Some nerves

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

As someone who quarterbacked a team to the Rose Bowl, Jason Gesser had obviously played in high-pressure situations.

So starting his first CFL game against the last-place Hamilton Tiger-Cats should be a breeze.

Not exactly.

With his professional life essentially on the line, Gesser couldn't help but be overly nervous Saturday when the Calgary Stampeders beat the Tiger-Cats 39-17 at a packed Ivory Wynne Stadium.

It showed in his play during the opening two quarters. Gesser went 2-of-12 passing for 22 yards in the first half as the Stamps gained only 43 in net offence.

He recovered nicely thanks to votes of confidence from teammates in the locker-room at halftime and threw three second-half touchdowns.

So Henry Burris' thumb injury may be a blessing in disguise for the Stampeders.

Gesser gets to ease into three straight home games over the next month -- against Ottawa, Montreal and Hamilton -- where he could really find a groove.

By the time Burris returns from injury, the club could have two proven quarterbacks instead of just one, which is a valuable commodity in the CFL.

Head coach Tom Higgins can also breath a sigh of relief after watching Gesser turn it around. He stuck with his starter through some rough play and the pivot will be the better for it in the long run.

"I would like to take credit for (the turnaround) or credit the coaching staff but it was one of those things where halftime was good for him," Higgins said.

The turning point in the game and possibly the team's season came in the middle of the third quarter Saturday.

Gesser dumped the ball over the middle to receiver Nik Lewis, who then made a couple of moves to get down the sidelines and score a 43-yard TD.

Suddenly, the quarterback was able to put 30-plus minutes of ugly football behind him.

The question now becomes is all the rust of two years without competitive action completely gone?

Gesser doesn't remember a game in which he ever threw four picks and he certainly has never had a contest where his team turned the ball over four times and still blasted an opponent.

None of that matters, though, because the opening-start anxiety is out of the way and a win was the result.

He can focus on his second start, followed by a third and fourth and fifth. And he does it feeling much better about his ability on the field.

"Once you get those little plays out the way, you get confidence in yourself," Gesser said. "You say, 'Hey, I remember how to do this. It's been a while.' I had to get into a rhythm and when you're a quarterback, you have to find a rhythm or you're out of luck. I had none in the first half."


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