A rookie quarterback making his second career CFL start is not supposed to look so polished.
On Sunday night, Calgary’s Jake Maier was that man.
The 24-year-old from Fullerton, Calif., looked like a five-year veteran, making good on all 16 passes he threw in the first half against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to establish a franchise record for consecutive completions.
His quick throws, self-assured presence and a spunky Stamps ground attack was instrumental in keeping Winnipeg’s normally fierce pass rush at bay for most of the game.
Maier added another completion early in the third quarter but his perfect run ended 68 seconds into the second half when he overthrew wide receiver Hergy Mayala.
His pinpoint passing display took a hit in the second half but he still finished the game 30-for-39 with 307 passing yards and no interceptions.
Maier engineered an eight-play, 50-yard drive in the final two minutes to set up Rene Paredes’ 33-yard field goal to give Calgary a 16-15 lead.
On Calgary’s next and last possession, he led another six-play, 42-yard drive in the waning moments to set up Paredes’ 52-yard failed try on the final play of the game.
Winnipeg prevailed 18-16 before 22,806 fans at IG Field.
“It’s a team effort, it has to do with everybody,” said Maier, who was named Calgary’s starter after Bo Levi Mitchell went down with a broken fibula on Aug. 7.
“I know that’s cliche for me to say but it’s absolutely true. Once the ball leaves my hands it’s up to the guy at the other end to make the play. Like I told somebody earlier, a lot of it has to play-calling and how locked in coach (Dave) Dickenson is (with) his game plan and getting the ball in my hands and making the reads easy.”
Dickenson was duly impressed with the young upstart.
“I ran a bunch of calls tonight — (it was) like he had been out there for 100 games,” said Dickenson, himself one of the best quarterbacks in franchise history. “He handled it well in a tough, tough environment. So there’s one thing, there haven’t been a lot of great quarterbacks in Calgary and that’s probably why he got that record.
“But it is impressive… That’s why I’m not down because I really feel like our team is getting better and we’re fighting.”
Dickenson was confident enough to leave Maier in to run a third-and-two play from the Calgary 23-yard line in the second quarter. The completion was good for 41 yards before receiver Josh Huff fumbled the ball.
In the third quarter, Maier also caught a pass from receiver Markeith Ambles that went for a six yards but Maier nearly broke it for a long gain.
“Stuff like that doesn’t happen unless we’re executing at a high level in practice,” said Maier. “I thought we had a great practices (this week). Ultimately once we get the playscripts, anything’s on the table. Whatever it takes to win.”
Maier took solace from his team’s effort. The Stamps are 1-3 with a Labour Day game against the Edmonton Elks looming.
“Sometimes things like this can be great for team especially early on,” said Maier. “I think it makes us battle-tested… I mean it’s just comes down to a yard, it comes down to maybe one turnover, it comes down to a kick it comes down to a big incompletion that gets us off the field. It is what it is. Everybody has their has their share of reasoning why it didn’t go our way but ultimately, I really think we’re gonna be better for it. I really do.”
Mitchell, currently on Calgary’s six-game injured list, could be making an early return — perhaps as early as the Week 5 matchup with the visiting Elks.
“I’m not sure on that but I’m going to let you know (that) when he’s healthy, he’s playing,” said Dickenson.
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