Don’t get me wrong, as a Stamps fan, I wanted to say “Calgary all the way!” when I first made my playoff predictions a couple weeks back. But I admit, I got caught up in the quarterback confusion, and with visions of Rob Johnson fumbling in my head, ultimately decided that Drew Tate did not have what it takes to be
Inkmaster Grey Cup champion–at least not in this injury-plagued season. But as it turned out, Tate played great in pulling off a last-minute win over the Riders–then he broke his wrist in practice, forcing the Stamps to go back to Kevin Glenn in the West Final. The rest, as they say, is history. Some 303 yards, 3 TDs and 34 points later, Glenn and the Stamps were headed to the Grey Cup–and so am I, having shelled out some big bucks for second-hand tickets.
On the other hand, I had pegged the Argos for a Grey Cup appearance when I first made my picks, assuming–correctly, as it were–that Montreal could be beaten on its home turf. I even nailed the margin of victory in the Eastern Semi, though I was four points per side off from the actual score. But then I predicted that both East Final participants would put up a lot more points than they actually did, before Toronto would fall to B.C. in the Grey Cup final. Then again, they aren’t playing the Lions, so it’s time for me to revisit my prediction for tonight’s game.
Looking back at the schedule, the Stamps and Argos played a couple close games this season. In fact, their Week Two matchup, which I attended, was decided by a last-second field goal, as the Double-Blue walked off with a 39-36 victory before a meager crowd of 20,682. Then in late August, on the not-yet frozen tundra of McMahon Stadium, the two teams put forth a much lower-scoring affair; though once again, Toronto prevailed, 22-14, on a 300-yard passing day from Ricky Ray and five(!) Swayze Waters field goals. But hey, that was three months ago. After that loss, the Stamps reeled off four straight wins, and would only lose two more games (to Saskatchewan and B.C.) the rest of the way. On the other hand, the Argos stumbled down the stretch, going 5-6 to end the year–with three of those wins coming over last-place Hamilton. True, they have won four in a row, including two playoff games, but you could argue that they’ve had an easier road to get here. After all, Edmonton finished last in the West, and Calgary beat the Esks four (that’s right, four!) times this year…
While the Stamps dominated Edmonton this season, and the Argos beat ‘em pretty bad in the first round, it’s worth noting that the Esks were without their franchise quarterback, Ricky Ray, who they traded to Toronto in the off-season. Likewise, Stamps starter Kevin Glenn was an off-season acquisition, though he wasn’t handed the job until Drew Tate went down in Week Two. That said, while the QBs have just settled in to their new cities–it will be interesting to see what happens to Glenn next year, though–they’re quite familiar with the opposing teams. Ricky Ray is used to seeing the Stamps at three times a year, and had a respectable 4-5 record against Calgary on Labour Day–not bad considering it was always a road game for the Eskimos. Speaking of the Labour Day Classic, Glenn lead the Ti-Cats to lopsided wins over Toronto in 2009 and 2010, before the league gaffed by not scheduling the traditional Argos-TiCats matchup last season. However, Hamilton almost became accustomed to early playoff exits under Glenn, to the point that he was made expendable.
Last year, after leading his team to an improbable win over Montreal in the Eastern Semi, Glenn threw for just 113 yards in the snow as Hamilton lost 19-3 to Winnipeg. His last best chance to reach the Grey Cup came in 2007, where he threw for 201 yards in a Winnipeg win over the Argos, but broke his arm late in the game and missed the final, in which the Bombers lost to Saskatchewan. So now, after 12 years in the league, he finally gets his chance in the big game. Of course, Ray’s been here a few times before, and has won a couple rings, but while there’s no question that most teams would take Ray over Glenn in any situation, I wouldn’t count out the feel-good, first-time veteran storyline. I mean, chances are Tate regains the starting job next year, and provided that he proves to be more durable than a current Bombers QB *cough*Beat-Up Buck*cough*, he could send Glenn to the sidelines for good. Thus, this could very well be KG’s last chance at leading a team to the Cup–and I’m sure it isn’t lost on him.
I gotta say, I see a lot of parallels between this year’s game and 2008, the Stamps’ last Grey Cup win. For one thing, there should be a lotta Bomber blue in the stands, as Winnipeg is coming off a Grey Cup loss last year, just like they were in ’07. Of course, the Stamps were also the de-facto road team in the 96th Grey Cup, facing the Montreal Alouettes in a raucous Big O–which they ultimately silenced with their shutdown defence and frequent second-half field goals. Like the man he was traded for last year, Henry Burris came into the game with a reputation as a shaky, unpredictable quarterback who had never really succeeded in the postseason. But after a Western Final where Calgary held B.C. to a whole lotta field goals, he came through in the big game, throwing for 328 yards and rushing for 79 en route to being named Grey Cup MVP. The final score, coincidentally, was 22-14, the same as the Week Eight game between the Stamps and Argos this season…
That said, I think it’s gonna take a few more points to pull it off tonight. The Stamps averaged just under 30 points per game this season, while the Argos have been red-hot since Ray returned from injury. Going back to their Week Two shootout, Glenn completed 15-of-19 passes for 172 yards and two scores in just over three quarters of football, erasing a nine-point halftime deficit by answering Toronto’s big plays with several of his own. And based on last week’s impressive road win, I think it’s safe to say that given a full four quarters, Glenn can put up even more points, ending his season right where it began with a Grey Cup win.
It’s also worth noting that the man who kicked the game-winner in Week Two, Noel Prefontaine, is now Toronto’s punter, having ceded the placekicking duties to the awesomely-named Swayze Waters, who made a respectable 32-of-43 field goals in this, his rookie season. But on the other side, Calgary’s Rene Paredes was darn-near perfect, connecting on 40 of 43 attempts. Did I mention that Sandro DeAngelis–another Canadian kicker–hit five FGs for the Stamps in ’08, and was named Most Valuable Canadian? Likewise, I think Paredes kicks Calgary to victory in this one. Just don’t expect Glenn to run for 80 yards. Stamps 32, Argos 26.