From the moment Jon Cornish apologized to the Saskatchewan Roughriders and their fanbase six weeks ago, he figured it would come to this.
The Calgary Stampeders running back — the latest most hated man in Riderville — wants it this way.
West semifinal Sunday. Stampeders vs. Roughriders at McMahon Stadium.
“This whole season has been perfectly timed,” Cornish said Sunday, a day after being crowned with the CFL’s rushing title.
“Every single game has been what it needs to be for us, as a team. As an organization, this is a perfectly timed game. There is no better time for us to play the Roughriders and to make a statement.
“They wanted to play us in the playoffs. Good. I wanted to play them, too.”
The last time the Stamps played the Riders, Cornish made a huge statement, but it was the wrong one. Late in the game, Cornish dropped his pants to moon the crowd in Regina, an incident for which he apologized a day later.
Cornish was a big story heading into that outing, too, but for a different reason. Riders head coach Corey Chamblin guaranteed his defence would hold Cornish to less than 100 yards or someone would lose his job. Hardly anyone remembers Cornish had 67 yards on 12 carries in what was a normal day for the six-year Stampeder.
“It’s funny how that whole situation helped me mature,” Cornish said. “The idea of being in the spotlight — it’s something I’ve become much more comfortable with.
“It’s something I would like to see again. If people ever call me out again, I will rise to that occasion. If it doesn’t happen, I’m still going to look forward to the game.
“In the last Sask game, I had the opportunity to make a few people miss and I didn’t. I’ve been looking back at that game. Usually I’m satisfied with my games. I look at that one as thinking I could have done more.
“I was in the open field and I was tackled. Normally, I make people miss in the open field.”
The past few days have been great for Cornish, though.
On Friday night in Edmonton, he broke Normie Kwong’s record for most rushing yards by a Canadian in league history, a mark that stood for 56 years.
On Saturday night, the B.C. Lions held Kory Sheets to 34 yards, giving Cornish his first rushing title. It was the first time a Canadian had done it since Orville Lee in 1988.
It came during a season in which Cornish had a minus-1 rushing-yard game, which came in Week 5 against the Lions.
At that point, Cornish had 199 yards in five games. In the 13 games since, he piled up 1,258 yards. Out of frustration, he complained loudly about his offensive line after that minus-1 game, but everyone responded.
“You have an understanding with certain members of the team,” Cornish said. “I knew we had a great offensive line. We started off slow, we figured out what we had to do and we made adjustments. The ball got rolling from there.”
When the Stamps lost four times in the playoffs to the Riders over a span of five years, the villain of Rider Nation was Henry Burris, the quarterback who spurned them as a free agent in 2005.
Now that Burris is gone, Cornish has taken over.
It’s a role he relishes, and a reason why, in the heat of the moment, he dropped the drawers in Regina.
“That was the original aim,” Cornish said. “I don’t mind having people chant my name. In college, it happened a lot.
“Going back to Saskatchewan, I will probably hear it there. It probably won’t be a factor in this game.”
Courtesy Ian Busby-Calgary Sun