The Saskatchewan Roughriders will play for the Grey Cup in Regina this Sunday Nov. 24 following a 35-13 win over the Calgary Stampeders. The Riders avenged two losses earlier in the season to the Stampeders and now have a chance to win their fourth championship in team history.
The Riders defence was dominant and created seven takeaways, including four fumbles on the cold and snowy day in Calgary. The Riders defence also held Stampeder running back Jon Cornish to just 73 yards rushing, well below his season average of 106 yards per game. Cornish is a Most Valuable Player candidate and was a key player for the Stamps throughout the season, but the Riders shut him down completely as he had accrued -3 yards rushing at halftime while the Roughriders held a comfortable 22-6 lead.
The offence was equally effective, with running back Kory Sheets having his best game of the season when it mattered the most, running for 177 yards and a touchdown. The team as a whole ran for over 250 yards, their highest total all season.
Quarterback Darian Durant was nearly perfect as he completed 24 of 30 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns, along with zero interceptions. The Riders’ offensive line also had its best game of the season, providing Sheets with large holes to run through and giving Durant ample time in the pocket to find an open receiver.
The Riders outplayed the Stamps in every facet. The Riders had 33 first downs to Calgary’s 13,200 more offensive yards and nearly double the time of possession as the Stampeders did. The defence caused seven Calgary turnovers compared to just one forced by the Stamps defence.
As the 35-13 score would indicate, it wasn’t a close contest. The team’s best performance of the year sent all 10,000 or so Rider fans in the stadium home happy while those watching back in Saskatchewan went into a frenzy. Without a doubt, this Grey Cup weekend in Regina will be one-of-a-kind.
Late in 2012 it was announced the 101st edition of the Grey Cup would be held in Regina, and ever since Rider fans have been dreaming that their team would play in that game. Its now a year since then and the Riders are a single win away from claiming the Grey Cup on home turf.
The Riders will take on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this Sunday, who upset the Toronto Argonauts 36-24 to advance to the championship game. There are a bundle of storylines heading into the big clash.
Ti-Cats coach Kent Austin used to be the starting quarterback for the Riders and was the team’s head coach in 2007 — the last time the Green and White captured the Grey Cup. Hamilton quarterback Henry Burris also led the Riders in 2000 and 2003-04, and will no doubt experience an icy reception from his former fans.
The last time these teams met in a grey Cup game was in 1989, when the Riders won 43-40 on a last second field goal by Dave Ridgeway.Interestingly enough, the Riders’ quarterback during that game was Ausin. The game is considered to be one of — if not the best — Grey Cup game of all time. Twenty-four years later, the teams will meet again.
The Roughriders faced off against the Tiger-Cats twice during the regular season with the Riders winning both contests, including a 37-0 win at home back in July. Hamilton has improved since then and no doubt will be ready to play come Sunday.
This is only the third time Saskatchewan has hosted a Grey Cup championship game. The last time they hosted, in 2003, the Riders finished 11-7 and lost in the Western Final. This year’s game is sold out with just over 45,000 people expected to be in attendance, of which most of whom will presumably be wearing green and rooting for the home team.
This is the Riders first trip to the title game since 2010, when they lost to the Montreal Alouettes. The team has made it to this stage 19 times in the franchise’s history but they have only brought the cup home three times. This time the Riders have home field advantage on their side.
The last two teams to hoist the Grey Cup won at home, with the B.C. Lions claiming the cup 2011 and the Toronto Argonauts in 2012.
You have to think the Riders have a great shot at winning if they play the way they did this past weekend against Calgary. The Riders will be also prepared for the elements which could prove to be a big advantage.
The game begins at 5 p.m. Central Standard Time this Sunday on TSN. Tune in and cheer on the Green and White with the rest of the province.
Many consider the last championship meeting between the Roughriders and the Tiger-Cats to be one of the greatest games in Canadian Football League history, culminating in “The Kick” that is now famous among Rider fans.
The last time the two teams met was to contest the 77th Grey Cup on November 26, 1989. The Roughriders had a mediocre 9-9 season while the Tiger-Cats were the number one team in the Eastern Division after going 12-6.
No one was expecting the Riders to make the playoffs, but they scrapped and fought their way into the championship game after defeating the Calgary Stampeders in the west semi-final and the Edmonton Eskimos in the final.
The Tiger-Cats waltzed into the final with seven all-stars gracing their lineup. It seemed like the Riders may as well hand over the cup, but that’s why we play the game.
The first quarter followed script as the Tiger-Cats led the Riders 13-1. Going into halftime the Riders had pulled within five, now down 22-27.
When the two teams returned to the field the Riders had come to life. The third quarter belonged to the Green and White and for the first time they led the Tiger-Cats 34-30.
Leading 40-33 with two minutes left to play, the Riders almost had the cup in their hands. Not ready to surrender, the Tiger-Cats marched downfield and tied the game at 40 with just under a minute to go.
With regulation time winding down, Riders quarterback Kent Austin completed three passes to land the Riders at the 26-yard line. With nine seconds remaining it came down to one kick.
Dave Ridgway sent ‘The Kick’ through the uprights and the Riders claimed their second Grey Cup championship with their first coming 23 years earlier.
Photo: Mike Ridewood
Graphic: Cody Schumacher/Graphics Editor