November 23, 2008

Burris wins Grey Cup with his arm, legs


MONTREAL – When Henry Burris started moving, the Calgary Stampeders finally got going.

The West Division’s outstanding player nominee proved Sunday he could win the big game, passing for 328 yards and a TD while running for a game-high 79 yards to rally the Calgary Stampeders to a 22-14 Grey Cup victory before 66,308 rabid spectators at Olympic Stadium.

Burris opened the game on fire, completing his first 11 passes before throwing a costly interception that set up a Montreal touchdown midway through the second quarter. But it wasn’t until late in that period when Burris started moving his feet and using his mobility to escape the Alouettes rush that Calgary’s potent offence got going.

Burris was at his nimble-footed best on Calgary’s final drive of the first half, escaping pressure to his right and finding a wide-open Brett Ralph on a 20-yard TD strike with under a minute left that pulled the Stampeders to within 13-10.

“I noticed after the interception they were dropping off into a deep zone,” said Burris, the game’s MVP. “So I was able to move around more and usually when I scramble No. 11 (Ralph) is on the receiving end.

“That was a really big play for us.”

Then in the second half it was more of the same as Burris, who was the CFL’s top-rushing quarterback this season with 595 yards, used his mobility to move the Stampeders downfield and put them in position to put the game away. But Demetris Summers and Nik Lewis both dropped TD passes and Calgary had to settle for three field goals for a 16-14 lead heading into the fourth.

“We wanted to get our running game involved and Henry Burris at the quarterback position was a big part of that for us,” said Stampeders head coach/GM John Hufnagel. “In the first half we were doing what we wanted, we just weren’t getting enough yards to keep drives going.

“I’ve always asked my team to re-load. I understand we’re not always going to get touchdowns but we were still getting points. If you’re down there enough and kick field goals and score some touchdowns you’re going to win the game.”

Then again, as Burris went so did the Stampeders this year as the 10-year veteran established personal highs in yards passing (5,094) and touchdowns (39) in leading Calgary to a league-best 13-5 record.

Burris spearheaded a balanced Calgary attack this year, one that boasted the CFL’s top receiver in Ken-Yon Rambo (100 catches, 1,473 yards, eight TDs), its leading rusher in Joffrey Reynolds (1,310 yards) and top scorer in DeAngelis (217 points, 50 field goals).

And he came up big when it counted in the Grey Cup.

“I thought Henry Burris made plays at the right time to keep drives going,” said Montreal head coach Marc Trestman.

The Als defence had trouble containing Lewis, who made 11 catches for 122 yards as the Stampeders earned their first CFL title since 2001, which was also won at the Big O. This was the lowest-scoring Grey Cup since Calgary’s 24-10 victory over Winnipeg at Rogers Centre in 1992.

Burris got some much-needed support from a patient Calgary defence when it counted most. The Stamps recorded two second-half interceptions of Montreal’s Anthony Calvillo, the CFL’s outstanding player this year who had a league-high 43 TD passes and only 13 interceptions this season in 682 passing attempts.

“Heading into the second half I encouraged our defence to tackle better because that’s how they got some of their big plays,” Hufnagel said. “We changed our coverage and pass rush a little bit and it was just enough to make him (Calvillo) hesitate a little bit.”

Calvillo finished the game 29-of-38 passing for 352 yards and was sacked twice, an accomplishment considering Montreal gave up just 22 sacks all season.

Calgary’s defensive scheme was to put its big, physical secondary in man-to-man coverage against Montreal, hoping to play bump-and-run against Montreal’s receiving corps to disrupt the timing between the receivers and Calvillo.

Montreal effectively counter-attacked by going with a short passing attack and relying on its receivers to break tackles. But in the second half the Stamps’ defence did a better job of wrapping up the Als pass catchers while playing tightly enough to force the two turnovers.

And with Montreal having the ball at its own 31 with 14 seconds left, the Stampeders’ defence shut the down on the Als, who coming into the game led the CFL in scoring (32.4 points per game), total yards (429 per game), pass attempts (712), completions (495) and passing percentage (69.5 per cent).

“I was disappointed in the first half that we couldn’t sustain drives,” said Trestman. “When we did run the ball, we didn’t make enough yards.

“Turnovers are also going to be negative turning points . . . and for us those are going to be factors.”