Rourke taking CFL by storm B.C.’s rookie Canadian quarterback turning heads with outstanding play
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe with this special offer:
All-Access Digital Subscription
$1.50 for 150 days*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Pay $1.50 for the first 22 weeks of your subscription. After 22 weeks, price increases to the regular rate of $19.00 per month. GST will be added to each payment. Subscription can be cancelled after the first 22 weeks.
It was another impressive outing for the B.C. Lions, and another special night for quarterback Nathan Rourke.
Rourke took the league by storm in Week 1 after he led the Lions to a 59-15 beatdown over the Edmonton Elks, while in the process setting a new Canadian QB single-game record for completion percentage, clicking at 90 per cent. As a follow-up in Week 3, after having the bye the week before, the 24-year-old guided B.C. to a 2-0 record with a 44-3 dismantling of the Toronto Argonauts (1-1) on Friday, where he set yet another new single-game record for a Canadian pivot, this time for passing yards, at 436.
Through two games, Rourke has completed nearly 88 per cent (65-for-74) of his passes, racked up 718 yards through the air and thrown for a league-high seven touchdowns (while also rushing for two), despite playing one fewer game than the majority of teams. The question now is just how long Rourke will be around for, with some pundits suggesting a shot in the NFL might be on the horizon, an answer only time will tell.
The Montreal Alouettes (1-2) earned their first win of the season by handing the Saskatchewan Roughriders (2-1) their first defeat of the year in a 37-13 decision in the opener Thursday night at Percival Molson Stadium. Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers remain a perfect 3-0 with a 26-12 win Friday over the visiting Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who fell to 0-3 with the loss.
Finally, the Calgary Stampeders are also undefeated, improving to 3-0 with a second-half comeback in a 30-23 victory over the winless Elks (0-3).
With that, let’s take a look back at the week that was in the three-down loop in the latest edition of CFL Rundown.
1) I get the Roughriders were on a short week, playing their second road game in five days with just one full practice to prepare against the Alouettes. Still, that was an embarrassing loss, decided from the first play of the game, when Chandler Worthy returned the opening kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown.
2) Speaking of Worthy, that return must have felt great. Prior to the 28-year-old signing with Montreal this off-season, Worthy had been cut four times over three seasons in Toronto.
3) Looks like Trevor Harris will be the man under centre for the foreseeable future, supplanting Vernon Adams Jr. as the starting quarterback in Montreal. Harris has looked more composed than Adams, and Thursday was certainly his best performance of the year. But old habits sure do die hard, with Harris continuing to struggle finding the end zone. Montreal kicked five field goals, three of which were drives that entered the red zone (within 20 yards of the end zone), with another series stopping on Saskatchewan’s 23-yard line.
4) The injury bug keeps on biting the Roughriders. The latest victim is receiver Shaq Evans, who suffered a fractured ankle that is expected to keep him sidelined between six to eight weeks. Got to feel for Evans; he was limited to seven games in 2021 after breaking his leg.
5) Teams might want to start bubble-wrapping their centres soon. After Winnipeg’s Michael Couture and Saskatchewan’s Dan Clark were both added to the six-game injured list in recent weeks, the Alouettes will now be without Sean Jamieson for weeks.
6) Some more injury news: I’m hearing Bombers receiver Nic Demski is going to be out a while with a suspected ankle injury, which usually means more than a couple of weeks. It’s never good timing for an injury, but Demski was in the midst of his best performance this season, hauling in six catches for 96 yards in just more than a half of football.
7) Glimpses of the Bombers dominating defence from a year ago could be seen against the Ticats, and that’s a scary thing for their opponents. Winnipeg smothered Hamilton’s offence, rendering their run-game inconsequential, totalling just 32 yards, while Dane Evans was limited to just 237 yards through the air and two interceptions. Winnipeg has given up just one TD through 12 quarters this season.
8) It was a big night for Winnipeg’s dominating defensive end Willie Jefferson, who registered three tackles, including a sack for a loss of 10 yards, and an interception that was returned for a TD, the fifth in his eight-year CFL career. Jefferson had yet to register even a sack through two games, which you know had to be weighing on his mind.
9) The Bombers are 21-1 at IG Field dating back to Sept. 21, 2018.
10) It’s the sixth time since 2000 that Hamilton has opened a season 0-3, with each of those previous five years all ending without a playoff berth. The Ticats host the Elks this week, meaning barring a rare tie, the hole is only going to get bigger for one of these two clubs.
11) Uh oh, could Bo Levi Mitchell be back to his old form? After a solid performance in Week 2 at Hamilton, Mitchell finished 21-for-28 passing against the Elks, for 321 yards and a touchdown. Amazing what a strong effort from your O-line can do, a unit that has given up just two sacks in three games, providing Mitchell the time and space he needs to make plays.
12) So, this was Calgary receiver Malik Henry’s stat line: six catches for 173 yards and a TD. That’s already more than he had in nine games last season, when he finished with 11 catches for 124 yards (along with two TDs). Richard Sindani also eclipsed 100 receiving yards in Week 1, proving the Stamps have some serious depth behind Reggie Begelton and Kamar Jorden.
13) The highlight for the Elks was 34-year-old Manny Arceneaux earning a 100-yard receiving game for the first time in nearly three seasons, dating back to July 20, 2018. It would take a while to prove it, though. On Tuesday, three days after the game, Arceneaux was credited with an additional yard, to go from 99 to the exactly 100 yards.
14) After a dismal 2021 season, with the Elks finishing tied for last with a record of 3-11, it’s been another rough start in ‘22. While there’s still plenty of time to turn things around, Edmonton can’t afford to slip any further, especially with the other four teams in the West Division each with at least two wins already.
15) As good as Rourke has been at making big plays, he’s also been responsible with the ball, with zero interceptions in 74 pass attempts. Just as impressive was despite the Lions losing their two top receivers in Bryan Burnham and Lucky Whitehead, as well as No. 1 running back, James Butler, the offence never dropped off. Dominique Rhymes finished with eight catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns; Jevon Cottoy added a score on seven catches for 71 yards and Keon Hatcher registered seven catches for 68 yards. FB David Mackie came in for Butler and rushed for 90 yards on 16 rushes, which made him the second most productive running back in Week 3, behind only Calgary’s Ka’Deem Carey, who was one yard better, with 91.
16) They’ll need that depth, too, after news broke that Burnham punctured his lung and broke some ribs, which is expected to keep him out for three to six weeks.
17) The Argonauts were as bad as the Lions were good. Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie summed up his team’s efforts succinctly during his post-game presser: “I’m totally embarrassed. That was a horrible display of football. We looked like a college team.” And yet, the Argos are still tied for first place in the East.
18) Chad Kelly, the privileged nephew of former NFL Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly, had his first taste of the CFL after Toronto pulled McLeod Bethel-Thompson in the fourth quarter. You might recall Kelly’s absurd comments shortly after signing with the Argos over the winter, proclaiming, among other wild projections, that he wanted to become the face of the CFL. Well, his pursuit of CFL greatness didn’t get off to a solid start; in two drives over the final 1:37, Kelly was strip sacked and then threw an interception on the final play of the game.
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.