TORONTO — Dahrran Diedrick’s moment in the sun could only happen in the CFL.
Diedrick scored the winning touchdown in a wild finish Friday as the Montreal Alouettes rallied for an exciting 37-30 victory over the Toronto Argonauts.
Damon Duval was wide on a 36-yard field goal attempt for the win in the dying seconds. Toronto’s Mike Bradwell then booted the ball out of the end zone but right to Duval, who kicked it back in, looking to score a single point.
Toronto’s Grant Shaw tried to kick the bouncing ball out again but it didn’t make it past the goal-line, prompting a mad scramble in the end zone. When the chaos had subsided, it was Diedrick who had possession, much to the dismay of the 22,477 gathered at Rogers Centre.
“Only in Canada,” said the Toronto native, who played his college football at Nebraska. “It was crazy and we were just lucky they kicked it right to our kicker and he knew exactly what to do.
“I just saw the ball rolling around on the ground and, hey, instinct is to jump on it.”
Even the officials seemed unsure as the play went to the replay booth for a final consultation before it was ruled the result would stand.
With the loss, Toronto (8-9) will finish third in the East Division and face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the conference semifinal Nov. 14. The winner will face Montreal (12-5) in the East Division final Nov. 21.
Diedrick’s heroics certainly took the weight of blame off the shoulders of Duval, who said the wild ending marked a first in his six-year CFL career.
“I’ve lined up in it one time but that’s the first time it has ever been executed,” Duval said of being in a position to boot the ball into the end zone following a miss. “I hit it off my toe and hit it straight up and a little wide right but luckily I was able to get the ball and kick it back and after it scrambled around we were fortunate to come up with it.
“I would’ve liked to end it better by putting the ball through the uprights but, hey, a W is a W and we’ll take it.”
Diedrick, the only Canadian-born player ever to be the feature back in Nebraska’s heralded Wishbone offence, said years from now when he describes the play it will be a lot more glamorous.
“I’m going to make it seem a lot better,” he said. “Thirty years from now when I’m telling this story it’s not going to be the way it happened.
“It’s going to be enhanced.”
Duval’s late field-goal try was set up by Etienne Boulay’s interception off a James Robinson deflection with 1:04 remaining. And it ended an amazing fourth for the Als, who mounted two 90-plus yard scoring drives to pull into a 30-30 tie.
Duval capped a 16-play, 99-yard march with an 11-yard field goal at 9:42 before Calvillo hit Kerry Watkins on a 54-yard TD strike with 1:42 remaining to end a six-play, 94-yard drive.
The turning point came late in the third when Toronto had a glorious chance to cement the win after Evan McCollough’s 42-yard fumble return put the home team at the Montreal nine-yard line. But on second-and-goal from the five, Argos quarterback Cleo Lemon forced a ill-advised throw to Reggie McNeal that Mark Estelle intercepted in the end zone as the quarter ended.
That set up Montreal’s 99-yard drive to start the fourth.
“I was trying to do too much,” said a dejected Lemon. “This was all on me.
“I want the pressure on me and I didn’t come through.”
Lemon finished 13-of-23 passing for 167 yards and two interceptions with his two TDs. Montreal’s Anthony Calvillo was 30-of-44 passing for 412 yards and three touchdowns.
“You will not beat the defending Grey Cup champions if you play like that,” barked Argos head coach Jim Barker. “You can’t throw those passes at key times in the game.
“It is what it is, we’ve created our own situation. Go to Ivor Wynne, go to Olympic Stadium. It’s a three-game road trip to the Grey Cup (on Nov. 28 in Edmonton).”
Montreal got back on the winning track following an embarrassing 40-3 thumping in Hamilton last week and looked good early, surging into a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
Toronto managed to hang around, in large part due to stellar performance by Chad Owens, whose brilliant returns consistently gave the Argos solid field position. Owens finished with over 300 all-purpose yards and that didn’t include a 70-yard punt return TD he had called back due to an illegal block.
“It’s a tough one to swallow,” Owens said. “I’m speechless.
“We’ve come a long way but ultimately came up short. I just had to make one more play.”
Toronto ends its regular season in Montreal next week and Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman said his club must play much better on its cover teams and be more disciplined. The defending Grey Cup champions were penalized 13 times for 120 yards while the Argos were flagged eight times for 64 yards.
“Chad does this to everybody,” Trestman said. “He’s a very very good player and we have to be mindful of that as we approach the playoffs to do a better job.”
Owens did give up a costly fumble in the first that led to a Montreal TD. However, he put the home team ahead 23-20 with a 14-yard touchown catch at 10:17 of the third before scampering 70 yards on a punt return before it was called back.
CFL rushing leader Cory Boyd got that back with a 33-yard TD run at 13:30 to put Toronto ahead 30-20. Boyd finished with 68 yards on eight carries and had four catches for 79 yards.
Ben Cahoon and Avon Cobourne had Montreal’s touchdowns. Duval booted four converts and three field goals.
Bradwell had Toronto’s other touchdown. Noel Prefontaine had three converts and three field goals.
Notes: Owens surpassed 1,000 yards in punt returns with his 62-yard effort. He’s just the fifth player in CFL history to have more than 1,000 yards in both kickoff and punt returns in a season. … Montreal’s lineup was bolstered by the return of Duval and Watkins from injury and kick-returner Larry Taylor from the NFL’s New York Jets, although Taylor seemed to suffer a leg injury after returning the opening kickoff. … The Argos went with the same lineup that won in Winnipeg last week.