CALGARY — Drew Tate’s athleticism and ability to extend plays under pressure were factors in John Hufnagel’s decision to name him Calgary’s starting quarterback for the CFL’s West Division semifinal.
Tate, who was sidelined for 14 games this season with a dislocated shoulder and subsequent surgery, will get the ball Sunday against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The winner advances to the West final Nov. 18 against the B.C. Lions.
“It means a lot,” Tate said Tuesday at McMahon Stadium. “For him to pretty much put the rest of the season into my hands and I haven’t been on the field as much, it does mean a lot to me honestly. With that, it’s a lot of responsibility and it’s a challenge.
“I’m accepting it and I’m going doing the best I possibly can for this team.”
Western Semi-Final Playoff Centre
The 2012 Western Semi-Final matchup is set as the Calgary Stampeders host the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Here is everything you need to know ahead of Sunday’s game.
Hufnagel, Calgary’s coach and general manager, ended speculation whether it would be Tate or Kevin Glenn taking first snaps Sunday with his announcement.
Glenn was the starting quarterback in nine Calgary wins during Tate’s absence. The Stampeders finished second in the division and the league with a 12-6 record.
“It’s not that Kevin isn’t athletic. It’s just Drew is a little bit more,” Hufnagel told a throng of reporters.
“He has the ability to extend plays. He’s done that in the game he has played. He showed that up in Edmonton. That’s one of the things that is part of his game that he brings to the table.”
Tate returned earlier than expected from his injury to play parts of the final two games of the regular season. Both were wins for Calgary.
The 28-year-old from Baytown, Texas, scrambled out of trouble to make a play more than once in the first half of Friday’s finale against the Edmonton Eskimos.
Tate came out with Calgary up 20-17 at halftime. Glenn played the second half of the game, which the Stampeders won 30-27. Tate and Glenn rotated series in Tate’s first game back Oct. 26, which was a 41-21 win over B.C.
“Drew came out of those two games showing that his shoulder is completely healthy, he is throwing the ball accurately, he is seeing the field well,” Hufnagel explained.
“With his athletic ability to be able to extend some plays and the fact that the games he started and played at least a half of football, he has a pretty good winning percentage, you take all those things into account and I decided gut feeling to go with Drew. It’s not an easy decision.”
Glenn, 33, threw for 4,220 yards and 25 touchdowns this season.
“I’m a team guy,” Glenn said to reporters. “Drew is going to get the start and I’m going to help any way I can.
“I don’t want to give you guys the wrong adjective to run with. It’s tough. I want to play and I wouldn’t be here right now if I didn’t want to play.
“When I get my chance to play I’m going to go in and do what I did at the beginning of the season when he went down with the injury. I went in and did my part as the backup of going in and putting my team in position of getting into the playoffs and having a home playoff game.”
Tate was handed the ball with three games to go last season. He started for Calgary in the West semifinal, which the Stamps lost 33-19 to the Edmonton Eskimos.
Tate completed 5-of-10 passes for 99 yards with an interception before he was replaced by Henry Burris in the second half.
Hufnagel nevertheless signed Tate to a three-year contract extension in December, signalling the University of Iowa product would be his No. 1 heading into 2012.
Hufnagel dealt Burris to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in a deal that brought the veteran Glenn to Calgary as Tate’s intended backup. Tate injured his non-throwing shoulder July 7 in Toronto.
Saskatchewan hasn’t seen Tate since the pre-season, when the Stamps edged the ‘Riders 33-31 in Regina. Hufnagel denied the opponent’s unfamiliarity with Tate factored into his decision.
The Roughriders finished third in the West at 8-10, but Saskatchewan has been playoff poison for Calgary recently.
The ‘Riders have beaten Calgary in all four of their post-season meetings over the last six seasons. Calgary’s last playoff win over Saskatchewan was in 1994.
Tate expects heavy pressure coming from the other side Sunday.
“Coach put up the stats of Saskatchewan’s defence and they’re No. 2 in the league in defence in numbers,” Tate said.
“By the looks of it, it’s been turnovers that have gotten us in the playoff games last year, the year before and the year before that. It seems the common denominator is turnovers so if we keep the ball, don’t give them the ball, don’t give them opportunities, don’t put our defence in bad situations, keep the momentum, then we’ll be OK.
“There’s going to be a lot of green in the stands and we’ve just got to be sharp.”