VANCOUVER -- Henry Burris was a pricey free-agent acquisition, no doubt, and the Calgary Stampeders quarterback had to earn his money last night in a 32-16 pre-season loss to the B.C. Lions.
Burris completed 14 of 24 passes for 218 yards and one touchdown in 45 minutes of work, despite spotty pass protection that had the fleet-footed pivot on the run most of the contest.
The former Roughrider expressed mixed emotions after the game.
"We had our highs and lows tonight," Burris said.
"Penalties killed us but we moved the ball effectively. We made mistakes. We'll correct them and get it right. We definitely felt a lot of progress."
Both squads played their starters for most of the first half, which ended with the Lions holding a slim 17-16 lead.
That's what Stampeders coach Tom Higgins focused on after the contest.
"I liked how we played, how we kept it close in the first half," he said.
"In the second half, their second (stringers) played better than our seconds."
Burris looked poised scrambling out of the pocket, buying precious time while searching for receivers downfield, or taking off on his own to pick up a few yards.
Jeremaine Copeland was Burris's favourite receiver, catching three passes for 88 yards in the opening half, including a 50-yard TD toss.
Those are the sort of big plays Copeland said he expects to make in the regular season.
"We had a few mistakes that we can take out and we can be a pretty good football club this season," said Copeland, a former Montreal Alouettes standout who signed with Calgary in the off-season.
"We could be a high-powered offence this year once we get people where we want them to be and we get on the same page."
Indeed, Burris watched Copeland, Nik Lewis and MarTay Jenkins all drop catchable passes, although Jenkins may have won the team's final import receiver spot.
Lions starter Dave Dickenson was more impressive, completing 22 of 27 passes for 311 yards through three quarters while guiding the defending West Division champions.
Dickenson wasted no time getting on the scoreboard, using just two plays before hitting Geroy Simon with a 43-yard TD toss on the team's first possession.
Burris answered with a TD pass to Copeland in the team's opening drive.
The Stampeders defence also had their hands full stopping the strong running attack of Antonio Warren, who rushed for 30 yards on three carries in the opening half.
Warren scored on a three-yard plunge in the third quarter as B.C. opened a 24-16 lead.
Warren's success frustrated Higgins.
"That's an opportunity for us to get back to work," Higgins said. "An area of disappointment was how poorly we tackled."
The Lions end the pre-season 2-0, while the Stamps finish 1-1. Calgary has a first-week bye and will begin the 2005 regular season July 1 when they host the defending Grey Cup champions, the Toronto Argonauts.