By Max Campbell
The Calgary Stampeders won the 102nd Grey Cup over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats with a 20-16 triumph at Vancouver’s BC Place on Sunday.
Both offences struggled on their opening possessions, as a Tiger-Cat punt preceded a two-and-out from the Stampeder offensive unit.
LB Deron Mayo forced an early fumble when he collided with RB Nic Grigsby in the backfield, however the Tiger-Cats scooped up the bouncing ball after a 29-yard loss on second down. Immediately following the subsequent punt, QB Bo Levi Mitchell found rookie WR Eric Rogers alone in the secondary for a pickup of 28 yards. A nifty shovel pass to veteran SB Nik Lewis set up a one-yard plunge from second string pivot Drew Tate on the very next play for the first points of the contest. The score came with just over five minutes remaining in the first quarter of action.
A clutch catch by former Hamilton wideout Simon Charbonneau-Campeau on second-and-20 kept Calgary’s second drive alive, which was finished off with a second touchdown scamper from Tate. A defensive pass interference penalty in the end zone placed the ball at the one-yard line, where the sixth-year Stamp plunged across the goal line behind the left side of his offensive line.
The East Division champions only managed a single first down on their next drive, which came via a 21-yard toss to Canadian SB Andy Fantuz.
Then, with seven minutes remaining before the break, QB Zach Collaros scrambled in the pocket before locating a leaping Brandon Banks 36 yards downfield. The field goal unit came on two plays later, but the kick was blocked by the outstretched arm of DL Demonte Bolden for the first turnover of the evening.
The Red and White would soon capitalize on the miscue. Mitchell connected with Rogers and WR Maurice Price for a combined 68 yards on back-to-back completions, paving the way for a Rene Paredes chip shot from 11 yards out. The Stamps led 17-0 after the converted field goal.
Calgary’s lead was reduced just 56 seconds later as an uncovered Banks ran under a deep heave from Collaros. The 45-yard major was the sixth score through the air for the former Kansas State Wildcat in 2014.
Three-time Most Outstanding Canadian Jon Cornish tallied 20 all-purpose yards through two quarters.
In the opening stages of the third, Price was halted four yards short of a fresh set of downs. Rob Maver came on to punt the ball away, setting the stage for a lengthy return of 45 yards from Banks who scored twice on special teams in last week’s playoff victory over the Montreal Alouettes.
The Stamps’ initial possession of the second half concluded with a 20-yard Paredes field goal. Four different players made a reception on the 12-play drive that took 6:32 off the clock.
Soon after, K Justin Medlock’s 25-yard field goal was successful to cut the deficit to 10. Mitchell then committed Calgary’s first turnover of the game when a throw intended for SB Marquay McDaniel was intercepted by DB Delvin Breaux. The Katy, TX native had not been picked off in his previous four appearances under centre. Another Medlock field goal narrowed the lead to a converted touchdown.
DL Corey Mace brought down Collaros behind the line of scrimmage before yet another three points courtesy of Medlock set the score at 20-16.
Paredes, filling in for the injured Maver who was the victim of a thunderous block in the third quarter, punted to Banks with 1:12 left who promptly dashed his way to pay dirt. The potential go-ahead touchdown was called back in dramatic fashion due to an illegal block, forcing the Ticats to begin from deep in their own territory.
When the Tiger-Cat offence took the field for the final time with 35 seconds left in the championship game, DL Shawn Lemon registered a sack of his own at Hamilton’s own three-yard line. Fantuz and WR Luke Tasker made catches over the middle in the final moments, but Collaros’ final attempt was deflected, bouncing off the turf as time expired.
Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was named the Grey Cup’s Most Valuable Player.