Winnipeg – The players and coaches have prepared, the fans have partied and now it’s time to PLAY the 2016 Grey Cup game. It’s the third time in the last ten years the game has been held in Toronto, which in retrospect was a huge mistake by the CFL. The lack of buzz and interest in downtown To. is a product of many things, one of them being the fact the game was here just four years ago, and before that in 2007. No city in the CFL can get excited about having the championship game 3 times in a 10-year span.
That aside, more than 33,000 fans, a capacity crowd at BMO field, will flock to exhibition park in Toronto Sunday night to watch what, on paper, is surely one of the biggest mis-matches in CFL history. The Calgary Stampeders posted a 15-2-1 record, the Ottawa RedBlacks were 8-9-1. Calgary scored 586 points to Ottawa 486, the Stampeders allowed only 369 points, the RedBlacks gave up 498. Calgary led the CFL in quarterback sacks with 52 and gave up the fewest, 20. Ottawa allowed the most sacks, 50 and recorded only 42. In the turnover category, Calgary was plus 19, Ottawa minus 10. The statistical disparity goes on and on. But the great equalizer in football is that a championship is decided in one game. When all things are possible.
The RedBlacks aren’t without their attributes. They led the CFL in passing yards and were third in rushing, superior to the Stampeders in both areas. Ottawa quarterback Henry Burris passed for more than 1100 yards in his final three regular season games after regaining the starting spot from Trevor Harris. And Burris was sharp in Ottawa’s East final win over Edmonton completing 16 of 25 passes for two touchdowns. At 41 years of age, the game provides a chance for Burris to cement his legacy as one of the all-time greats, if indeed, it needs cementing. Burris will go down as one of the CFL all-timers at his position, but leading a team to a second Grey Cup victory would add some shine to his future Hall of Fame trophy. Burris, who always seems to feel he has something to prove, would likely love nothing better than to defeat the team that kicked him to the curb after the 2011 season. Burris will need to be at his best to give Ottawa a chance. The RedBlacks need to make first downs and control the football. Handing it back to Bo Levi Mitchell on a regular basis won’t work for Ottawa.
Defensively the RedBlacks must find a way to get after Mitchell. Bo Levi operates behind one of the best offensive lines in the CFL and even though injuries have forced the Stamps to active a second American on the o-line for this game in Ucambre Williams, Stamps offensive line coach Pat Delmonaco always finds a way to get good performance out of his front five. Behind that line, Jerome Messam rumbled for a league leading 1198 yards and a 5.8 yard average. Neutralizing Messam is mandatory for the RedBlacks. Mitchell’s favorite targets in the passing game are Marquay McDaniel and Davaris Daniels. Not only did Mitchell complete 68% of his passes, he is very good at improvising under pressure and rarely makes mistakes with only 8 interceptions in 606 passes.
The Stampeders are notorious front-runners. No opponent scored more than 9 points against them in the first quarter this season. Stamps outscored their foes 138-58 in the first 15 minutes this season.
A Calgary win would give the Stamps a right to argue that they put together the greatest single season in CFL history. 15-2-1 in the regular season, plus West final and Grey Cup wins would leave them with a 17-2-1 season. It would also be their 2nd Grey cup win in three years and their third since John Hufnagel took charge of the franchise in 2008. It would also be the 8th Championship in Calgary franchise history.
If Ottawa can find a way to win, they will bring the Grey Cup back to Ottawa for the first time since 1976 when Tom Clements threw that last minute game winning touchdown pass to Tony Gabriel, giving the Eastern Riders a 23-20 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. RedBlacks would also become just the third team in CFL history to win the Grey cup after posting a losing record in the regular season.
The talking is over. Time to play the 104th Grey Cup game. It kicks off at 5-30 Central time Sunday night under what are expected to be ideal weather conditions, 3 degrees celcius, light winds and only a 10% chance of precipitation.