Wally Buono says there’s plenty of blame to go around when it comes to the B.C. Lions’ anaemic running game.
The team’s general manager spoke with reporters near the end of Wednesday’s practice and voiced his displeasure with the Lions’ ground attack, which included running back Andrew Harris carrying just six times for 10 yards in a 31-17 home loss to the Saskatchewan Roughrider last week.
“I’m not blaming the (running backs). All I know is we have to get better,” said Buono. “When you look at where we’re at in our running game, blame all of us. Blame the organization, blame the coaches, blame the players.
“Everyone has a part to play to be a successful running team.”
The Lions have not had a 100-yard rusher since July 30, when Harris gained 107 yards in a 38-12 road loss to the Toronto Argonauts — a span of nine games.
Since then, the Winnipeg native has rushed for 10 yards twice and also put up totals of 19, 27 and 38. Harris’s best performance during that span was a 73-yard showing in a 52-17 blowout victory over the Blue Bombers on Sept. 27.
“When you look from the top to the bottom, everybody has to assume a part of the responsibility,” Buono continued. “I’m not blaming just (Harris), I’m not blaming the offensive line, I’m not blaming the quarterback, I’m not blaming the coaches.
“But our running game, at this point, is almost non-existent.”
With that in mind, Buono said that former Lions running back Stefan Logan is expected to join the practice roster early next week. Logan spent four seasons in the NFL, primarily as a return man, after leaving B.C. and was named to the 2010 NFC Pro Bowl team as an alternate.
Harris said competition comes with the territory, especially when you’re not performing up to expectations.
“In professional sports, they’re always going to bring someone in to push you a little bit competitively, or replace you,” said Harris, who still sits third in CFL rushing with 760 yards and six touchdowns. “My mindset is I’ve got a job to do and I can only think about the week of prep and dominating and doing my job.
“If they think (Logan is) the answer to come in and replace me, then so be it. All I can do is control my play and just try to do the best (I can) when I get opportunities.”
Lions head coach Mike Benevides, who has been criticized for his pass-heavy attack, said he needs to give his running backs a chance to make plays when the Lions (9-5) visit the Calgary Stampeders (11-3) on Friday night.
“I’ve got to make sure that they get more touches. You’ve got to have more opportunities. You can’t get a lot done with five or seven touches,” said Benevides, before adding: “A lot’s made of that — I just want to win. I really don’t care, and if we’re a passing team to get it done, so be it.”
Harris said he’s “excited” for the game plan against Calgary, which will see the Lions go up against CFL leading rusher Jon Cornish.
“We have to be a lot more aggressive. We need to create lanes (and) distortion. We haven’t been doing that so it’s been tough to get going,” said Harris. “There’s been a lot said about me not hitting the holes hard enough, but it’s tough when there’s not much space.”
Lions quarterback Thomas DeMarco will start his fourth straight game in place of the injured Travis Lulay (shoulder). He said he noticed more intensity in practice in the lead up to the trip to Calgary.
“When you have run production like the way that we had last game, there’s going to be some fire in some guys’ eyes and some bellies, and that’s what you want to see,” said DeMarco. “It’s a competitive sport that we play and you want to make sure that you do well every week.”
Lions slotback Shawn Gore said every member of a team benefits from having a balanced attack.
“When defensive backs are worried about making tackles and not just dropping back into coverage, it really helps us receivers out,” he said. “It helps the defence out. There’s a lot of times we have drives that go two-and-out and you see them going back on the field and you feel terrible.”
Cornish, meanwhile, rushed for 172 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 1 victory over the Lions, but B.C. contained him in the second meeting, giving up 73 yards and a TD in a 26-22 win.
A native of nearby New Westminster, B.C., Cornish rushed for 208 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s victory over Winnipeg. He has 1,415 rushing yards on the season and is poised to break his own CFL mark of 1,457 yards set in the final regular-season game of 2012.
“Any time (Calgary’s) line is blocking the way it is and you’re opening up a lane for a guy like that ... (and) he’s not getting touched until he’s six, seven yards down field, it almost makes it impossible (to make a tackle),” said Lions defensive back Ryan Phillips. “We definitely have to try to make him stop his feet early, not let him gain momentum and tackle him low.
“We have to tackle as a team and make sure we’re playing disciplined football.”
Note: The CFL’s trade deadline came and went without the Lions making a move.