In one corner heading into Sunday night's Canada Day CFL action, you had the man who led the league in passing yards last season and is the CFL's career passing leader, a man coming off a most outstanding player-calibre year, a man with three Grey Cup rings and a man who threw for 513 yards in his last competitive game. In the other corner, you had the league's youngest starting quarterback, a man who'd only previously started four non-preseason CFL games, completed just five of 10 passes for just 99 yards with a bad fumble and a bad interception in his last competitive start and was replaced by a man soon headed out of town. Sure, there were some reasons to believe that Iowa product Drew Tate might turn into a solid starting quarterback for Calgary as early as this year, but having him go head-to-head with Montreal star Anthony Calvillo, emerge with a 38-10 victory and record a much better quarterbacking performance in the first week of the 2012 season? That was much tougher to see coming.
Nik Lewis jumps over Michael Carter for a Calgary touchdown Sunday.Of course, Tate's performance wasn't without warts. He threw two interceptions, one of which was a particularly bad decision (a short pass over the middle that went right to Montreal defensive back Dwight Anderson, a former Stampeder), and he occasionally looked like the relatively young (27-year-old) player he is. He also got plenty of help; Canadian running back Jon Cornish rumbled for 86 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries (a respectable 4.8 yards per carry average), Nik Lewis made some spectacular plays, finishing with 12 catches for 105 yards and vaulting Montreal's Michael Carter for a touchdown in the play seen at right, the Calgary offensive line gave Tate great protection for most of the night and the Stampeders' defence made several big plays. Still, Tate completed 25 of 35 pass attempts (71.4 per cent) for 299 yards and a touchdown and ran twice for 18 yards; that's a pretty solid showing from a quarterback who's still finding his way as a CFL starter, and it really stood out in comparison to his opposite number.
For Montreal, this game footage could be titled "Anthony and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day." Sure, it wasn't all his fault; as mentioned earlier this weekend, football wins and losses are about more than just the quarterbacks, and there were plenty of other problems with the Alouettes Sunday. New coordinator Jeff Reinebold's defence gave up 18 first-quarter points and another 10 in the second quarter, and they generally looked powerless to stop Calgary in either the rushing or passing game. 2011 CFL rushing leader Brandon Whitaker was also uncharacteristically held in check on the ground, picking up just 43 yards on 11 carries (3.9 yards per carry), and the Alouettes' offensive line didn't give Calvillo a lot of time to analyze the Stampeders' defence on many plays. Still, even with all of that, Calvillo's performance was terrible, and one of the worst showings he's turned in in years; he finished with just 16 completions on 31 attempts (a 51.6 per cent completion mark) for 174 yards with a lone touchdown and two interceptions. You won't win many CFL games with a QB stat line like that.
It's important to keep in mind that this is just one game, and the first one of the season for these teams at that. No one should be saying Calvillo's done, or Tate's surpassed him, or anything of the sort just yet. It's an extremely small sample size, and shouldn't be broadly extrapolated from without great care. However, it's obvious the Stampeders showed promising signs on both offence and defence, while the Alouettes have huge question marks to address in both areas going forward. This is a massive result for Calgary, as for at least one night, the learner became the master, and Tate surpassed Calvillo. We'll see if that remains the case over the course of the season.