Sankey ready to saddle up

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

One day after landing a permanent locker in the dressing room, it appears quarterback Ben Sankey has also landed the starting gig.

That's how tenuous things are at McMahon Stadium these days.

With Henry Burris likely out at least another week, and Akili Smith essentially writing the final chapter of his career yesterday, it appears two weeks into his second tour of duty in Calgary, Sankey is now No. 1 on the depth chart by attrition.

But don't expect head coach Tom Higgins to make that declaration anytime soon.

After all, he's still smarting from a 33-21 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders yesterday that included the worst Stampeders quarterbacking performance since Troy Kopp.

In a first half that saw the Stamps pick up just two first downs, 54 yards of offence and nine penalties, forcing them to punt seven times, Smith was 4-of-12 for 42 yards before being yanked.

And given how Sankey authored faint hope of a comeback despite being just two weeks removed from the B.C. Lions practice roster, it's clear Smith's stint as starter is over. As is his career, in in all likelihood, once Burris returns.

Higgins was more diplomatic, without tipping his hand.

"There are some traits Akili has that, given enough time, you know he could do well in the CFL -- unfortunately time is not something football teams usually have a lot of," said the stunned coach, who said it would take at least a day or two to name his starter for next Sunday's game against the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

"All of a sudden, there is a doubt, and I understand why questions should be asked.

"We'll have to play it by ear and catch our breath. It's going to be one of those ongoing debates: How are we going to go? Maybe we declare, and maybe we won't, and that makes it harder for Winnipeg to prepare."

With the 'Riders now five points up on Calgary for second in the west -- and Edmonton dead to rites -- there's no point in rushing Burris and his injured shoulder back a week or two early. And Higgins knows it.

"It's a long-shot," said Higgins of a Burris return for next weekend. "But long-shots are always still possibilities."

Beating the Riders with a revamped defence and an unproven quarterback would have been a longshot, until Sankey opened the second half with a 69-yard drive that closed a 22-7 deficit to just eight points.

After a pair of Roughriders turnovers gave the 33,075 on hand the belief tides were turning, Kerry Joseph responded with an 83-yard touchdown drive to sew it up.

Defending Smith by reiterating just how hard it is to grasp the CFL game, Higgins explained why Sankey was able to make a game of it by going 19-of-25 for 262 yards, two majors and a pair of picks. And he did all with a condensed playbook.

"Ben has more CFL experience and has won more CFL games," said Higgins of the 30-year-old, who won a Grey Cup ring as Marcus Crandell's backup here in 2001.

"He understands the CFL game. It was nice to see Ben go in and start to develop a rhythm with the offence, but they had a game plan for Akili, not Ben."

Sounds a lot like someone's already decided Big Ben will be his next starting project, which means another week of closed practices and plenty of debate.

Fact is, there is no other option.

Smith was that bad.


Videos

Photos