CALGARY -- When the Stamps and Argos met back in Week 2, it was the quarterbacks taking centre stage in an exciting duel between two veteran gunslingers – yet heading into Saturday night’s rematch at McMahon Stadium, all eyes will be on the two starting running backs for entirely different reasons.
It’s been a rollercoaster ride for both teams at the position over the last week or so, but as the dust settles and the Stamps and Argos each take the field looking for an important Week 8 win, it’ll be Jon Cornish in one corner and Chad Kackert in the other.
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One is in his first full season as a starter and is coming off the best game of his career, and the other is coming off the bench.
Five-foot-eight, 201-pound Kackert is about as big a change of pace as you could possibly find at offence for the Boatmen, after the team started a league-wide earthquake last weekend by releasing the CFL leader in rushing yards, Cory Boyd.
The move, said the Argos brass, was strictly for on-field purposes, which has to mean Kackert’s potential had to have played a role in Boyd’s departure. Suddenly the 25-year-old is ready to embark on a brand new era in Argoland, as he gets his first start in 2012 of what he hopes will be many.
“I just have to go out there and play my game,” Kackert told a busy scrum of reporters after practice on Monday, his first since the move was made. “As far as roles and responsibilities, that’s what comes first. You just have to know protections obviously, where you go when you get the ball, make your reads, and then once you’re past the initial beginning of the play it’s on you to be an athlete.”
So what kind of running back should be expected to show up in Double Blue on Saturday?
“Well I’m sure you could make your judgments, any fan could know, just size and anything,” answered Kackert.
The second-year running back wouldn’t dispose much more, but has shown in previous opportunities that two things are certain about his running style: he’ll run fast, and he’ll run hard.
That much he showed when he got a chance to start just over one year ago, rushing for 139 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries against the Eskimos in relief of an injured Cory Boyd.
Kackert had 349 yards on just 57 carries on the season, for an impressive average of 6.1 yards per carry, before Boyd returned healthy.
But while his running style may give the Argo offence a little bit of a different look, he’s expected to contribute more in another key area too: pass blocking.
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With the need to protect one of the league’s top passers this season, Kackert understands that he’ll be judged just as much on how he performs when the ball isn’t in his hands, as when it is.
“We’ve got a great quarterback in the backfield, but if he doesn’t have time to throw the ball, then we don’t have a great quarterback in the backfield,” said Kackert. “I mean every running back’s run the ball since they were 10 years old, so that’s not an issue, and if it is, then you won’t see me here for a long time.”
The Argos also added Gerald Riggs Jr. at the start of the week to serve as the team’s second import running back, but he won’t be expected to suit up for Saturday’s contest.
Riggs was with the team for pre-season and had to be let go at the start of the regular season, but that didn’t stop him from turning heads when given the chance to do so. If Kackert doesn’t turn out to be the answer the Toronto was looking for at the position, Riggs will be waiting in the wings.
While the Argos lost a lot of certainty at the running back position this past week, the Stamps did the opposite over the weekend, when they dominated in that aspect of the game on their way to a 31-20 win over the Ticats at Ivor Wynne.
Cornish rumbled for a career-best 170 yards, earning each and every one of them as the Stamps put up an impressive total of 233 yards on the ground, helping them win the time of possession battle to grind out a win in the fourth quarter.
|The last time they met|
The Argos had their highest single-game point total since 2006, but needed a three-pointer from Noel Prefontaine in the dying seconds to secure their first win of 2012, 39-36 in a wild affair. Ricky Ray threw for 407 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Calgary starter Drew Tate was forced out of the game with a shoulder injury in the first quarter, paving the way for Kevin Glenn. Glenn completed 15 of 19 passes with two touchdowns in relief, but his late comeback bid was thwarted by a quick and timely drive by Ray to improve the Argos to 1-1.
The 27-year-old New Westminster, B.C. native also added a career-high six receptions for 47 yards, giving him 217 yards from scrimmage and earning him both offensive and top Canadian honours for last weekend.
It was only the second time all season the Stamps topped the 100-yard mark in rushing for a game, while they almost matched the combined rushing totals of the past four games, in which they totaled 247 yards.
The success couldn’t have come at a better time for Cornish, who was criticized after losing his cool at the end of a lopsided loss to the Lions and singling out his offensive line. Cornish apologized quickly after, and followed it up with his best game as a pro.
After that win, he was just as quick to praise his offensive line.
“We had a good understanding of what each other was doing,” Cornish told the Calgary Herald. “Overall, I think it was a great team effort...everybody contributed to the running game.”
“Any time you can rush for 170 it’s a testament to the strength of the O-line,” he added. “They all did a good job and that’s why we had so many rushing yards. I know a lot of other running backs around the league think they have great O-lines, and I like to think we have a great O-line here.”
The Stamps now rank third in league rushing and bumped their average up to 101.2 yards per game, and that’ll be welcome news for a team looking to establish its new identity on the ground game after the departure of its leading all-time rusher in the off-season, Joffrey Reynolds.
They’ll look to add to a league-high eight rushing majors this season against a stingy Argos defence, that’s allowing virtually nothing through the air.
On the ground it’s a different story though, as the Double Blue have given up just under 100 rushing yards per game this season, letting running backs go for an average of 5.1 yards per carry.
Saturday’s affair at McMahon will be the Stamps’ fifth against an East Division opponent this season, making this their most East-heavy schedule to start a season since 2003. That means eight of their last 11 games will be against divisional foes.
The Argos, who won the first meeting in the last minute of a shootout, 39-36 back on July 7. They’ll look to continue their recent stretch of success against the Stamps, as they carry a five-game winning streak into Calgary, including a 23-21 win at McMahon in the season-opener last year.
Kickoff is at 7 P.M. ET, and can be seen on TSN or followed live via Game Tracker on CFL.ca.
- With files from Stampeders.com and Postmedia