By Mike Hardiman
Special to Stampeders.com
The Calgary Stampeders and Toronto Argonauts will meet to decide the championship of the CFL, with the winner laying claim to the Grey Cup trophy — the symbol of Canadian football supremacy.
This is the 100th time the trophy will be awarded, the first being back in 1909 to the University of Toronto and the most recent to the BC Lions in 2011. The Stampeders (12-6, second place in the West during the regular season) will be playing in their 13th Grey Cup game since the club was founded in 1945 and have an even 6-6 record in the Grey Cup with victories in the 1948, 1971, 1992, 1998, 2001 and 2008 games.
The Argos (9-9, second place in the East) have been a part of 21 Grey Cups, winning 15, the most in Canadian football history. Toronto last won the Cup in 2004 and is currently on a four-game Grey Cup winning streak dating back to 1991.
The two clubs have met twice before in the championship game — once in 1971 and again in 1991. Calgary beat the Argos in 1971 by a 14-11 score, breaking a 23-year Cup drought for the Stamps. The Boatmen even the score by defeating the Stamps 36-21 in 1991.
The Argos are playing in a Grey Cup in Toronto for the first time since they lost to Edmonton 32-16 in 1982. Meanwhile, Calgary is playing the host team for a second consecutive Grey Cup as in 2008 the Stamps beat the Alouettes in Montreal by a score of 22-14.
The Stamps are led by head coach John Hufnagel, who is looking for his second Grey Cup ring as a head coach (2008) to go along with one from 1992 as an assistant with Calgary.
Toronto’s rookie head coach is Scott Milanovich, a former Stampeder player and assistant coach, who has two Grey Cup wins under his belt as an offensive coordinator with Montreal in 2009 and 2010.
The teams met twice in 2012, with Toronto winning both games — 39-36 at the Rogers Centre in Week 2 and 22-14 at McMahon Stadium in Week 8. The Argos were the only team Calgary did not beat during the 2012 regular season.
Calgary has not had much success in Toronto in the regular season, winning just 15 games of 42 games played in the Ontario capital all-time. The Stamps are 2-8 in the 10 most recent games at Rogers Centre (and its previous incarnation as SkyDome) dating back to 2003.
The Stamps last won in Toronto in 2009, a 23-20 decision. Calgary has taken part in five previous Grey Cups played in Toronto and has won two of them – 1948 against Ottawa and the last one they played in Toronto, 1992 against Winnipeg.
The Grey Cup will kick off after the opening festivities scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. MST on Sunday, Nov. 25 at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
The game will be televised on TSN and RDS and can also be heard on the radio at QR77 (AM 770 on the radio dial and www.qr77.com on the Internet) and on SIRIUS Satellite Radio, channel 157 and channel 160 for XM subscribers.
Fans in the U.S. can catch watch the game on NBCSN and via webcast on ESPN3 (www.espn.go.com).
Calgary’s No. 2-ranked offence remained red hot in the West final win over the Lions, scoring 34 points and racking up 478 yards against the Lions’ No. 1-ranked defence. It was the most yards surrendered by BC all season.
QB Kevin Glenn torched the Lions’ secondary for 303 yards on just 15 completions, including touchdown passes of 68 and 57 yards. He passed for three total touchdowns.
SB Maurice Price led the team with six catches for 117 yards and a touchdown, extending his streak of 100-yard receiving games to five, while SB Marquay McDaniel also topped the century mark with five catches for 104 yards and a touchdown.
WR Romby Bryant had the other major, a 57-yard bomb that was a carbon copy of his game-winning TD against the Riders in the West semifinal.
RB Jon Cornish, the West’s nominee as both Outstanding Player and Outstanding Canadian, had his second straight 100-yard game of the post-season, rushing for 112 yards and an impressive 6.4-yard average. The Stamps have scored 70 points and totaled 962 yards of offence in two playoff games with two different starting quarterbacks.
As mentioned, the Stamps lost both games played against the Argos this season and the offensive numbers in those contests are a far cry from the unit’s recent production. Calgary averaged 25 points and 301.5 yards of offence in the losses and twice lost the time of possession battle thanks to a combined rushing total of just 118 yards.
The Stamps also surrendered six sacks and served up five giveaways in the two losses.
Cornish ran for just 82 yards while Glenn passed for 462 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. SB Nik Lewis caught a combined 13 passes for 163 yards and two majors against the Argos to lead all Stamps receivers. McDaniel had 10 receptions for 132 yards to place second.
