Every fan in the league has sat through bad football.
Fans in Ottawa and Toronto were certainly treated to plenty of it last season.
But few have endured a game that went out of its way to be as dull and unentertaining as fans in Montreal in 1966.
It was the regular season final for two East division teams as the 11-2 Ottawa Rough Riders visited the 6-7 Montreal Alouettes. Due to the cold and windy weather, just over 12,000 fans were on hand at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium. Everyone who stayed home absolutely did not regret their decision.
On paper, it should’ve been an entertaining game. Montreal was fighting for playoff seeding and the Rough Riders were the best team in the country, coached by the legendary Frank Clair.
Between the two teams, the game featured eight offensive Eastern All-Stars; Russ Jackson, Bo Scott, Ted Watkins, Whit Tucker, Doug Spect and Moe Racine for Ottawa, while Montreal boasted Don Lisbon and Tony Pajaczkowski.
Given the talent on the field and the lack of rain or snow (although it was indeed hovering close to zero and windy), scoring should not have been a problem.
Instead, the game was a master class in ineptitude, with the two teams combining for 24 total punts, two interceptions (one each) and four fumbles. Neither team ever got closer than their opponents 35-yard line.
The Rough Riders mustered seven total first downs; one in the first half and six in the second. Montreal did somewhat better with a baker’s dozen.
Quarterback Russ Jackson, arguably the game’s greatest Canadian player, went the distance for the Rough Riders but only completed 7-of-19 passes for 132 yards. Ron Stewart’s nine carries generated 19 yards. 1966 was the first year the CFL legalized unlimited blocking on running plays but it was as if someone forgot to tell Ottawa’s offensive line. Too often Stewart was tackled half a second after being handed the ball.
The Rough Riders finished the game with 183 total yards. Both times Moe “The Toe” Racine lined up to kick field goals, he missed, from 33 and 35 yards out. Neither miss resulted in a rouge because both times Montreal managed to get the ball out of their end zone. In an odd quirk, despite missing both kicks in the final game of the regular season, Racine still won the league’s scoring title.
As for Montreal, the Alouettes went with a rotating system at quarterback. George Bork played the first and fourth quarters while Bernie Faloney got his time in the middle of the game (second and third quarters). Together, they completed 5-of-11 passes for 38 yards. One area where Montreal did have success was on the ground, as they rushed for 165 yards.
The game’s lone point came late in the fourth quarter. With four minutes remaining in the game, Peter Kempf’s 36-yard field goal attempt sailed wide. The Rough Riders failed to return the ball out of their end zone and thus conceded a single point and opened the scoring after 56 minutes of play.
Following the loss (Ottawa’s first shutout since a 1963, 45-0 playoff loss to Hamilton), Rough Rider head coach Frank Clair blamed the defeat on the offensive play calling. He had forbidden Jackson to roll out of the pocket which severely hampered Ottawa’s attack and made life easier for Montreal’s defence.
With nothing but pride left to play for Clair had wanted all his starters to play to stay sharp heading into the playoffs but called a conservative game in an attempt to avoid injuries. Still, he did tip his hat to Montreal’s suffocating defensive performance and called them the best unit in the league.
The game was an anomaly for both teams, and come the playoffs both rekindled their offence. For the 7-7 Alouettes, their post-season run was short, ending with a 24-14 defeat on the road in Hamilton.
The Rough Riders bested the Ticats in a two game East Final series, winning 30-1 in Hamilton and 42-16 at home to earn a berth in the 54th Grey Cup in Vancouver, where they ultimately lost to Saskatchewan by a score of 29-14.
*The only other 1-0 game in Canadian pro football history was a Winnipeg victory over Calgary in 1949 on a Bob Sandburg rouge. Technically the CFL didn’t exist (it was founded in 1958) so the game took place in the Western Interprovincial Football Union.