November 27, 2023

MMQB: The Grey Cup comes through again

Andrew Lahodynskyj/CFL

We’re more than a week removed and I’m still buzzing about Montreal’s thrilling win over Winnipeg in the 110th Grey Cup. It’s no exaggeration to call this year’s championship game an instant classic…because it was. After having watched a couple more times, I’m even more bullish on that claim.

What didn’t the 110th Grey Cup have? The game was hanging in the balance from start to finish, we had lead changes, dramatic late touchdown drives and spectacular individual moments. It really was an incredible football game, which has become somewhat of the norm for the league’s championship game.

More often than not over the last 15 years, including the last three consecutive, the Grey Cup game has been a thriller. As we continue to celebrate what the Alouettes accomplished last weekend, let’s look back on some of the other classics we’ve seen in the last decade-and-a-half.

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THE MONTREAL DOUBLE

Ben Cahoon and the Montreal Alouettes pulled off one of the most dramatic Grey Cup wins ever, topping Saskatchewan in 2009 (The Canadian Press)

Before there was Cody Fajardo, Marc-Antoine Dequoy, Tyson Philpot, Shawn Lemon and Darnell Sankey, there was another core group of Alouettes winning championships. That group consisted of players like Anthony Calvillo, Ben Cahoon, Scott Flory and Jamel Richardson. And they did it twice, back-to-back, in exhilarating fashion.

If you remember, there were a lot of questions surrounding Montreal’s ability to “win the big one” heading into the 97th Grey Cup. One year prior, in head coach Marc Trestman’s first year at the helm, the Als fell 22-14 to Calgary, which dropped the team’s record in championship games to 1-5 since 2000. One year later, those questions were swirling again heading into halftime.

Montreal trailed Saskatchewan 17-3 at the half, 20-10 going into the fourth quarter, and 27-11 with just over 10 minutes remaining. But then Calvillo took over. The Hall of Fame quarterback used Cahoon, Richardson, Kerry Watkins and Brian Bratton and the Alouettes were able to trim the deficit to 27-25.

The rest, well, is history. On Montreal’s final drive, Calvillo and company setup kicker Damon Duval for a 43-yard field goal to win the game…which he missed. But the infamous “too many men on the field” blunder by the Riders moved Duvall 10 yards closer. He nailed the game winner from 33 yards out in one of the most incredible finishes we’ve ever seen.

One year later, Montreal and Saskatchewan met again for the 2010 championship game. While the 98th Grey Cup didn’t have quite as crazy a finish, it still gave us nail-biting action the entire way through.

Tied 11-11 after three quarters, the Als opened a 10-point lead in the fourth before Darian Durant and the Roughriders got back within three, thanks to a one-yard touchdown catch from Marc Parenteau with less than four minutes to go. With Saskatchewan driving to tie or win the game, Billy Parker reeled in an interception with about a minute remaining to seal a second straight Montreal championship.

WORKING OVERTIME

 

The last two Grey Cups, both heartbreaking losses for the Blue Bombers, might as well have been decided in overtime but weren’t. They were both determined in regulation. Winnipeg’s last win in the big game, however, did go to overtime.

The 108th Grey Cup was special for so many reasons. The league was finally back after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 season and it was so great to have everyone back together for the biggest game of the year. Then the Bombers and Tiger-Cats gave us a game to remember.

Trailing 22-10 early in the fourth quarter, defending champion Winnipeg mixed a few Sergio Castillo field goals and singles in with a Nic Demski touchdown to take a 25-22 lead with less than two minutes to go. Hamilton, with Jeremiah Masoli at the helm, drove the field and came inches from scoring a game-winning touchdown before settling for a 13-yard field goal to send us to extra time.

Darvin Adams caught the only touchdown pass of overtime before Kyrie Wilson picked off Masoli on Hamilton’s first possession to give the Blue Bombers a 33-25 victory and a second straight title.

Winnipeg’s win over Hamilton was the first Grey Cup to go to overtime since Calgary and Ottawa gave us an extra time thriller to remember five years prior. The 104th Grey Cup saw the heavily favoured Stampeders fall down 27-7 early in the third quarter only to claw back and force a 33-33 tie, again narrowly missing a late game-winning touchdown.

After Henry Burris hooked up with Ernest Jackson to open overtime, the REDBLACKS forced three straight incomplete passes from Bo Levi Mitchell to pull off the massive upset and win their first championship 39-33.

THE COMEBACK KIDS

When they get there, the Argos don’t tend to lose very many Grey Cup games, do they? Even when they seem down and out, they have found ways to get the job done. That has especially been on display in their last two championship wins.

We all remember last year’s thrilling comeback over Winnipeg. Down nine after Janarion Grant’s record setting punt return touchdown early in the fourth quarter, the Argos scored 10 straight points to take a 24-23 lead. Then we saw an incredible sequence to end a game: after Zach Collaros was picked off, the Bombers got the ball back on a blocked field goal.

On the ensuing possession, Toronto returned the favour with a Robbie Smith block on the potential game winning kick. You know what? I’m actually still buzzing about this game more than a year later, too, because it was that good.

 

And I’m still not sure if that Argos win in 2022 was crazier than their prior championship victory at the 105th Grey Cup in 2017. Playing against the heavily favoured Stampeders, Toronto was on the verge of falling down by two possessions with just over five minutes go. Then Cassius Vaughn made Grey Cup history.

Vaughn recovered a Calgary fumble and ran it back a Grey Cup record 109 yards to move Toronto into a 24-24 tie. After Lirim Hajrullahu gave the Argos their first lead with less than a minute to go, the Stamps drove the ball well into field goal range with 25 seconds remaining. But, while taking a shot at the end zone, Mitchell was picked off by Matt Black to seal an improbable comeback win.

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