CALGARY — Running back Avon Cobourne admits it gets frustrating sometimes waiting to get the ball on a team that likes to pass.
But what is Cobourne to do on a Montreal Alouettes team that went 15-3 this season and is going into the Grey Cup game on Sunday as the favourite to beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders?
“It takes a lot of patience,” the 30-year-old said this week. “It’s not being selfish, but I feel like I can contribute.
“We’re blowing teams out and we’re not running the ball and it’s like, ‘I want to contribute too.’ But I have to swallow that sometimes because we’re winning, even though I’d love to have a couple of carries. It’s tough sometimes.”
It’s not like Cobourne didn’t get the ball this season. His 224 carries, despite missing two games, was third highest in the league, and his league-leading 15 touchdowns included 13 along the ground. That helped Cobourne earn a spot on the CFL all-star team for the first time.
And the five-foot-eight native of Camden, N.J., may see the ball a lot on Sunday, if his performance against Saskatchewan in the regular season is anything to go on.
In a 43-10 win in Regina on July 18, Cobourne ran a season-high 25 times for 145 yards and two TDs, while in a far more closely contested 34-25 win in Montreal on Aug. 21, he had 101 yards on 19 carries. So half of his 100-yard games this season were against the ’Riders, whose defence was seventh out of eight teams in defence against the run.
“The coach gave me opportunities in those games, that’s the key,”he said. “It wasn’t pass first in those games for whatever reason.
“Going in, the game plans were business as usual, pass first and run it when you can. But he just called my number a lot more in those games.”
Cobourne gained 64 yards on 13 carries in Montreal’s blowout 56-18 win over the B.C. Lions in the East Division final and may have had more had he not been substituted in the fourth quarter.
“That’s just the competitor in me wanting to make plays, but I’ve realized that as long as we’re winning, it doesn’t matter how many plays you make,” he said. “That cup is what it’s all about.
“It’s not about running the ball, it’s getting that Cup and drinking out of it.”
The Alouettes are in the Grey Cup game for the seventh time since 2000, but have only one victory in that span in 2002 and have lost in their last four appearances, including a loss at home last year to Calgary.
In that game, the Stampeders frustrated Montreal by having their pass rushers leap up and block Anthony Calvillo’s throws on key plays, but Cobourne says that won’t be repeated by the ’Riders on Sunday.
“I had one batted down and my guy did it,” he said. “If I’d held my guy, we could have moved the chains. Our guys were wide open, but they’d come up, stop and jump. I had to attack. Our first game against Calgary this year, they tried the same thing and I was chopping them down.”