Smith superb in debut

Stamps QB Akili Smith showed very little rust on the weekend after being away from football the...

Stamps QB Akili Smith showed very little rust on the weekend after being away from football the past few years. (Sun File/Kevin Udahl)

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:29 AM ET

Early indications are Akili Smith won't be the Calgary Stampeders Achilles heel this season.

The former first-round NFL draft pick made his CFL debut last night and, although it was only pre-season, certainly impressed with his quarter of action.

Smith started the game at quarterback with most of the first-team offence and quickly led the Stamps to 10 points on his two drives as Calgary beat the Edmonton Eskimos 28-3 at McMahon Stadium.

Showing great scrambling ability on several plays, Smith built a 17-0 lead with good game management and poise in the pocket.

Smith started his first drive by hooking up with prized free-agent Marc Boerigter on a 13-yard gain, setting up a Sandro DeAngelis field goal.

The next possession was more impressive, as Smith hit Ken-Yon Rambo on back-to-back plays to open up some field for running back Wes Cates.

Smith's outing gives the Stampeders more confidence in making him the backup to Henry Burris this season.

Although he was only 4-of-8 passing for 48 yards, he showed very little rust after being away from football the past few years.

When Smith handed the ball to Burris, the undisputed No. 1 quarterback acted exactly like he deserves to keep his job, finishing 6-of-7 passing for 72 yards.

A mistake on a punt return by rookie Keenan Howry put the Stampeders on their own one-yard line but Burris quickly moved them out of danger by hitting Rambo for a 19-yard gain.

The rest of the night belonged to veteran receiver Jeremaine Copeland, who continued his great training camp with an even better pre-season game.

He caught a bullet from Burris in the first half with a defender bearing down on him and made another catch for 30 yards before halftime.

But Copeland's best play made rookie QB Ryan Cubit's numbers look decent.

Cubit hit Copeland in stride over the middle but the receiver did most of the work, finding a seam through the defence and juking and jiving down inside the 10-yard line. All told, the play went 49 yards.

Copeland almost completed the drive with a touchdown but couldn't reach a Cubit pass in the endzone.

While Copeland had a good night, his pal Nik Lewis had an off one. Lewis had a couple passes clank off his hands early in the game but he did run in a touchdown on a brilliantly designed play.

In other positions battles, sophomore defensive lineman Miguel Robede recored a sack and a pair of tackles while putting strong pressure on the quarterback.

Rookie fullback Gerald Commissiong blasted through for his first TD in the first quarter and gained a first down on another rushing attempt.

On returns, newcomer Calvin Bannister made a few nice moves and used his considerable speed to record a 38-yard punt return, a remarkable performance for a player who had never worked on punt coverage before.

There was a scary moment in the first half when Edmonton's Brandon Guillory was taken off in an ambulance with a spinal cord contusion.


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