The quarterbacking controversy in Calgary continues.
Stampeder head coach John Hufnagel confirmed Drew Tate has earned another start after engineering a 25-13 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday.
“I thought he played well and managed the game, especially the first half,” Hufangel said. “I thought he had an exceptional first half.”
For the first time since July 1, 2005, Henry Burris didn't start a game for the Stampeders for reasons other than injury or resting for the playoffs. The sight of the CFL's Most Outstanding Player last season bundled in a jacket on the sidelines was unusual.
Tate threw for 251 yards, including 213 in the first half, and one touchdown in his first career CFL start. He was intercepted twice in second half, but Hufnagel faulted him only for the second pick which occurred in the fourth quarter.
The Stampeders (9-7) had already clinched a playoff berth in the West Division, but the win kept their hopes of a post-season game at home alive.
“It was a much-needed victory,” Hufnagel said. “(Tate) was under pressure. I mean, (it was) his first start. I thought it was a very well-played game at the quarterback position, except really that one mistake.”
Saskatchewan (4-12) was already eliminated from contention and suffered its fifth loss in a row.
Landan Talley, Romby Bryant and Jon Cornish scored touchdowns for the hosts, while kicker Rene Paredes made one of two field-goal attempts. Cornish ran for 92 yards on the night.
Quarterback Darian Durant ran for Saskatchewan's lone touchdown. Kicker Chris Milo made both field goals.
Earlier Friday, the Edmonton Eskimos improved to 10-6 with a 31-24 win over the host Toronto Argonauts (4-12).
Tate gave 10 different receivers touches and finished 23-for-32 in passing. He did his best work in the first half, going 16-for-20 for the 213 yards and the touchdown throw, compared to 9-for-12 and 84 yards by Durant.
The highlight of Tate's night was scrambling away from Roughrider defensive end Kenny Rowe and getting a 13-yard strike away to Talley in the end zone at 10:54 of the second quarter. Tate pumped his fists in celebration after the play which gave the hosts a 14-10 lead.
“Without a question, I was excited about that play,” Tate said. “I just wanted to keep putting it on them and keep putting the gas pedal down.”
Durant played three quarters despite a broken bone in his foot hampering his mobility. He left the game early in the fourth quarter after he was sacked by Demetrice Morley and required assistance off the field.
“I was upset that he got hit,” Saskatchewan head coach Ken Miller said. “I was upset that I called the play that got him hit. I was pretty sure it was not a serious hit. He has assured me he feels really well.”
Said Durant: I'm OK, so you can let ‘Rider Nation know that too.“
Durant was 20-for-30 in passing for 209 yards and he was intercepted once. His scoring run in the second quarter was the lone bright spot for the Roughriders as it was their first touchdown since Sept. 17. His replacement Ryan Dinwiddie was 5-for-11 and 80 yards.
Calgary's final two games of the regular season are next week in Montreal and Nov. 5 at home versus Winnipeg. In announcing a change at quarterback earlier in the week, Hufnagel said Burris, 36, played “hesitant” in the team's seven previous games.
The franchise leader in passing yards, who led Calgary to a Grey Cup title in 2008, awaits the opportunity to show he can still take his team deep into the post-season.
“You guys can fill in the blanks,” Burris told reporters after the game. “But I'm a team guy. I'm ready to go. I shouldn't have to be in that position to watch, but it was a decision that was made and I'm going to go with it. I'm ready to go as always.”
With the Roughriders eliminated from playoff contention, the green-clad contingent which normally swells attendance at McMahon was depleted at 29,698.
Both football teams were decked out in pink accessories — chin guards, skull caps, wristbands, gloves and ankle tape — to promote PinkPower, a fundraising campaign for womens' cancers.
Tate had made 155 pass attempts in the CFL without an interception until the third quarter. Nick Graham's pick gave Saskatchewan the ball at the 46-yard line.
But on the following drive, an under-pressure Durant coughed up the ball to defensive lineman Charleston Hughes, who chugged 67 yards before he was tackled on Saskatchewan's doorstep by Freddie Barnes. Cornish finished with a five-yard run at 9:20 to pad Calgary's lead to 24-13.
Defensive tackle Devone Claybrooks mock-interviewed Hughes after the game and questioned his teammate about not getting the ball into the end zone. Hughes said he didn't think anyone was chasing him because he saw safety Eric Frazier throw his finger into the air in triumph after blocking for him.
“I thought I was free and I thought I could slow down and just walk into the end zone, not knowing somebody to my right was chasing after me,” Hughes said.
Milo was successful from 32 yards at 6:04 of the third quarter, but the Stamps still led 17-13.
An unnecessary roughness penalty by Saskatchewan's Tearrius George with two seconds remaining in the half put Calgary in field-goal position. Paredes's 37-yarder gave the hosts a 17-10 cushion at the half.
Saskatchewan ended their run of touchdown-free football at 6:30 of the second quarter to make it 10-7 for the visitors. Durant ran the ball in himself from five yards out. Saskatchewan's 286.22 minutes without an offensive touchdown surpassed the previous record of 266.48 set in 1979.
“The fact that we got a touchdown, it was a good thing,” Miller said. “We had opportunities to get about three or four more and we did not. That's more troubling than any stretch they went without one.”
Tate engineered Calgary's opening scoring drive at 1:03. He distributed the ball in the air and on the ground on a nine-play, 80-yard effort. Bryant, a wide receiver, capped it with a rare rushing four-yard major.
Saskatchewan led 3-0 heading into the second quarter on a 25-yard field goal by Milo.
Saskatchewan ends their season against Hamilton and Edmonton respectively.
Notes: Saskatchewan slotback Andy Fantuz didn't make the trip to Calgary due to an ankle injury he suffered last week against B.C. . . . The Roughriders' woes against West Division opponents this season continued as they are 0-9 . . . Calgary's all-time leading rusher Joffrey Reynolds was inserted back into the lineup after three games as a healthy scratch. He had 18 yards on four carries.