The 2017 CFL division semifinals went to the road team. In the division finals in Toronto and Calgary, the home teams prevailed, setting up a rematch of the 100th Grey Cup for the 105th Grey Cup Sunday at TD Place in Ottawa. Ricky Ray, who won the 2012 Grey Cup, and Bo Levi Mitchell, winner of the 2014 Grey Cup, set the pace for their teams.
Calgary wants revenge over losing last year's Grey Cup in overtime. Toronto has risen back from being the worst team in the CFL in 2016 in great part due to new leadership from coach Marc Trestman and general manager Jim Popp.
Ricky Ray is 38 years old. The likelihood of Ray pulling off a Henry Burris and retiring on top will be a focus in Ottawa. If the Argos win, this will be the 4th Grey Cup championship for the Toronto quarterback.
The teams played their games in August when Calgary was dominant. The Stampeders won 41-24 in Toronto on August 3 and 23-7 in Calgary on August 26. The Stampeders went 6-1-1 against the East, tying at Ottawa 31-31 in Week 1 and losing in Montréal 30-23 in Week 4. The Argonauts went 3-7 against the West though 1-0 against the West in the playoffs.
This is the 4th time Toronto and Calgary has met for the Grey Cup. The Stampeders beat Joe Theismann and the Argos 14-11 in 1971. The Argos, inspired by John Candy as a minority owner, handled Calgary 36-21 in 1991. The 100th Grey Cup had the Argos winning on home turf at Rogers Centre 35-22 in 2012.
The 105th Grey Cup is the first for this location under the name TD Place. This will be the 7th time Ottawa has hosted the Grey Cup. Under the name Frank Clair Stadium in 2004, the Grey Cup drew a crowd of 51,242. 50,604 came out for the 1988 Grey Cup in Lansdowne Park. The 2017 attendance won't come close to that, even though the game is sold out. Ottawa was also the Grey Cup home in 1967 (31,407); 1940 (1,700); 1939 (11,737); and 1925 (6,900).
The TV coverage gets underway at 6 pm Eastern when ESPN2 will pick up the TSN feed. Canadians will have access to much more pregame including Grey Cup Saturday on TSN.
Toronto vs. Calgary in Ottawa, 6:30p
Toronto vs. Calgary in Ottawa, 6:30p
CFL crossover games
|2017||Saskatchewan (10-8)||beat Ottawa (8-9-1), then lost to Toronto (9-9)|
|2016||Edmonton (10-8)||beat Hamilton (7-11), then lost to Ottawa (8-9-1)|
|2014||B.C. (9-9)||lost to Montréal (9-9)|
|2012||Edmonton (7-11)||lost to Toronto (9-9)|
|2009||B.C. (8-10)||beat Hamilton (9-9), then lost to Montréal (15-3)|
|2008||Edmonton (10-8)||beat Winnipeg (8-10), then lost to Montréal (11-7)|
|2005||Saskatchewan (9-9)||lost to Montréal (10-8)|
|2003||B.C. (11-7)||lost to Toronto (9-9)|
|2002||Saskatchewan (8-10)||lost to Toronto (8-10)|
|1997||B.C. (8-10)||lost to Montréal (13-5)|
Crossover teams are at a disadvantage, even when they've had a better record than their opponent such as the past 2 seasons. The Saskatchewan Roughriders needed a 5th quarter, some better offence calls early, a smoother transition to Brandon Bridge, and more momentum and points off turnovers in the first half.
The Riders comeback felt complete when Christian Jones ran back a 79-yards punt return just before the 3-minute warning. With the 2-point conversion, Saskatchewan went up 21-18.
The Argos had 3rd-and-10 from the Roughriders 40. The Ricky Ray was just high enough for James Wilder Jr. to make a remarkable catch down at the Saskatchewan 18. That play made all the difference for Toronto.
The Roughriders were a 3rd down shutdown away from being the first crossover team to reach the Grey Cup.
