Down by 11 points late in the fourth quarter with star quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell nursing an injury on the sideline, it didn’t look good for the Calgary Stampeders Saturday night at home against the BC Lions.
But then backup quarterback Nick Arbuckle orchestrated an incredible comeback, leading the Stampeders to a 36-32 win to save them from their second straight loss to start the season.
Arbuckle finished the game 9-for-9 for 93 yards and a touchdown. He added two carries for four yards and a touchdown and successfully completed a two-point conversion.
It is possible Mitchell could miss time with the injury; he’s scheduled for an MRI on what he says he believes is a pectoral injury rather than a shoulder injury. If that’s the case, Arbuckle’s late cameo Saturday would turn into a full-game opportunity.
TSN’s Jermain Franklin said he’s confident Arbuckle would be able to step in and carry the load for the Stamps should Mitchell need a stint on the injured list.
“I truly believe he is [ready] and that’s only because John Hufnagel has been so good at having depth at every position, including the quarterback position,” Franklin said. “And Nick Arbuckle has proven that his work ethic is second to none. He’s always one of the first in the office, always studying film, and he loves the gym. He’s a gym rat.
“I believe that Arbuckle has what it takes to stand in while Bo Levi Mitchell gets healthy, however long that may take.”
Saturday was the most game action Arbuckle has seen with the Stamps in his two seasons on the roster. He threw passes in six games last year, finishing 17-for-25 for 144 yards and a touchdown. Most of Arbuckle’s play with the Stamps has come as the short-yardage quarterback, and the 25-year-old has 37 carries for 77 yards and six touchdowns in Calgary.
Arbuckle signed with the Stamps after a decorated NCAA career at Georgia State. He was a two-year starter for the Panthers, making the All-Sun Belt Conference team both seasons (2014 and 2015). Arbuckle finished with 7,651 passing yards, 51 touchdowns, and 29 interceptions, and owns nearly all of Georgia State’s offensive records, as well as a number of Sun Belt marks.
Arbuckle went undrafted in the NFL in 2016 and attended minicamp with the Pittsburgh Steelers before signing onto the Stampeders’ practice roster in 2017. He joined the game day roster in 2018, serving as Mitchell’s primary backup all season.
The California native said part of being a backup quarterback is preparing for opportunities, whenever they may arise.
“Prayers for Bo and hopefully his injury is nothing serious and he has a quick recovery,” Arbuckle said after the Stamps’ win over the Lions Saturday. “But I’ve been in this position before through my journey of being a backup quarterback, all the way through high school, and I learned that as long as you prepare and try to get better every single day, the longer it takes for you to get your opportunity, the better you’re going to be when that opportunity comes. So I’ve been preparing every day for this opportunity since I came to the team last year and even before that and it got results.”
Arbuckle’s readiness Saturday didn’t come as a surprise to his teammates. Receiver Eric Rogers, who finished Saturday with nine receptions for 100 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner from Arbuckle, said he’s seen the backup quarterback put in the work to be successful ever since he arrived in Calgary.
“Nick, I’ve always been on his [side], Rogers said post-game. “Good guy. He’s in his game plan; he’s there early just like Bo is. Last year, when I came in at the end of training camp, he was the guy that was coaching me up on the no huddle words. He’s the guy that, he stepped in I already knew he was going to make some plays if they were there. I had no worries.”
The Stampeders close out Week 4 on the road in Saskatchewan, taking on the Roughriders Saturday at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.