Avon Cobourne, RB, Montreal
It took a lucky break on the final play of the game, but the Montreal Alouettes' run of Grey Cup futility is over.
After missing a field goal on the final play of regulation, Montreal kicker Damon Duval was given a second opportunity from ten yards closer as the Saskatchewan Roughriders were penalized for too many men on the field.
Duval made good on his second chance from 33 yards out to lift the Alouettes to a stunning 28-27 victory over the Roughriders in a classic CFL championship game in Calgary.
It was a shock ending for most of the sell-out crowd of 46,020 at McMahon Stadium, where the seats looked to be tinted Roughriders green from fans who had spent most of the game watching their underdog team outperform the Alouettes on a mild evening.
But quarterback Anthony Calvillo and the Alouettes, both shaking off a reputation for coming up short in the big game, battled back to erase a 16-point deficit in the final 10:52 of play and end a four-game Grey Cup losing streak over the past seven years. They posted their sixth Cup win overall despite not leading until the final play.
"Heartbreaking, happy, sad, suspenseful - it was everything wrapped into one," said Montreal's veteran centre Bryan Chiu. "I guess that's what the CFL's about - a game like that."
The Roughriders fell short in a bid for a second Grey Cup in three years and are now 3-14 all-time in championship games.
Duval's first fluttering attempt from the 43 was nullified by the penalty against Saskatchewan, which immediately drew comparisons to the Montreal Canadiens' notorious Game 7 NHL semifinal win in 1979 when Don Cherry's Boston Bruins were called for too many men late in the game and the Habs went on to win.
The Roughriders were tossing their helmets in the air in celebration and starting to invade the field, only for the play to be called back. The second attempt sailed through and this time, it was the Montreal bench that erupted.
"I just rushed it," Duval said of the first try. "It took off like a bullet out of the gate and I knew before I kicked the ball there was no way I was getting my hips around to get it through. But luckily before the ball was even going I saw the flag and thought, OK, the man upstairs has given us another opportunity and we're walking out with a win now."
It was Montreal’s second win in seven CFL championship games dating back to 2000, when they were beaten 28-26 by the B.C. Lions in Calgary after failing to make a two-point convert in the dying seconds.
"It's sweet to come back and do this here," said Chiu. "It's come full circle."
The Montreal comeback started just after Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant, the star of the game for much of the first 50 minutes but who had two second half interceptions, looked to have put the game away with a touchdown on a 16-yard run at 4:08 of the fourth quarter.
But running back Avon Cobourne, named Most Valuable Player of the game for his 85 yards on 16 carries and 64 more on six catches, ran in from the three at 7:55.
Six minutes later, veteran slotback Ben Cahoon, named top Canadian, snagged an 11-yard Calvillo pass, but Montreal missed a two-point conversion attempt to leave Saskatchewan with a two-point lead with 1:45 left to play.
Then, with 10 seconds left, Calvillo hit Kerry Watkins with a pass to put Montreal in range of a field goal and the unlikely win.
"There was ebb and flow in this game, but in the end, Lady Luck came into play for a moment and we were able to take advantage of it," said Marc Trestman, a champion in his second year as coach after losing a Grey Cup to Calgary the previous year in Montreal.
Saskatchewan coach Ken Miller looked to be in a state of disbelief after the game. He would not name the culprit, saying only that a player on the field for Duval's first kick should have come off but didn't.
"It was a situation that should have been recognized by what we were doing," said Miller, whose club was the least penalized in the league this season. "It's just total, 100 per cent disappointment."
Jamel Richardson also had a touchdown for Montreal and, for a second straight year, had more than 100 receiving yards in a Grey Cup game with 113 on eight catches.
Andy Fantuz also scored a TD for the Roughriders while Luca Congi had four field goals and Louie Sakoda a single.