Turning to Tate right call

Stampeders quarterback Drew Tate practises at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Alta., Oct. 17, 2011....

Stampeders quarterback Drew Tate practises at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Alta., Oct. 17, 2011. (STUART DRYDEN/QMI Agency)

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:22 AM ET

CALGARY - Through 15 games, the Calgary Stampeders have had moments of brilliance and other times when you just smack your head watching them implode.

That was when Henry Burris was the quarterback and the undisputed leader of the offence.

Now what are they?

With Drew Tate behind centre starting Friday against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the Stamps bring an entirely new dimension to the field.

The change alone makes them a wildcard heading into the CFL post-season.

And with Tate as the quarterback instead of Burris, and Jon Cornish as the starting running back instead of Joffrey Reynolds, the future is now for the Stampeders.

Don’t believe for one second the 8-7 team is giving up on this season and the chances of hoisting the Grey Cup in Vancouver.

By taking the drastic move of first benching Reynolds and now Burris — the face of the franchise since 2005 — GM-head coach John Hufnagel is focused on fixing his team fast.

Sure, Tate doesn’t have the rifle for an arm that Burris possesses, but in limited action, the Iowa product does have something the former Temple star never did: Ball protection.

In 135 career CFL passes, Tate has never thrown an interception. So while Tate may not have the ability throw a 70-yard bomb, the 27-year-old won’t hurt his team with turnovers the way Burris does when he tries to force the issue.

“We’re not going to win a lot of games when we’re not tight with the ball,” said offensive co-ordinator Dave Dickenson. “We need good ball security, and Drew has shown he’s more careful with the ball. He’s produced it, and it’s time.”

When Hufnagel made the move to take Reynolds out a month ago, the decision was made because Cornish could do more than the veteran could.

Once given the job after a long apprenticeship, Cornish flourished, showing off the skills that made him a star at Kansas University.

The Canadian tailback has 410 yards in four games, which would have him on pace for a massive season had he’d been given the ball sooner.

The same thing could happen with Tate, who will basically dictate if Burris ever comes back.

A week ago, Burris tried to rally his troops and get things straightened out by calling a team meeting after practice. He didn’t manage to get himself straightened out, and the first half he played Friday against the Toronto Argonauts was one of his worst in his career.

Last year, when Burris was the CFL’s most outstanding player, seems like a long time ago.

“This year, for some reason, it turned sideways for the last little bit,” Dickenson said. “It’s a team effort, and Henry knows that, but the quarterback gets all the credit when we win and most of the blame when we lose.

“Just be a man about it. Drew is ready to go. Henry needs to be ready for his opportunity. You need to be a positive influence. Life is too short be negative, and Henry’s not going to do that. It’s a hard position. We have a lot of talent at quarterback regardless of who’s starting and who’s playing.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca


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