Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell got his wish but still couldn’t grant the Calgary Stampeders a Grey Cup victory.
Mitchell had the ball in his hands and a chance to win Sunday’s 105th Grey Cup presented by Shaw. Instead his final throw was intercepted and the Argos upset the Stampeders 27-24.
“We had a chance to win the game at the end of the game,” said Mitchell. “Just like last year after the Grey Cup I said I wanted the ball in my hands at the end of the game.
“It was, and I didn’t get it done.”
Calgary was leading 24-16 late in the fourth quarter and looked poised to deliver the final blow before slotback Kamar Jorden coughed up a fumble. Halfback Cassius Vaughn scooped up the ball up at the Toronto one-yard line and returned it all the way for a touchdown. The 109-yard return set a Grey Cup record.
The Argos were good on a two-point convert which tied the score 24-24.
Toronto would take the lead 27-24 on a 32-yard Lirim Hajrullahu field goal with 53 seconds left.
Trailing by three, the Stampeders drove the ball down the field. They were in field goal position at the Toronto 24-yard line with 20 seconds left when Mitchell tried to hit receiver Marken Michel in the end zone. Argo defensive Matt Black intercepted, and the game was over.
“We knew we had plenty of time to put the ball in the end zone,” said Mitchell, who had a chance to become the first Stampeder quarterback to win two Grey Cups.
“I saw Matt run back there. I thought I could put it there over top of him. I just didn’t put enough into it.”
In the aftermath of the Stampeders’ 2016 Grey Cup overtime loss to the Ottawa REDBLACKS, Mitchell said he wanted the ball in his hands when the game was on the line.
The comment came after head coach Dave Dickenson opted to use Canadian quarterback Andrew Buckley on a second-and-goal late in the game. Instead of scoring the go-ahead touchdown, Buckley was tackled for a loss, forcing Calgary to kick a field goal to tie the game.
Ottawa would win 39-33 in overtime.
“Ball’s got to be in my hands or (running back Jerome Messam), that’s how I feel,” Mitchell said after the game.
Mitchell finished this year’s Grey Cup completing 33 of 45 passes for 373 yards, two touchdowns and the interception.
Head coach Dave Dickenson defended his quarterback’s decision to throw into the end zone.
“Every play we call has options to go to the end zone,” said Dickenson. “I don’t know exactly what happened, but the ball didn’t go where he wanted it to.
“Didn’t make it, their guy did. No guts, no glory. I’m not saying it was the wrong decision.”
It was the second consecutive heart-wrenching Grey Cup loss for Calgary.
The Stampeders (13-4-1) went into the game favored to beat the Argos (9-9). Calgary held leads of nine and eight points, but Toronto kept battling back.
Dickenson said his team “couldn’t finish the deal.”
“It’s heart-breaking,” said Dickenson. “There’s nothing I can do for our guys. It’s a tough loss for our team.
“We can think what might’ve been, but it just didn’t happen for us.”
There were plenty of raw emotions in the Calgary dressing room. Some players yelled and swore. A few wiped away tears. Some simply sat at their lockers and stared off into space.
Middle linebacker Alex Singleton laughed and smiled all week but had lost any sense of humor.
“What do you want me to say,” he snapped.
“We lost two Grey Cups in a row. We need to shut up and win games.”
Calgary slotback Marquay McDaniel was asked to compare this year’s loss to the 2016 defeat.
“This one probably hurts more,” he said. “Offensively it felt like we left our defence out to dry again another year.
“I think that’s what sucks the most.”
Singleton didn’t want to compare defeats.
“All losses suck,” he said. “There’s not better or worse. It is what it is.”
The Stampeder finished with 401 yards of net offence compared to 299 for Toronto. Toronto quarterback Ricky Ray competed 19 of 32 passes for 297 yards, with 100 of those coming on one touchdown pass to DeVier Posey.
Safety Joshua Bell said losing hurts.
“We don’t dislike losing because it’s the Grey Cup,” he said. “You dislike losing.”