The biggest difference in the Stamps’ offence since the Week 8 loss has been the addition of Price to the offence and his presence combined with a rejuvenated WR Romby Bryant (13 catches for 218 yards and two touchdowns in his last three games) gives Glenn his strongest receiving corps of the season.
The Stamps running game is also much stronger since the last meeting with the Argos. Cornish has five games of more than 100 yards and has averaged 97 yards per game since Week 9. The Stampeders running back had a combined 19 carries in the two losses to the Argos but Calgary is 10-0 this season (including playoffs) in games in which he has 15 or more carries.
Calgary’s defence finished the season third in the CFL in points allowed at 23.9 per game but has seen that average increase to 27.8 points per game over the last five games including totals of 30 and 29 points in the playoffs.
Calgary’s defence has been a big-play unit of late but played more of a shutdown style last week against BC, holding the Leos to just 367 yards (only 73 yards on the ground), two touchdowns and forcing the Lions offence into five field goals. Calgary had no takeaways and only two sacks.
DB Quincy Butler had nine tackles and two pass knockdowns to lead a secondary that had 24 total tackles and a sack while holding QB Travis Lulay to 274 passing yards and a long completion of only 26 yards.
MLB Deron Mayo had four tackles replacing the injured Juwan Simpson while DT Corey Mace had a sack to go along with two tackles.
Calgary gave up an average of 30.5 points per game to the Argos in the regular season and surrendered 941 total yards (723 passing yards) in the two games, the most points and yards allowed of any team they played in 2012 on a per-game average.
The Stamps defence sacked Argo QB Ricky Ray three times and forced four giveaways.
MLB Juwan Simpson, LB Malik Jackson and S Eric Fraser tied for the team lead with 11 tackles against Toronto. Fraser and CB Keon Raymond each had interceptions while DT Demonte’ Bolden each had a sack against the Argos.
THE SPECIAL TEAMS
K Rene Paredes has been perfect in the playoffs, going four-for-four in his attempts and scoring 20 points. Paredes did miss one field goal against the Argos this year, but was two-for-two in the second game.
P Rob Maver has averaged 43.9 yards per punt on 12 kicks in the post-season and averaged 48.7 yards per punt on 13 punts against Toronto. KR Larry Taylor had 309 yards in kick returns in the two Argo games, including 222 yards in kickoff returns in the Week 2 game.
The Argos were the league’s other hot team entering the playoffs, winning their last two regular season games and adding two more victories in the post-season.
That hot streak coincides with the return of QB Ricky Ray (#15), who had missed the previous four games with an injury, a span during which the Argos lost three straight games.
Ray, who passed for more than 4,000 yards and 20 touchdowns during the season, has averaged 331 yards per game and has an 11-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his last four games. Ray was also hot against Calgary, passing for 723 yards and three TDs in the Argos’ two wins.
RB Chad Kackert (#44) rushed for 638 yards in only nine games this season and has 227 rushing yards in the post-season. Kackert played in only one game against Calgary this season, totaling 135 yards of offence.
SB Chad Owens, the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player, led all CFL receivers with 1,328 yards and was second to Calgary’s Nik Lewis with 94 receptions. Owens had 207 receiving yards on 11 catches in the East final and led all Argos receivers against Calgary with 10 catches for 175 yards. Owens also set a CFL record with 3,863 combined yards and scored a touchdown on a punt return in the East semifinal.
SB Andre Durie was third among Canadian receivers with 71 catches during the season and had 12 receptions for 156 yards and a major against the Stamps. The Argos offence ranked sixth in points scored (24.7 per game) and fifth in total offence (358.3 yards per game) during the regular season but has averaged 34.5 points and 434.5 yards in the playoffs.
Toronto’s defence ranked sixth in points allowed (27.3 per game) and in yards allowed (365.6 per game) but was second in takeaways with 43, including 24 picks.
The Argos were dead last in sacks (27).
The Argos feature a couple of ex-Stampeders on a defence run by former Calgary defensive coordinator Chris Jones — MLB Robert McCune (#45) led the team with 85 tackles and LB Brandon Isaac (#28) had 43 tackles, four sacks and three forced fumbles.
DB Marcus Ball (#6) had a terrific first season in the CFL with 75 tackles, three sacks and one interception while S Jordan Younger (#26) was tied for second in the league with five interceptions. CB Pat Watkins (#25) is a key member of the Argos defence with 67 tackles and five picks but missed the East final with an injury.