SPORTS

Stampeders Mitchell, Cornish want a lot of work against Winnipeg Blue Bombers

10/31/2014 06:14 EDT | Updated 12/31/2014 05:59 EST
CALGARY - The leaders of the Calgary Stampeders offence insist they want to go the distance Saturday against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Stampeders coach and general manager John Hufnagel would be excused if he shortened the games of quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and running back Jon Cornish.

With first place in the CFL and the West Division locked up two weeks ago and the division final on the horizon, how much sense does it make for the starting quarterback and the league's leading rusher to play deep into Saturday's game at McMahon Stadium?

The players in question don't see it that way.

"I'm the starting quarterback. I don't see any reason for me not to be playing," Mitchell said Friday. "I'm not a believer in sitting your guys. I think it can cause more problems than good.

"Obviously I'm going to do whatever the coaches say, but I would be more than willing to play all game both games ending the season."

The Stampeders (14-2) are a win away from matching their season record of 15, which Calgary posted three straight years from 1993 to 1995.

Calgary concludes the regular season on the road against the B.C. Lions next week. The only team in CFL history to record a 16-win season was the Edmonton Eskimos in 1989.

The Stampeders have known since their 33-23 victory in Winnipeg on Oct. 18 that they'll host the division final Nov. 23 at McMahon. Winnipeg's season ends Saturday and the Bombers (6-11) will not make the post-season.

Calgary has won eight straight when Mitchell has been the starter. Despite sitting out three games with a leg injury, the 24-year-old Texan ranks second in touchdown passes with 20 behind Toronto quarterback Ricky Ray's 28.

Cornish is just 24 yards away from his third straight season of over 1,000 rushing yards. The CFL's Most Outstanding Player in 2013, and leading rusher the last two, sat out last week's 40-27 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders to rest aches and pains.

Cornish is on the verge of a rushing title hat trick, despite playing only eight games so far this season. He's 128 yards up on No. 2 rusher Anthony Allen of Saskatchewan.

The 30-year-old halfback from New Westminster, B.C., posted a single-game high of 208 rushing yards in Winnipeg. Cornish would vault past six players on the CFL's all-time list with 118 on Saturday.

"I want to play the whole game," Cornish said. "Somebody said I wanted 23 yards and wanted out. That's not exactly accurate. I want 23 yards absolutely (to) get to a thousand, but I also want more.

"Personally, I wouldn't mind having another good game, contributing to the team's success. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I just want to be the best player I can be on a per-play basis."

Hufnagel indicated he'd like to work non-starters into Saturday's game, but the score will likely dictate personnel moves on either side.

The Blue Bombers opened the season 5-1, but a 1-10 tailspin dropped them from playoff contention. Drew Willy was sacked 10 times in last week's 28-23 loss to the Lions, which brought Winnipeg's sacks allowed to a league-worst 70 this season.

"Drew's starting and we'll go with the flow of the game," Winnipeg coach Mike O'Shea said. "There's not a set play count for Drew. We're going to try to win this game and that decision to switch out Drew later could happen or maybe not.

"There's still a lot to play for. It's not about warning them of jobs. It's about getting some pride back and building something, doing something we can carry through the off-season, that we can use when we start training camp next year. We need to win this game. We need to win this for a lot of reasons."

In his first full season as a starter, the only game the 27-year-old Willy missed was against the Stampeders because of a hand injury. Willy ranks second in passing yards with 3,747 behind Ray at 4,386.

"For us, why not pull out everything we have?" the Blue Bomber quarterback asked. "Whether it's game planning or just doing every thing we can to win this game, there's no tomorrow really for this year until next season really so let's go out there and give everything we have."

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