For the B.C. Lions it's like climbing into the ring with a boxer that can sting you with a sharp jab, then put you on the canvas with a vicious right hook.
The Calgary Stampeders will bring their combination punch of explosive running back Jon Cornish and bulldozer slotback Nik Lewis into BC Place when they face the Lions in a CFL West Division showdown Saturday night.
"They are a one-two punch," said B.C. defensive halfback Ryan Phillips. "If they both get going Calgary has one of the most explosive offences in the league.
"If those two are hitting on all cylinders their offence is almost unstoppable."
Cornish was named the CFL's offensive player of the week and top Canadian after rushing for 175 yards and four touchdowns on 16 carries in the Stampeders' 42-27 win over the previously unbeaten Saskatchewan Roughriders last week. Cornish also added three catches for 20 yards.
Lewis further bruised the Riders with seven catches for 96 yards. In the fourth quarter he made three consecutive catches for 55 yards, one a 25-yard grab where he swatted away a pair of defenders and rumbled into the end zone for a touchdown.
Cornish, the six-foot, 205-pound New Westminster, B.C. native, was named the CFL's top Canadian last year after leading the league in rushing with 1,457 yards.
"What's important for us is to match their intensity each play at a time. We can't over look any one play or any one series because we know they are going to keep doing what they are doing by running the ball."
- BC Lions DL Keron Williams on stopping the Calgary Stampeders running game on Saturday.
So far this year he is second in the rushing race with 676 yards on 93 carries. His average of 7.3 yards a carry is almost one yard better than league rushing leader Kory Sheets of Saskatchewan.
Lewis is eighth among receivers with 381 yards on 31 catches.
Cornish combines brute strength with patience. He can plow through a hole, or bide his time then sprint for an opening.
Lions' defensive end Keron Williams said Cornish's power makes him difficult to bring down.
"On contact he keeps his feet turning," said Williams.
"You think you have a tackle so you stop your feet. His feet are moving, he's actually getting away from you. That creates the separation he needs to break out of the tackle."
Lewis is a sure-handed receiver with a motor that never stops. At five-foot-10 and 205 pounds he's like a rock rolling down a hill once he catches the ball.
"You can't let Nik make a statement early," said Phillips. "He plays with a lot of emotion and is relentless.
"You can't allow him to bring his aggression into the play where he's getting the best of you. If he gets in rhythm early, and gets the crowd into it, the rest of the offence draws from his enthusiasm."
The Lions have something to prove against the Stampeders and also to themselves.
B.C. has lost their last three games against Calgary, including a 34-29 defeat in last year's Western Final. In that game Cornish had 112 rushing yards on 18 carries.
Quarterback Travis Lulay said the playoff loss still bothers many Lions.
"It's safe to say we don't forget that," said Lulay. "If you dwell on stuff like that it can force you to do some things that would take you out of what you need to do win the football game."
Calgary opened the season with a 44-32 win over B.C. Cornish rushed for 172 yards and two touchdowns while Lewis had four catches for 56 yards.
The Stampeders come to Vancouver leading the league in average time of possession (32 minutes, 52 seconds), and are second in points scored (204) and net rushing (878).
The Lions defence leads the CFL in giving up an average 282 offensive yards a game, is third in average points per game (23.7), but is fifth in allowing an average 105.7 rushing yards a game.
B.C. also has stopped Cornish in the past. In a 34-8 win over Calgary last July, Cornish had just six carries for -1 yards.
"What's important for us is to match their intensity each play at a time," said Williams. "We can't over look any one play or any one series because we know they are going to keep doing what they are doing by running the ball."
Phillips said the Lions defence must go toe-to-toe with Calgary's offensive line.
"You have to be the more aggressive team," he said. "You have to create a new line of scrimmage and make sure they are not able to make blocks down field."
As for Lewis, Phillips said he's like a bull. Corral him early and he loses his effectiveness.
"You have to eliminate him early by being aggressive with him and let him know it's going to be a long game, a battle for the rest of the game," he said.
A win would not only put the Lions back into the hunt for first place in the West, it would help erase some doubts about their record. Three of the Lions' four wins have come against Edmonton and Winnipeg.
"Frankly, the last couple of times we played them, they had our number," said Lulay. "This is, at this point of the season, a great measuring stick for us, seeing where we are at and becoming the team we want to be.
"We're confident we can win this football but we have to play 60 minutes to do it. When we play Calgary we know we are in a dog fight."