The Ottawa Redblacks chances at their second Grey Cup championship in team history slipped away on Sunday night at Commonwealth Stadium after a 27-16 loss to the Calgary Stampeders.
Ottawa was the underdog coming into the affair, but not to the same extent they were just two years ago when the Redblacks beat the Stamps for the title in 2016. One major difference between that game and this one? The turf.
Players from both teams were unable to get any kind of grip on what seemed more like a curling rink rather than a football field. Despite losing the game in such conditions, the Redblacks weren’t wiling to use it as an excuse for the loss.
“Both teams played on it. We thought it was going to be a lot like it was last week in Ottawa,” said Redblacks head coach Rick Campbell following the game. “This was a little slipperier. Both teams played on it. Give credit to (Calgary).”
No one from the league was made available to explain what happened to the field, but it seems like a freeze-thaw cycle thanks to relatively warm days and cool nights this week in Edmonton was to blame.
It’s certainly not a great look for the league to have their biggest game of the year played in such conditions on a clear night.
“We don’t control that. We can’t worry about that, we knew what it was before the game,” said receiver Brad Sinopoli.
What the Redblacks could control was their play and they weren’t good enough to beat the Calgary Stampeders.
It was just a week ago the CFL world marvelled as quarterback Trevor Harris threw a playoff record six touchdown passes. This week? The offence turned the ball over six times. They failed to score off the two turnovers they did create.
Despite all of that, the Redblacks made a game of it, shrinking Calgary’s lead to just three toward the end of the first half. Then they gave up the back-breaking punt return touchdown with just seconds to go in the first half.
“That was a tough one. Especially at that point, the half is just ending. We’re trying to go down and get a field goal,” said Campbell. “Every football game has a few plays. That was obviously a big moment in the football game.”
Campbell said they were just trying to kick the ball and perhaps a different call would have been a good idea.
“We should be able to cover any kick and it just didn’t happen. They made a play. It was a big one.”
It was an especially tough night for Harris who threw three interceptions, though two of them were late when he had to push the ball down field, and completed just 52.8 per cent of his passes.
Harris took his share of responsibility after the game admitting it’s going to take a long time for him to get over the loss.
Despite how dejected Harris was, the loss and his own play isn’t what’s bothering him the most.
“You just think about how much you love your teammates. That’s the thing that’s the hardest for me. I didn’t get to see my teammates celebrate winning a Grey Cup. That’s where it’s difficult for me. It’s just hard.”