NEWS
10/28/2015 18:34 EDT | Updated 10/28/2016 01:12 EDT

After up and down season, B.C. Lions find their running game at the right time

SURREY, B.C. — After an especially poor rushing performance earlier this season, B.C. Lions centre Jason Foster personally apologized to running back Andrew Harris.

As the leader of the offensive line, Foster took full responsibility and promised to do everything in his power to get things right.

"It was terrible, it was pathetic, it was embarrassing, and it starts with me," Foster said after Wednesday's rain-soaked practice. "I told him: 'Andrew, I'm sorry. That will never happen again.'"

Harris rushed for just two yards in an overtime loss to the Edmonton Eskimos on Oct. 17 before the Lions put it all together on the ground in last week's 40-13 thumping of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, especially late. Harris ran 16 times for 119 yards, including 82 yards in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.

"Any time you don't get touched for five, six yards and you're able to make someone miss in the open field like we did on a couple of those runs, it definitely makes things a lot easier for a running back," said Harris.

B.C. had surrendered fourth-quarter leads in consecutive losses prior to the Hamilton game, and up 27-13 in the fourth against the Tiger-Cats, Foster brought the offensive line together for a pep talk.

"We knew we had games in the past where we blew it in the fourth quarter and we didn't run the ball efficiently or effectively," said Foster, a native of East Pittsford, Vt., in his first CFL season. "We came to the sideline after a three-and-out and said: 'We've been here before and we know what's happened. If we're going to win this game it's going to be on us.'"

B.C. promptly put together a long drive that culminated in Harris' 15-yard touchdown before he added another one late.

"It's all about will — taking your guy and moving him off the ball. If we do that we're going to be successful," said Foster. "I'm really happy that (offensive co-ordinator George Cortez) believed in us and we kept running the ball."

Harris has had rushing totals of 119, 118, 117, 100 and 94 yards for the Lions this season, but has also been stopped in his tracks with totals of two, three and 10. Despite the up-and-down year, Harris leads the CFL in rushing with 987 yards, 161 more than Jerome Messam, who was recently traded from the Saskatchewan Roughriders to the Calgary Stampeders. 

"Any player that wants to be an impact player wants to be involved in the offence," said Harris, a Winnipeg product looking for his first rushing title. "I'm definitely that. Being involved is huge for me, and being a rhythm player like I am, you start making plays and make good things happen."

The Lions' offensive line, which has also allowed the league's fewest sacks, will be looking to keep the running game going when the they visit the Toronto Argonauts on Friday.

B.C. (6-10) is in a battle with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (5-12) and the Montreal Alouettes (6-10) — by way of the crossover rule — for the final playoff spot in the West Division and knows that if the club makes make the post-season the ground attack will be critical, especially in a first-round matchup against the either the Edmonton Eskimos or Calgary Stampeders.

"I'm not familiar with the weather in Alberta in November, but I'm assuming it's going to be snow or rain or something like that," said Foster. "Obviously running the ball is going to be huge in situations like that.

"I think last week really just showed that if we put our minds together as a whole unit, five strong, we can be a pretty good offensive line."

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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press