The Calgary Stampeders defeated the Ottawa Redblacks by a score of 27-16 in the 106th Grey Cup in front of 55,819 fans at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. Below are my thoughts on the game.
Turnovers and special teams reign supreme
They say turnovers and special teams decide football games — and that’s never been more true than the 2018 Grey Cup.
Though the statistics from Sunday’s contest are relatively even across the board, the number that explodes off the page is Ottawa’s six turnovers. Bo Levi Mitchell threw two interceptions, but they didn’t matter — Trevor Harris’ three interceptions, fumbles from William Powell and Diontae Spencer, and a late Ottawa turnover on downs let Mitchell and the Stampeders off the hook.
Terry Williams’ punt return touchdown late in the first half — more on that in a moment — was the biggest play of the game and ultimately the contest’s turning point. Adding a major that late in the half was a gut-punch to a Redblacks team that was struggling to move the ball through the air.
Scoring just five points in the second half, it was clear that Ottawa never recovered.
Turnovers and special teams aren’t sexy — most people would much prefer to watch long passes and acrobatic catches. But they reign supreme, as the 106th Grey Cup so strongly reminded us.
This year’s Grey Cup victory is the eighth in the history of the Calgary Stampeders’ organization and fifth since 1998. It is also the third of the John Hufnagel era (2008, 2014, 2018), the second for Bo Levi Mitchell, and the first for Dave Dickenson as a head coach.
The Stampeders now sit in a tie with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for fifth-most Grey Cup championships all-time behind Toronto Argonauts (17), Edmonton Eskimos (14), Winnipeg Blue Bombers (10), and Ottawa Rough Riders (nine).
I’d like to hear an explanation from the CFL and/or the Edmonton Football Club as to why the playing surface at Commonwealth Stadium was so poor on Sunday.
I get it — footing will never be perfect after temperatures drop late in the season. That’s a given.
But there didn’t appear to be a serious issue with footing in any of the four previous playoff games this season, all of which were played in conditions (somewhat) similar to Sunday’s Grey Cup.
Is the artificial turf at Commonwealth Stadium really that bad? Does the field not drain moisture properly?
Regardless, it’s important to know why the field was in such poor shape so this issue can be avoided in the future (if possible).
Miserable match-up revisited
Last week I bemoaned the fact that Ottawa and Calgary would meet in this year’s Grey Cup.
Some people took that to mean I didn’t think the two teams were deserving of playing in the CFL’s championship game. This is not at all the case and, if you revisit what I wrote, I clearly acknowledged that Ottawa and Calgary were the best teams in their respective divisions. They deserved to be in the Grey Cup, hands down.
I merely want to see fresh faces get the opportunity to play on our country’s largest stage. It’s been eight years since Montreal played for a Grey Cup, seven years for B.C. and Winnipeg, and five years for Saskatchewan.
I want to see a new pair of teams in the Grey Cup next season — but, of course, it’s up to the league’s other seven clubs to make that happen.
Smiles all around
The best moment of Sunday’s broadcast was the post-game interview that TSN’s Matthew Scianitti did with Alex Singleton and his sister, Ashley. Ashley is a Special Olympic athlete who has Down syndrome — and she loves the CFL.
When asked what he told Ashley after the game, Alex said, “We did it — we’re Grey Cup champs!”
Ashley was on the field, already adorning a Grey Cup champions baseball cap.
“I’m so proud of my brother,” she said. “He did great out there.”
That’s the moment I’ll remember most from the 2018 Grey Cup.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) November 26, 2018
The biggest snub of this year’s award season came in the West Division where Saskatchewan receiver Jordan Williams-Lambert got the nod for Most Outstanding Rookie over Calgary boundary cornerback Tre Roberson.
Roberson finally got some of the recognition he deserved leading up to Sunday’s Grey Cup.
The Indiana product is the grandson of Edmonton Eskimo great Larry Highbaugh, a 12-year Eskimo and six-time Grey Cup champion. TSN did a nice feature on Roberson’s bloodlines as part of Sunday’s pregame show, and Roberson got some ink in the Edmonton Sun and National Post.
Regardless, it was nice to see the rookie have a big game on Sunday with five tackles, an interception, and a forced fumble. Hopefully now more people will know Roberson’s name.
Run, Terry, run
Months ago I texted our resident Stamps man, Ryan Ballantine, to ask why his team was playing Romar Morris over Terry Williams.
Morris is a fine player who, sadly, suffered a torn Achilles tendon in last week’s West Final. With all due respect to Morris, however, I’ve always felt Williams was the stronger player — better runner, returner, and receiver out of the backfield.
Williams — playing only due Morris’ injury — broke a Grey Cup record when he scored on a 97-yard punt return at the end of the first half. It was a spectacular play and one that helped seal the game.
One heck of a play from one heck of a player.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) November 26, 2018
I thought Alessia Cara’s Grey Cup halftime show was excellent. Cara is Canadian, has a large number of hit songs, and gave a great performance. What’s not to like?
I particularly liked Cara’s decision to perform “How Far I’ll Go” from the Disney film Moana. The song is a favorite among young kids — my niece and nephew adore it — which is a key demographic the CFL (and almost every company regardless of industry) is trying desperately to reach.
I don’t know if this is possible given the legal/licensing issues involved, but TSN and the CFL would be wise to have Cara’s full performance available on one (or both) of their YouTube accounts.
Shania Twain’s performance from last year is posted only under Twain’s account, a video that currently has just over 380,000 views.
En español, por favor
Sunday’s Grey Cup was the first-ever CFL championship game broadcasted in the Spanish language. Toronto Argonaut defensive end Frank Beltre, a native of the Dominican Republic, provided colour commentary alongside Aaron Soriano, a Mexican sports broadcaster.
I think it’s awesome that the Grey Cup was shown in Mexico with Spanish commentary. I’m also extremely curious to learn how many people watched it.
The Eskimos announced on Sunday morning that the Grey Cup had (finally) sold out. A quick search on Ticketmaster revealed that this wasn’t exactly the case — there were a number of tickets for sale even minutes before kick-off — but it was still a pretty impressive crowd.
Sunday’s official attendance figure was 55,819, the biggest audience a CFL championship game has had since 2010. With that said, the 2018 Grey Cup was also the first held at Commonwealth Stadium that failed to reach the 60,000 mark.
Count that as just another reason the CFL is looking to move up the season.
And now the off-season
At the risk of hyperbole, this off-season could be the most compelling in the history of the CFL.
An expiring collective bargaining agreement means there will be plenty of drama between the league and its players this winter — expect nasty tweets, backhanded press releases, and other public misgivings.
The lack of a collective bargaining agreement for next season also means there is a massive number of free agents set to hit the market in February. Is your favorite CFL player Bo Levi Mitchell, Adam Bighill, Mike Reilly or Micah Johnson? What about Duke Williams, Willie Jefferson, Brandon Banks, or Travis Lulay?
All of these players are pending free agents.
Then there’s the introduction of a CFL salary cap that will be imposed on coaching staffs. How will teams woo coaches from opposing outfits if they’re not able to outbid one another for their services?
And then there’s the Alliance of American Football, a new league set to hit the field in February. How many CFL players will bolt for the AAF, a league that promises more money, fewer games, and an easier road to the NFL?
Coaches could also bolt for the AAF in a heartbeat — after all, the AAF doesn’t have a cap on coaching salaries.
As much as the 2018 CFL season was compelling, the off-season could very well be more entertaining than the season itself.
As always, stick to 3DownNation for news, insight, and analysis of all the intriguing developments that are going to take place this off-season.
It’s going to be a good one.