The 4-point deficit for Saskatchewan in the Toronto 25-21 win was the closest any crossover team has come to getting to the Grey Cup.
"I just felt like at that moment, we could kick the field goal, have our defence stand on their head, and get the ball back. When it doesn’t work, there’s questions to be asked and consequences to it as far as you could lose a ballgame — that was the case."
"Will I look back on it and wonder — maybe — but I won’t ever regret it. It was a faith decision, saying your defence is going to get a stop, your specials will get the ball back and your offence will go down and score. In this one game and one moment, it didn't — we'll all live with it, and it'll go down as a loss."
Trailing by 7 points, Edmonton was driving toward what might have been a tying touchdown. The Esks had gambled on 3rd-and-10 on that drive and succeeded. 3rd-and-4 on the Calgary 13, Edmonton Head Coach Jason Maas called for the field-goal unit.
The field goal made the score 32-28 Calgary, the same score when the final whistle sounded. Calgary burned up a lot of clock and Edmonton fumbled the punt once the Stampeders couldn't go any further.
The move will remain puzzling and part of CFL lore for years to come. Despite Maas' best attempts to answer the question, we may truly never understand quite what happened.
The West division final might have reminded the Esks of their season: Edmonton scored the first 15 points of the game, then Calgary went on a 30-1 run. The Esks outscored the Stamps 12-2 but that wasn't enough.
Edmonton lost 5 potential points on field goal attempts by Sean Whyte that was stolen by the wind, 1 more than the 4 points of the margin of the Calgary win.
The Argonauts finally drew a healthy crowd of 24,929. We saw quite a few Saskatchewan fans in the crowd but the double blue fans were out and loud. The regular season crowds were less than ideal, even with savings deals during the CNE in late summer.
The TV cameras showed Mitch Marner, Morgan Rielly, and Auston Matthews cheering on the blue and white. The Leafs had an easy time in Montréal Saturday night. Maple Leafs Coach Mike Babcock made his allegiances clear, being from Saskatchewan. We feel pretty certain the Leafs players didn't rub in the Argos win over Saskatchewan.
Brandon Bridge did come off the bench and helped the Roughriders win in Toronto last month. Bridge helped turn the Saskatchewan offence around in the 4th quarter. Bridge became the first Canadian QB to throw a TD pass in playoffs since Russ Jackson for Ottawa against Saskatchewan on November 30, 1969.
That Grey Cup was also significant since the Autostade in Montréal hosted the game amid concerns about political upheaval thanks to the FLQ.
As a contrast, the last Canadian to throw a TD pass in the NFL playoffs was in 2015 when the Seattle Seahawks pulled off a fake field-goal try and punter Jon Ryan rolled left and completed a 19-yard TD pass to Garry Gilliam in the 2015 NFC Championship. Ryan, a former CFL player, was the first Canadian to throw a postseason TD pass in the NFL since Mark Rypien on January 2, 1993. A long time, yes, but not as long as waiting since 1969.
Shania Twain will be the halftime entertainment for the 105th Grey Cup. Trooper and April Wine will play Saturday night.
Twain also did halftime for the 2002 Grey Cup in Edmonton. This year's new album from Twain is her first since that same year of 2002.
"We can confirm the CFL has had discussions with a group interested in securing a Canadian Football League franchise for the city of Halifax. While this group has been professional, enthusiastic and impressive, these conversations are relatively new and a very thorough process of due diligence must be put in place and completed before we can fully assess the viability of the project. We want to publicly thank this group for its passion for the CFL and we thank the members of the media for their interest."
TSN's Dave Naylor first reported that "a group of businessmen with ties to Eastern Canada would like to make the Canadian Football League’s dream of a tenth franchise come true in Halifax."
I've been to Halifax and Moncton. I've been to every current CFL city. The Atlantic Schooners would make a great 10th CFL franchise. More people would discover the Maritimes through football. Let's make this happen.
photos credit: ESPNews/TSN/CFL
video credit: CFL