Two quarterbacks with something to prove for the playoffs spurred the Calgary Stampeders to a 41-21 win over the B.C. Lions on Friday.
The result meant nothing in the CFL standings. Both clubs went into the game knowing their immediate playoff fate.
The Lions (12-5) had already secured first place and the Stampeders (11-6) second in the CFL’s West Division with wins the previous week.
The Stampeders host the division semifinal Nov. 11 at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium with their opponent yet to be determined.
The semifinal victor heads to Vancouver to face the Lions in the West final Nov. 18.
So the plot of this no-stakes games was how Stampeders quarterback Drew Tate would fare in his first game back from shoulder surgery in July and how head coach John Hufnagel would deploy his quarterbacks Tate and Kevin Glenn.
“I thought I did a splendid job,” joked Hufnagel before continuing: “They both moved the football, they both made some plays to put the football in the end zone, so I was pleased. We have another game to evaluate things and get both of them more playing time.”
Glenn completed 10 of 17 pass attempts for 173 yards - giving him 4,000 passing yards for the season - and threw for a touchdown. Tate was 5-for-7 for 68 yards and a touchdown pass. He was intercepted once.
Glenn started all 14 games in Tate’s absence and had won seven of his previous nine heading into Friday. Tate, who wrestled Calgary’s starting job from Henry Burris late last season, dislocated his shoulder in the second game of the season.
His return to action sooner than anticipated presents the possibility that Hufnagel could have two quality quarterbacks ready for the playoffs, if Tate can shake off his game rust.
“It’s all about reps and looks and stuff like that and you get more comfortable in what you’re seeing and what you’re doing,” Tate said. “I think it was a good start to what we’re trying to get accomplished in the playoffs.”
Glenn downplayed internal competition between himself and Tate, saying the quarterback has to perform regardless of the situation.
“We’re both competitors by nature,” Glenn said. “That’s why we play this game. We both want to do well when we get out there. Every game, in our profession, we have to strive because if we go out and play bad, we might not have a job the next day.”
On the other side of the field, Lions backup Mike Reilly got his second career CFL start in Travis Lulay’s absence. Lulay has a sore shoulder and playing him Friday gained B.C. nothing, so the Lions rested him.
Reilly was 19-for-26 in passing for 261 yards and two touchdown passes, but he was sacked eight times. With almost a month until their next meaningful game, B.C. didn’t show any intensity until late in the second quarter.
With Glenn and then Tate taking the ball, Calgary’s offence wasn’t sitting back. The Stampeders built a 34-0 lead by early in the second quarter before the Lions responded.
Malik Jackson, Maurice Price, Nik Lewis and Corey Mace scored touchdowns for the hosts in front of an announced crowd of 27,014. Lewis reached 100 receptions and 10 touchdown catches for the season, which are career highs for the slotback.
Calgary defensive end Anwar Stewart had a big night with four of Calgary’s eight sacks, as well as a pass knockdown in the Lions’ red zone. Stampeder kicker Rene Paredes contributed four field goals in the win, which was Calgary’s first this season against the Lions after a pair of losses.
With 86 yards on the ground Friday, Calgary’s Jon Cornish is 49 away from Norm Kwong’s record for the most rushing yards in a single season by a Canadian running back (1,437).
B.C.’s Geroy Simon had a touchdown catch for the Lions in his first game back after sitting out three with a hamstring injury. Tim Brown ran a punt return back 55 yards for a major and Akeen Foster had a scoring catch for the Lions.
Reilly was sacked four times and completed just 60 per cent of his passes in the first half. But his touchdowns throws of three and eight yards to Foster and Simon respectively over the last three minutes of the half breathed life back into the Lions.
Brown’s punt runback for a major at 12:59 of the third quarter further ate into Calgary’s lead, but Paredes field goals from 37 and 46 yards in the fourth kept the hosts comfortably ahead.
“That first quarter was just a disaster,” Lions coach Mike Benevides said. “We were terrible. That was embarrassing, but Mike did some get rhythm for our team. As we went into the second quarter things were going better for us. The two touchdowns gave us tremendous momentum to halftime, but when we came out in the third quarter, with the wind, we just didn’t get anything done.
“If we could have got another score it would have given us a chance. That team was way better than us today and that first quarter was terrible.”
On a frightening play in the fourth quarter, Price slid head-first into the sideline heater on B.C.’s side of the field when pushed out of bounds by Byron Parker.
Price was able to walk to Calgary’s training facilities for treatment and left the game with over 100 receiving yards for the first time in his career.
“Mo, his neck is a little sore right now,” Hufnagel said. “He’s being evaluated. I don’t think anything is serious.”
A Paredes field goal from 22 yards at 8:13 of the second quarter, plus Calgary third-stringer Bo Levi Mitchell’s toss to Mace in the end zone at 1:43 padded Calgary’s early lead.
The Stamps were up 24-0 within 10 minutes of the opening kickoff on majors from Price, Jackson and Lewis. Glenn had the ball for Calgary’s first two drives of the game and Stamps were already up 17-0 when Tate got in.
His first series since July 7 was an adventure. Tate was picked off by B.C.’s Ryan Phillips, but got the ball back when teammate Dimitri Tsoumpas recovered Phillips’s fumble on the same play. Tate promptly threw the ball to Lewis for a 44-yard touchdown at the nine-minute mark.
Price ran a lateral pass from Glenn 53 yards to score at 5:10.
On B.C.’s first possession, Malik Jackson sacked Reilly, knocked the ball loose and fell on it in the end zone to score at 3:14. Paredes was good from 46 yards out on Calgary’s opening drive, engineered by Glenn.
It was the second wintry game for the Stampeders at McMahon in as many weeks with a temperature of minus-7 at game time. Snow flurries ceased prior to game, so crews were able to clear the field and some seats.
“I think the weather was something that they didn’t want to play in,” Glenn said of the Lions.
Calgary’s concludes the regular season Friday in Edmonton after posting a 7-2 record at McMahon this season. The Lions close out against Saskatchewan next Saturday.