The Grey Cup championship goes to the Calgary Stampeders, as they managed to complete a dominant 2014 season by defeating Hamilton 20-16 to capture the title to reign supreme in the Canadian Football League (CFL). The newly crowned champions had been the best team in the league all season long as they compiled a league best 15-3 record, matching the franchise record, and their victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats confirmed their elite status.
Yet, it did not come easily. In fact in some respects, this game was symbolic of the entire season for both of the Grey Cup finalists, the Stampeders and the team that they defeated, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Calgary Stampeders looked incredibly efficient in the first half, as quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell had the hot hand, leading Calgary to two touchdown drives with some incredible throws. Overall, Mitchell completed 25 of 34 pass attempts for 334 yards, and his performance earned him MVP honors for the game. Mitchell was particularly effective in the first half, helping the Stampeders to build a solid 17-0 lead in the second quarter. Calgary’s backup quarterback Drew Tate ran for the team’s two touchdowns. Placekicker Rene Parades notched a couple of field goals the rest of the way to complete the scoring for the Stampeders.
The Tiger-Cats tried everything to get a score in the first half to try to slow Calgary’s momentum, but only succeeded just before halftime, when Hamilton quarterback Zach Collaros threw a beautiful 45-yard pass to Brandon Banks and a picture perfect touchdown that finally got the Tiger-Cats on the board, closing the margin to 17-7 for halftime. Overall, Collaros passed for 282 yards and the touchdown to Banks. Hamilton’s placekicker Justin Medlock added three field goals for the rest of the Tiger-Cats scoring, but they were unable to get into the end zone in the second half, which was crucial for their chances to win.
Down 20-16 late in the fourth quarter, it appeared that the Tiger-Cats had indeed gotten a touchdown in the final minute of play to win in spectacular fashion, when Hamilton’s Brandon Banks ran a punt return for an apparent touchdown with just 35 seconds left to play in the game, and Hamilton fans erupted in a very brief celebration. Banks had scorched Montreal for over 200 yards and two touchdowns last week off of punt returns alone, and it seemed like he finally had delivered in this game, as well. But that touchdown was called back when a flag was thrown for an illegal block on the play by Hamilton linebacker Taylor Reed, and the touchdown was nullified. Reed had pushed Calgary linebacker Karl McCartney in the back, and the flag came immediately, even before Banks reached the end zone for what seemed, briefly, to be the winning score. The negated touchdown seemed to completely deflate the Tiger-Cats, and they were unable to produce anything on offense so far away from their end zone, and with so little time left. Calgary’s defense stood firm and preserved the win for the Stampeders, and as a result, this year’s Grey Cup goes to Calgary.
Hamilton had stumbled out of the gates this season, getting off to a dismal 1-6 start. But the Tiger-Cats were able to turn things around in a major way, winning the vast majority of their remaining games. They recovered enough to set up a winner take all regular season finale with the Montreal Alouettes, and managed to defeat them. Then they dominated Montreal again in the Eastern Final last weekend to qualify for the Grey Cup. For a while, though, it seemed like they were going to get blown out of the water against the Stampeders, but they hung around, with Calgary unable to put Hamilton away. The Tiger-Cats clawed their way back into the game, much like they did this season. They kept finding ways to stay in a game that Calgary seemed to dominate in every category except the scoreboard. In the fourth quarter, Hamilton kept chipping away at Calgary’s lead, and were able to make it a close game. However, they were unable to seal the deal and complete an impressive comeback.
The Grey Cup title went to Calgary this year, and it was a huge event, almost the equivalent of the Super Bowl for Canada in terms of the hoopla surrounding the game, which brings Canadians together in a proud national tradition. In a recent poll, 47 percent of Canadians felt that the Grey Cup was an important cultural institution for the nation. It was the 102nd Grey Cup, and they really tried to throw a party to rival the Super Bowl, as well. The pregame featured numerous high-profile entertainment performances, including one by Canadian country singer Dallas Smith. Canadian jazz-pop artist Nikki Yanofsky performed the Canadian national anthem prior to kickoff. The musical act for the halftime show was the popular American band Imagine Dragons, who put on a solid performance, performing such notable hits such as Demons and Radioactive. Some famous NFL players were there as well, including Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson and left tackle Russell Okung, as well as former Buffalo Bills star and current NFL broadcaster Steve Tasker. Tasker’s son, Luke Tasker, plays for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. One mishap, however, was that the cup itself that serves as the championship trophy broke when Calgary was celebrating their victory.
Commentary by Charles Bordeau
The Globe and Mail – Grey Cup Keeps Land Glorious and Free
The Globe and Mail – Poll Finds Grey Cup
Yahoo Sports Canada
Sportsnet – Grey Cup Breaks
Sportsnet – Calgary fans grateful
Sportsnet – Tiger-Cats Fume
Photo by trec_lit – Flickr