can contribute to the offence in a meaningful way, I’m happy with that,” Cornish said. “I’m never satisfied with my own performance.
“We had a great team effort (versus Edmonton) but I think we can improve. We’re a young team and trying to improve every day.”
At halftime, Calgary will induct six new members on to its Wall of Fame. Players to be enshrined are Kelvin Anderson, Jeff Garcia, Rudy Linterman, and Gerry Shaw while Normie Kwong and Sig Gutsche will be honoured as builders.
Cornish is also chasing a piece of CFL history, looking to become the league’s first Canadian-born rushing leader since former Simon Fraser star Orville Lee achieved the feat in 1988. Lee ran for 1,075 yards as a rookie with the Ottawa Rough Riders.
Lee joined a very exclusive group in ‘88, becoming just the fourth Canadian-born player to lead the CFL in rushing. The others were Kwong, Gerry James and Ron Stewart.
Cornish has run for 628 yards in his last five games after rushing for 199 yards in his opening five.
Not surprising, Cornish excels in games Calgary wins. He has averaged 118 yards rushing in the club’s six victories but just 29.3 yards in the Stampeders’ four losses.
The Stampeders also signed defensive end Stevie Baggs and receiver/kick-returner Jason Armstead this week, but neither is expected to play against Winnipeg.
Also absent for Calgary will be kick-returner Larry Taylor, who is third in CFL all-purpose yards. The Stampeders have placed him on the nine-game injured list with a knee ailment, likely ending his season.
Calgary slotback Nik Lewis enters the game needing just 77 yards to become only the second player in club history to reach the 10,000-yard plateau. Former slotback Allen Pitts, a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, is the other.
Calgary (6-4) is currently second in the tight West Division. The Stampeders are two points behind front-running B.C. (7-3) but just two points ahead of the Eskimos and Saskatchewan, who are tied for third with 5-5 records.
The Stampeders have won three straight and four of their last five. They’ll face a Winnipeg team that has lost three straight and owns the CFL’s worst record at 2-8.
The Bombers haven’t won at McMahon Stadium since 2002, a span of nine games. They’re also a dismal 0-5 on the road this season and just 1-5 against West Division rivals.
Winnipeg is coming off a heartbreaking 25-24 home loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, thanks to a controversial decision by interim head coach Tim Burke.
Burke elected to punt rather than attempt a 43-yard field goal late in the contest with Winnipeg leading 23-22. Mike Renaud’s punt sailed into the end zone for a single, giving the Riders the ball at their 35-yard line with 28 seconds remaining.
Rookie quarterback Drew Willy, replacing injured starter Darian Durant in the first half, drove the Riders to the Winnipeg 32-yard line. That set up Sandro DeAngelis’s winning 40-yard field goal as Saskatchewan stole the one-point victory on the game’s final play.
Afterwards, Burke shouldered the blame for the loss, saying in retrospect he should’ve gone for the field goal, which if successful would’ve forced the Riders to score a touchdown.
Still, Bombers Demond Washington and Jason Vega captured CFL weekly awards for their play against Saskatchewan. Washington was named the top special-teams player after scoring on an 82-yard punt return while Vega captured defensive player honours after recording six tackles and three sacks.
Quarterback Joey Elliott will get the start for Winnipeg despite the return of Buck Pierce. Pierce has been out since suffering a foot injury against Edmonton on July 13 but resumed practising this week. Still, Burke gave Elliott his fifth straight start, saying Pierce would play at home against Hamilton on Sept. 21.
The game will also be Calgary centre Obby Khan’s first against his former team.
The 31-year-old Ottawa native spent six seasons in Winnipeg before being told this off-season by former head coach Paul LaPolice the club was no longer interested in his services. Khan opted to retire but never formally filed his retirement papers with the CFL, forcing the Bombers to release him.
Khan signed with the Stampeders last month as a free agent.