It was 10 years ago today that the Stampeders won the most unlikely of their six Grey Cup championships.
On Oct. 9, 2001, the Calgary Stampeders found themselves in a decidedly unfamiliar position.
Coming off a dozen consecutive seasons in which the Red and White had recorded a double-digit victory total, including 12 wins in each of the three previous years, the 2001 Calgary squad was saddled with a woeful 5-9 record and seemed to be going nowhere.
Part of the Stamps’ saving grace was that the 2001 campaign was not a strong one for the West Division and Calgary managed to hang tight in the playoff race despite the sub-standard record.
The Calgary roster also still boasted many of the stars of the Stamps’ powerhouse clubs in the 1990s — Kelvin Anderson, Travis Moore, Vince Danielsen, Fred Childress, Jay McNeil, Jamie Crysdale, Alondra Johnson, Greg Frers, Mark McLoughlin, not to mention head coach Wally Buono — so there was still hope the team could pull it all together.
Sure enough, the Stamps won three of their four remaining regular-season games to claim second place in the West despite a pedestrian final record of 8-10. Calgary then downed the BC Lions in the West semi-final at McMahon Stadium before going up to Edmonton to whip the first-place Eskimos 34-16 in the West final.
A nice bounce-back, to be sure, but conventional wisdom — whatever that is — suggested the Stamps’ run would come to a screeching halt in the Grey Cup contest at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. After all, Calgary was going up against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, a team that during the regular season had won 14 games, six more than Calgary and three more than any other CFL team that season.
The Bombers led the CFL in points scored and points allowed and Winnipeg’s roster included notable names such as Khari Jones, the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 2001, Doug Brown, the Most Outstanding Canadian that same season, Milt Stegall, Arland Bruce III and ex-Stamp Marvin Coleman.
The Stamps, however, had no intention of just rolling over for the Bombers. Led by quarterback Marcus Crandell, who silenced his many critics with a solid performance in the stretch run, the Stamps shocked the Bombers 27-19 to win the most unlikely of their six championships.
>> Video: Highlights
Crandell threw for 309 yards and had touchdown passes to Marc Boerigter and Moore to earn Grey Cup MVP honours. The same Marcus Crandell who started the year as Ben Sankey’s backup finished the campaign with nine post-season touchdown passes and zero interceptions.
"It's almost like he was a predator just lurking back in the woods during training camp," veteran centre Crysdale told the media after the Grey Cup triumph. "Just waiting for an opportunity. He just waited his turn, bided his time and when it was his chance to do it, he turned it on.
"At the end of the year, the pressure was on him and he has come through unbelievably. You can't say enough about how well he's matured and how he's come along."
Aldi Henry picked up top-Canadian honours in large part due to the fourth-quarter blocked punt that led to a Willie Fells recovery and touchdown.
While the result that day shocked most of the country, the Stamps felt confident heading into the contest because of their late-season surge.
"Our guys have really learned how to win," said Buono. "These guys are a tough bunch, physically and mentally, and I thought this game was evidence of that.
"They never gave up on themselves, they believed in each other all year and found a way to make a play tonight."
"To all the people who doubted us," Johnson told the media, "shame on them.
"Now, we get the last laugh. Ha ha!"
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