August 16, 2022

QB Index: It’s all about poise

Chris Tanouye/CFL.ca

The QB Index is a weekly power ranking of quarterbacks across the CFL, voted on by CFL.ca staff. The ranking reflects recent performance, historical value, statistical indicators, team success and overall on-field evaluation. 

TORONTO — Nathan Rourke, we think, was looking to Jevon Cottoy when the worst case scenario struck.

The BC Lions’ pivot was staring up a long field and staring down a 10-point deficit early in his first meeting of the season with the Calgary Stampeders. Cottoy wasn’t where Rourke thought he would be, but Stamps’ d-lineman Folarin Orimolade was. In an instant, the five-foot-11, 238-pounder had the ball and was on his way, trucking 28 yards into the Lions’ end zone. It was Rourke’s second interception of the young game. McMahon Stadium felt like a madhouse and that 10-point deficit swelled to 17 as the Lions’ offence went back to the sidelines.

In that moment, it felt like the walls were closing in on Rourke and the Lions. On the ensuing kickoff, Shai Ross fumbled, with Bruce Anderson III recovering at BC’s 15-yard line. Rourke was given another long field with an even bigger deficit and the crowd even louder.

What happened next was very telling.

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QB INDEX AUG 16, 2022
Ranking Name Team Last Week Movement
1. Nathan Rourke BC 2 +1
2. Zach Collaros WPG 1 -1
3. Bo Levi Mitchell CGY 3
4. Cody Fajardo SSK 4
5 McLeod Bethel-Thompson TOR 6 +1
6. Trevor Harris MTL 7 +1
7. Matthew Shiltz HAM
8. Taylor Cornelius EDM 9 +1
9. Caleb Evans OTT 8 -1
10. Nick Arbuckle OTT
11. Jamie Newman HAM

Rourke got back out on the field and immediately led his team on a five-play drive that he finished off with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Dominique Rhymes. It was just one blow landed in what turned out to be a slugfest of a night between two great clubs, but it was a pivotal moment for the young quarterback and his approach to the game.

You won’t follow up a pick-six with a touchdown drive every single time in your career, but Rourke handled the adversity the right way. He didn’t panic with those walls closing in on him. He didn’t overthink the Stampeders’ defenders and try to play things conservatively to avoid more turnovers. He just went back out, read what was in front of him and looked to make the plays he needed to help get his team back in the game.

CFL.ca’s Don Landry pointed out the commentary from Davis Sanchez on TSN’s panel on Saturday night, wondering if Rourke was young and naïve or just fearless as he threw big, long passes on second and third-down in the second half on Saturday — including the game-winning drive — to lead the Lions to their seventh win of the season.

A great quarterback lives in the moment, pass-to-pass, drive-to-drive. They learn from mistakes, move on and stay on course, making the best possible play to get their team in a situation to win. Kickers take a similar approach, compartmentalizing only what’s in front of them in that moment and discarding everything that’s happened before it. It’s an easy thing to say but as any kicker or quarterback will tell you, it’s a difficult thing to practice.

“They didn’t make it easy on us,” Rourke told TSN’s Sara Orlesky after the game, talking about the Stamps.

“I certainly didn’t make it easy on us. I put us in a hole early in the game but what’s great about this group is we never say die.”

“He’s special. He’s a special talent,” Bryan Burnham told Orlesky after the win. “I’m not surprised. This is what you see every day. I feel like I’m going to look back years down the road and realize how fortunate I was to play with a guy like him.”

Eight games into the Lions’ season, it feels like that realization is settling in for football fans across the country.

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