Calgary, AB (Sports Network) - Despite having an impressive 12-6 record during the regular season, the Calgary Stampeders still find themselves setting up for the first round of the CFL playoffs on Sunday afternoon as they host the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West Division Semifinals at McMahon Stadium.
The Stamps started off the campaign a bit sluggish with a 2-3 mark through five games, but down the stretch they turned it on by posting four straight wins and five in the last six contests in order to secure the second-best overall record in the league.
But as well as the regular season finished out, there's actually a bit of controversy brewing in Alberta with the announcement on Tuesday that Drew Tate was getting the starting nod at quarterback over Kevin Glenn. Tate was used rather sparingly this season due to a shoulder injury and finished with just 46 completed passes for 570 yards and four touchdowns, but he was also intercepted three times.
For his career, the Iowa product has thrown for a total of 2,515 yards and 19 majors, numbers that are dwarfed by Glenn in this season alone as he ranked fourth in the league in passing yards (4,220) and was also fourth with 25 TDs. Perhaps the fact that Glenn tossed 16 interceptions had something to do with the decision to go with Tate, but still the Roughriders have to be aware that Glenn is lurking on the sidelines and is ready to pounce once Tate makes his first mistake.
Whomever is handling the quarterback duties for the Stampeders, they still have the luxury of having Jon Cornish setting up behind them in the backfield, ready to thrash the Saskatchewan defense when given the chance. Cornish, who was recently named the top Canadian of the month in the CFL, bulled his way to 1,457 rushing yards in order to set a new, single-season rushing record for a Canadian, a mark which had stood for more than half a century.
The league's overall rushing leader, the first Canadian to hold that post in more than two decades, Cornish averaged 5.6 yards per attempt and scored 11 touchdowns on the ground to tie for the league lead with Saskatchewan's Kory Sheets who finished second in the league with 1,277 rushing yards. Cornish was also second in the CFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,795, just 35 yards behind the top performer.
As for the Roughriders, twice this season they had losing streaks of at least four games, the latest run of futility coming in the final month of play heading into the postseason. Just 3-6 on the road in 2012, Saskatchewan is going up against a Calgary squad that has won five in a row at home, which means the odds continue to mount against the Riders.
Last week, with their postseason ticket already punched, the Roughriders elected to hold Darian Durant out versus British Columbia in order to give him some rest and instead gave Drew Willy just his second career start. Willy hit on 8-of-12 passes for 67 yards, was sacked two times and intercepted once by the Lions in what turned into a 17-6 loss. Backup signal-caller JT O'Sullivan wasn't very impressive as he converted just 9-of-14 passes for 83 yards and was sacked once, but the main goal was to get through the game without any major problems.
Honestly, last week's outing was nothing more than a glorified scrimmage for both sides, opting to keep their precious starting quarterbacks out of harm's way as best they could. Saskatchewan finished with a mere 254 yards of total offense and was hit with eight penalties for a loss of 80 yards along the way.
Head coach Corey Chamblin used the "exhibition" game as a tool to evaluate some of his key personnel so that he could make adjustments on the roster and depth chart for the Roughriders moving forward. On a positive note, Saskatchewan is hoping that history might have some influence on the team's efforts in the postseason because in both 1989 and 2007 the club lost the regular-season finale, only to move on and claim the Grey Cup both times.
These two teams met three times during the regular season, with Calgary winning two of those contests. However, the most recent encounter in late September went in favor of the Riders, 30-25, as host Saskatchewan scored 17 points in the third quarter in order to secure the triumph. In that outing Durant threw for a pair of scores and backup signal-caller Willy tallied a TD on the ground for the victors.
The winner of this matchup will then begin to prepare for the West Division Finals against British Columbia next weekend, with the winner of that contest moving on to the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto in a couple of weeks.
11/07 11:59:11 ET