Yard by yard Mike Pringle dug in for the chance to seize George Reeds record, hit by hit the Calgary Stampeders defence made his job harder and harder.
In an otherwise brutal football game (for a Calgary fans standpoint anyway) the story of Pringle was all that mattered after the second quarter. The Edmonton Eskimos ran all over the Calgary Stampeders on Friday night at Commonwealth stadium. With over 50,000 on hand expecting to witness history, the Esks controlled the flow of the game and the scoreboard for all four quarters.
Once again it was the Calgary offence that had its troubles putting points on the board, giving up the ball on key plays to assist the Eskimos in pounding out 44 points by the end of the game. Marcus Crandell would have been wise to have been watching the TSN broadcast at the end of the second quarter, while panning across the Edmonton sideline the microphones picked up the Edmonton defence suggesting that Crandell not try side of the field patrolled by Malcolm Frank. It would have been the kind of advice that the Calgary coaches may have wished they had provided, the Edmonton cornerback controlled his side of the field nicely denying many Stampeder attempts and running back an interception for a touchdown, the fourth of his six picks this season he’s returned for a TD.
More mistakes from the Calgary offence and some brutal plays by the special teams dealt the Stamps the killing blow, as they gave up too many points related to turnovers. By the half the Eskies were firmly in control with a 21-3 lead, from there they would eventually build on that to a 44-12 final.
But while the crowd was happy with another win, they were there to see some history and on this Friday they would be denied their chance to say “I was there when…..” The Calgary defence which is the only bright spot on an otherwise woeful looking team, seemed to take the assault on George Reeds rushing record personally. The Stamps stacked the line and held Mike Pringle to 114 yards, two shy from claiming the rushing record as his own. It was if the Stampeder defence had decided to say “not on our watch” much to the disappointment of the assembled thousands at the stadium.
Linebacker Joe Fleming time and time again was in the face of Pringle denying him his grasp on history on this Friday night. Fleming, who had three personal tackles on Pringle, took the teams stand as a moral victory. And for him and his defensive team mates it was truly an impressive stand. The final stages of the fourth quarter were the most bizarre of any CFL game in a long time. The Stamps desperate to keep the ball from Pringle’s hands would take many 3rd and short attempts, to keep drives alive and eat up the clock.
Yet to the very end Pringle had a chance to launch the big celebration, by the three minute warning he seemed to be on his way to setting the new record, only to wind up losing yardage on consecutive carries. Pringle received on final shot at the record with two seconds left on the clock. Needing but one yard he was stopped one yard behind the line of scrimmage. That final stand by Calgary leaves him two yards short for the record, and sends the CFL back to the travel agents to book a flight to Vancouver for George Reed.
The travelling record watch will move to BC Place next Saturday night, when the Eskimos take on the Lions. Mercifully for all concerned on the Eskimo team, the record should fall with the first set of downs next week, giving an old number 34 the chance to pass the torch to the latest number 34 to set the CFL abuzz.