June 26, 2019

Ready To Run

CALGARY, AB - JUNE 15, 2019: The Calgary Stampeders lost 32-28 against the Ottawa Redblacks at the Home Opener at McMahon Stadium on Saturday night. (Photo by Candice Ward/Calgary Stampeders)

It’s been less than two weeks, but Don Jackson can’t wait for Saturday, to feel that key turn in the ignition, the hum of his motor springing to life and a foot on the gas pedal.

He’s itching to be out on the open highway again, leaving defenders in his wake like so many desert tumbleweeds scattered by a jet-stream.

“I’m super-confident in the five I’ve got in front of me,’’ the second-year Calgary Stampeders’ tailback assures one and all, flashing that unique 24-karat golden smile.

“Trust me.

“I’d bet my life on those guys.

“Right now, we just want to get out there and make up for the Ottawa game. What did – or more to the point, didn’t – happen with the run game two weeks ago is something we’ve got to correct.

“We’re human. We make mistakes. Sometimes we’re going to lose on a play.

“Our job is to go back to the film room and understand what went wrong and not let a mistake happen again.

“The bye week was good for us, I think. Everybody got to double-down and feel real good about their body, miss the game a bit, get some perspective.

“Can we be better? Yes. Of course. Will we be better? Yes. Of course.”

When pinpointing an offensive area most in need of upgrade from that season-opening disappointment to the Ottawa RedBlacks a week from last Saturday, you don’t need to be Knute Rockne to quickly settle on a lack of production across ol’ terra firma.

Both in opportunity and execution.

Only 43 yards accrued along the ground. Jackson – a revelation in piling up 924 yards, a 5.8-yards-a carry and three 100-yard nights during a breakout freshman campaign – was restricted to a pauper’s 22 yards by the Redblacks resistance, averaging only 2.2 per tote.

By comparison, the victorious RedBlacks rang up 125 rushing yards, 112 via their tailback, Mossis Madu.

The longest Stamps’ running play, actually, came via a bit of trickery, an end-around from wideout Markeith Ambles that netted 17 yards.

Other than that …

“Early on in the season, you’re going to have ups and downs,’’ reckoned O-lineman Derek Dennis. “It’s about getting a feel for the new guys on the line. About jelling, chemistry, the details. Playing fast and working out the kinks.

“We were just a little … off, here and there. Uncharacteristic of us normally. Going into Week 2 you usually make a big jump in your play, just based on familiarity, and that’s what we’re looking for this weekend.”

With both sides in search of a first win to kick-off their season, even early in the going this one seems to carry added importance.

“Big test with B.C., a Western Division opponent, at home, coming off a bye,’’ reasons running backs coach Marc Mueller. “That alone always get the adrenalin flowing but the way it shook out last week, you’re even more looking back to getting back on the field.

“Unfortunately, the only time anybody pays attention to numbers is when you lose. If you run for 150 yards or eight, if you win, you’ve done your job. If you don’t, you haven’t.

Any of the guys we have playing running back want to go out and play to the best of their ability, play Stampeder football – which means protect the quarterback and when you get the ball, do your job to the best of your ability.

“Don had some really good plays out of the backfield that nobody talked about. But we lost, and that’s the way this business works.”

In readying for the B.C. Lions, the Stamps are doubtless seeking more balance in their attack, having run only a dozen running plays versus Ottawa as opposed to 39 Bo Levi Mitchell tosses.

“It’s not about yards. If I run for 200 and we lose the game … doesn’t matter,’’ chimes in Jackson. “As backs, our job is to believe in the game plan and execute the game plan.

“How many times I get to the run ball, I have to make the best of those.

“And if we win, no matter how many carries or how many yards, I’m happy. Trust me on that, too.”

The game also, of course, marks the return of the big man in the tilted ballcap, DeVone Claybrooks, former Calgary defensive co-ordinator now the big boss out on the west coast, to McMahon Stadium.

“We got to see him in the pre-season. So we’ve already broken the ice there,’’ says Jackson. “And that’s good.

“Look, I love Clay, man. He’s a good dude. I’m happy for him that he got the position he has now.

“But we gotta take it out on him. Same as he’d do with us. Nobody’s going to go light on the other.

“You can love somebody and still want to beat him.”