The Saskatchewan Roughriders capped off their dream season with a 45-23 dismantling of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Regina on Sunday night to capture the 2013 Grey Cup. The Riders dominated from the coin toss and turned the province into full on party mode.
After losing Grey Cups in 2009 and 2010, Darian Durant and the Riders would not be denied a championship on home field. The Tiger-Cats looked overwhelmed by the 13th man, as the crowd was as loud as ever in Mosaic Stadium.
The Ti-Cats were sunk by a dreadful second quarter where the Riders put up 24 points compared to just three by Hamilton. Touchdowns by Kory Sheets, Jock Sanders and Geroy Simon had the crowd and an entire province jumping for joy as the Riders had a comfortable 31-6 halftime lead.
The second half saw the game become a little closer as the lead was 31-16 entering the final frame.
The hometown boys finished with some fireworks as Sheets scored his second touchdown. Following a Henry Burris fumble, Durant found Weston Dressler for the sixth Roughrider major. John Chick led the defence with two sacks and a forced fumble. Weldon Brown chipped in with five tackles and an interception.
Kory Sheets was a beast and paced the Riders on offence to earn the well deserved honour of Most Valuable Player. Sheets ran for a Grey Cup record 197 yards as well as two touchdowns. After the game he credited his offensive line with opening up big holes to make his job easier.
The offensive line played their two best games of the season these last two weeks and Durant, as well as Sheets, benefited from the success up front. Durant finished a near perfect playoff run, completing 17 of 24 passes for 245 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Durant is often heavily scrutinized in Rider Nation. When the team isn’t playing well, critics are quick to shoulder Durant with the blame. This season he finally silenced his naysayers, leading the league in passing touchdowns this season with 31, while throwing a career low eight interceptions. However, in the playoffs he took his game to the next level with just 15 incompletions through all games. He threw for just under 800 yards and ran for another 150 in the three postseason games, landing eight touchdowns and no interceptions during the same span.
Durant was the losing quarterback in both the 2009 and 2010 Grey Cups and admitted he needed to play better in the championship game if the team was to succeed — a task he lived up to on Sunday. After the game Durant was overjoyed and swelled with emotion as the clock hit zero.
“Somebody get the monkey off my back, please!” Durant said after the game. He also thanked the contingent of fans that had always believed in him.
But the night wasn’t about Durant, Sheets, Dressler or Simon — nor was it about the defence that performed so well all year long. After so many years of heartbreak and post-season failure, this was about Rider Nation as a whole.
Devoted fans forgot all about past disappointments and reveled in perhaps the greatest win in the franchises’ 103 year history.
The team came together at the right time and played phenomenally from top to bottom. The offensive and defensive lines controlled the trenches. The defence didn’t miss many tackles and held Hamilton in check all game. Durant found the open receivers and his targets caught passes and made would-be tacklers miss. From management, down to the players and the fans in the stands, this Grey Cup championship is for all of Rider Nation to share.
Following the game, long time fans were ecstatic and some even shed tears as they watched their beloved team capture their fourth Grey Cup. Some 44,000 green-clad fans were rambunctious all game and only a handful had left following the end of the game. Most stayed for the celebration in the stands and to see the team be presented with the Grey Cup.
Celebration spilled over into the streets as a few thousand fans lined up and down the Green Mile in Regina, soaking in the once-in-a-lifetime feeling. The party lasted well into the night for both fans and the players alike, as the victory cements this season as one of the greatest of all time. Never before have the Riders won the Grey Cup on home turf and that is why this game was so special.
On behalf of all the Rider fans, congratulations to the 2013 Saskatchewan Roughriders for their unbelievable season.
Photo: Treehugger 75/flickr