Stampeders impressed with Rourke, still aim to beat him

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If anyone is waiting for Nathan Rourke’s magical run to suddenly end, Bo Levi Mitchell would humbly ask that he stop.

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The Calgary Stampeders quarterback has seen what Rourke has done as a starter for the BC Lions this season, and he’s as impressed as anyone.
The numbers don’t lie. The game’s tape doesn’t lie.
Rourke is the real deal, plain and simple.

“When people have amazing things happening, stop trying to find a reason to hate it,” Mitchell said Friday, a day before his Stampeders face the Lions in a crucial West Division game at the McMahon Stadium. “I mean, everybody’s like, ‘Oh, they played in Edmonton and they knocked out 10 guys.’ Anyway, I played in Edmonton too, and it’s nothing against Edmonton, that kid has come out and played every game he’s been in.

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“I think the worst game he had was Winnipeg, and he still threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns. He probably threw for more yards against Winnipeg than any other quarterback this season. Stop finding a reason to hate the kid. Love it and enjoy it while it’s here.
Rourke has deservedly been the story of the season in the CFL this year.

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In his first season as a starter, he had the second-most passing yards in the league and played three games less than Winnipeg Blue Bombers QB Zach Collaros. Rourke also threw the most passing touchdowns, has the second-fastest touchdown, is eighth in rushing yards, and leads the league in completion percentage.

The fact that he is a Canadian quarterback in a league where that is so rare has only added to the forces that are pushing Rourke to stardom.

“It’s pretty hard to ignore,” Stamps lineman o Derek Dennis said. “I always tell guys I’ve been in the league long enough. When a team has a talented Canadian player who is good, it’s always going to be the hype. It’s the Canadian Football League for a reason.

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All week, not a single Stampeders player has spoken ill of Rourke. They have seen what he does and they are suitably impressed.

That’s also true for the Lions as a whole, who have surprised just about everyone this season by going 6-1 to put them ahead of the Stamps 5-2.

This adds to the intrigue of Saturday’s game. The only team the Stamps or Lions have lost to is the Bombers. The Stamps gave the Bombers a hard time in tight games last month, while the Lions were crushed by the two-time defending Gray Cup champions earlier in the season.

And while much of the attention has rightly focused on Rourke, it should be noted that the Lions are much more than a superstar quarterback.
Yes, they average more points per game (36.3) than any other CFL team, but they also allowed the second-fewest points (18) and fewest yards per game (279.3).

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The Lions have allowed the league’s fewest sacks (7), have the second-most sacks themselves (21), and allow both the fewest rushing yards (75.3) and the fewest yards per the pass (224.6).

They are excellent and the Stamps know it will take a massive performance to beat them on Saturday night.

“I’m going to try to take what they give us and figure out that we need first downs and touchdowns to beat this team,” Stamps head coach Dave Dickenson said. “We have to stay on the pitch, we have to keep their attack on the sidelines.”

Keeping the ball out of Rourke’s hands will obviously make life easier for the Stamps. Coming off of a game where their offense struggled, it’s worth noting that the Stamps rank themselves near the top of the league in most offensive categories.
With the absence of main receiver Malik Henry, running back Ka’Deem Carey and offensive linemen Sean McEwen and Julian Good-Jones, the offense will have to get creative.

They will have to score points if they want to have a chance of winning. Rourke is going to make his plays, the Stamps just have to make theirs too.

“I’m not worried about surpassing him,” Mitchell said. “I’m afraid of accumulating more points than them, whether in attack, defense or in special teams. I will do my best to score as many points as possible in attack, because it is a team to follow. We want to get up early and keep it that way.

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