The man who has been the central figure in Calgary Stampeders/Saskatchewan Roughriders playoff games for the last decade thinks, this time, it’s the Stampeders’ turn.
Henry Burris, who was a big part of the Stampeders’ last four playoff losses to the Roughriders dating back to 2006, said while he thinks Kevin Glenn is the club’s true Most Outstanding Player, his former backup at quarterback, Drew Tate, will lead the Stamps to victory Sunday afternoon.
And even if Tate falters early like he did a year ago, Burris believes he should be given every opportunity to stay in the game from start to finish.
“Glenn did a masterful job, but this is Drew’s team,” Burris said from his Hamilton home, where he’ll watch the CFL game he’s so accustomed to playing in.
“Drew’s the guy, so I think you have to go with him. I don’t think the flip-flopping works at this point. If things don’t go well, you still have to use him for the whole game. For the psyche of the team, you have to let him play it out.”
It’s an interesting take from Burris, who obviously disagreed with Stamps GM/head coach John Hufnagel’s decision to hand the team over to Tate last year, relegating Burris to the sidelines and ultimately to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats via trade. What’s more, Hufnagel pulled Tate midway through last season’s West Division semifinal loss to the Edmonton Eskimos and put in Burris with hopes the then-reigning M.V.P. could overcome a 25-9 deficit.
“The difference there is that I hadn’t played effective downs in over a month,” Burris said of the move. “If there is a situation where they do make a change, at least Kevin has played every game and he’s ready to go if called on.”
Burris thinks highly of the Stampeders’ defence, suggesting Riders QB Darian Durant will have a tough time being as successful as he has been in past cold-weather games here.
“Calgary’s front four is one of the best stories in the league — they are the reason they’ve been the way they’ve been,” said Burris, whose Ticats saw first-hand how menacing the Stamps pass-rushers can be.
“The biggest factor is the defensive lines. Whoever can get the best pressure on the quarterback will make it a long day for that quarterback.”
Burris said he couldn’t disagree with Hufnagel’s decision to start Tate over Glenn because he’s unsure just how confident Tate is that his non-throwing shoulder woes are behind him.
“I still think Kevin is smoother, but Huf made a decision that Tate’s won enough to win that confidence,” said Burris, who will be opening a family restaurant in Calgary’s Royal Oak neighbourhood called The Rock next month.
“Calgary is battle-tested in this cold weather, but Tate has got to prove he’s ready to take on this weather. Saskatchewan’s front four will test him and will make it tough with that shoulder. He’s got to be careful with the football even though he’s trying to make plays.”
It’s sage advice from a man who knows better than anyone that turnovers have a long history of determining the outcome of this matchup.
Like most, Burris believes the visitors will focus heavily on limiting Jon Cornish and the Stamps’ run game, opening the door for Tate to live or die with the pass. That’s a tough assignment with just one-half of playoff experience and sub-zero temperatures in the forecast.
“Tate has to have some success early — that’s one of the big things for confidence,” said Burris, the Stamps all-time leading passer. “He needs to get in some quick throws early and get (running back Jon) Corndog (Cornish) going. There’s a lot of pressure on Tate, and there can’t be any letdowns. That first quarter will be huge.”
All that said, his prediction is simple.
“It will be a close game, but Calgary by six,” Burris said. “They’re the proven horse.”