The comeback fails


Montreal Alouettes defeated Saskatchewan Roughriders 21-18 to win 98th Grey Cup in Edmonton

Colin Buchinski

For the second year in a row, Saskatchewan Roughrider fans are heartbroken. Last Sunday, the Montreal Alouettes captured the 98th Grey Cup in Edmonton by a 21-18 count. 

Early in the first quarter, it was all Montreal. Avon Cobourne rushed for the game’s first touchdown and things were not looking good for the Riders.  Near the end of the first, Alouettes kicker Damon Duval missed a 43-yard field goal and the momentum seemed to turn.

Running back Wes Cates, kicker Warren Kean and punter Eddie Johnson added points and the Riders looked sharp in all facets of the game. They took an 11-8 lead into half time.

In the second half, everything changed. Quarterback Darian Durant and the Riders could not get anything going on offence. At the same time, the defence was struggling. The Alouettes were running short screen passes and quick hits the Riders could not stop. Calvillo and the Alouettes were driving the ball at will.

The Riders trailed by 10 points in the fourth quarter and needed a miracle to win. It didn’t materialize as Durant tossed an interception in the final minute, sealing the win for the Alouettes, who are the first team to win back to back Grey Cups since the Toronto Argonauts did it in 1996-97.

The turning point of the game was a successful fake punt attempt by the Als in the third quarter. They got the first down and continued driving down field to score points. They tied the game and never looked back. Special teams have cost the Riders all year and it came back to bite them when it mattered most. In 2011, the Riders will need a complete overhaul on special teams. Jim Daley likely won’t return as special teams coordinator.

Two offside calls and a pass interference call in the second half also had a huge effect on the outcome of the game. Rider linebacker Byron Bullock intercepted a pass, but was called for pass interference on the play. The Alouettes scored a touchdown on the same drive to increase their lead to ten. Some Rider fans were crying foul about the call, but it was 100% legit.

Certain players needed to step up in this game for the Riders and did not. Slotback Andy Fantuz was double covered for the most part and Chris Getzlaf missed a key pass on first down when the Riders needed it most. On the next play itw was a Montreal blitz that ended up turning in to a QB sack. The Alouettes gained huge momentum on the play. Durant passed for only 215 yards and at one point, the Riders punted eight times in a row.

Saskatchewan was out-coached on Sunday, plain and simple. The Riders made some questionable calls. They rarely attempted to pass downfield, something that brought them much success versus the Als in the regular season. Time management was also a huge concern. While attempting to make a comeback, the riders routinely ran 10-15 seconds off every play clock. You need to be quicker than that. Miller also ran 11 seconds off the clock before calling a timeout in an attempt to ice Duval late in the fourth. Duval missed the kick, as he was struggling all night. The timeout was unnecessary and may have had an outcome on the game if Durant had not thrown the late interception.

There were also positives in this game. Cates played fantastic. He’s played fantastic all year and this year was one of his best as a Rider. At times, the Riders have put him in poor situations, but he has excelled for the most part and he was a big part of getting to this year’s Grey Cup. On defence, Keith Shologan registered two sacks and two tackles and was named the most valuable Canadian. On Montreal’s side, former Rider Jamel Richardson was named the game’s most valuable player. He had eight receptions for 109 yards and ran all over cornerback Omarr Morgan all night. You have to feel for Morgan, because in his 11th season with the Riders he still has no Grey Cup ring. He’s definitely shown this year that his career is almost over.

Despite the loss, the Green and White had a fantastic year and there is much to be proud of. Ten years ago, Montreal began the decade with a loss in the Grey Cup. They then went on to appear in eight Grey Cups in 10 years. The Riders are a young team now and the Alouettes are aging. The Riders have a bright future. Expect to see them in many more Grey Cups in the future. Durant is one of the best young players in the game. If you had to choose one guy to build a team around, it would probably be him. Remember, Calvillo went 1-5 in Grey Cup games until winning two in a row.

Rider fans need to be patient, Durant will get the job done. We may have just witnessed the best five years in Saskatchewan Roughrider history: Three Grey Cup appearances, four home playoff games and a Grey Cup win. There is more to come.

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