November 26, 2017

Painful Defeat

OTTAWA – Eyes wet with tears, the unfailingly accommodating Roy Finch couldn’t speak, waving away interview requests.

Bo Levi Mitchell sat in his stall, head in hands.

The feeling of desolation, of disbelief, clung to the Stampeders dressing room like a stain that will take a long while to wash out.

“I don’t,’’ admitted DaVaris Daniels, “even know what to say. I am so sick of falling short. It’s killing me.

“The sun’ll rise tomorrow. At least that’s what they say.

“But this one hurts. Bad.

“All the way we felt we were the better team. The right game plan. Everything. We were executing. And then …

“Having it happen two years in a row … this one sucks.

“This one sucks worse.”

Back-to-back heartaches. There’s not enough salve in the world to diminish the pain of Sunday’s 27-24 Grey Cup loss to the Toronto Argonauts on the heels of the 39-33 OT gut-wrenching defeat to the Ottawa Redblacks at BMO Field in Toronto.

“I want to give them credit because they won the game,’’ said fullback Rob Cote softly. “But the bottom line is: In a game like this, under these conditions, whoever doesn’t beat themselves is going to win.

“We beat ourselves. They didn’t.”

A Calgary TV crew approached Cote for a word.

“Sorry, guys,’’ apologized the 11-year Stamp, “but you won’t get much coherent from me on camera.”

Two plays turned a game largely dominated by the Stamps completely topsy-turvy.

Argo DB Cassis Vaughn’s stunning 109-yard return of a Kamar Jordan fumble, Jermaine Gabriel stripping the ball free with the Stampeders’ receiver seemingly on the way into the endzone.

From a potential 31-16 cushion to tied after the Argos made the two-point convert try, with 5:16 left on the clock.

And then, down a trey following a 32-yard Lirim Haijrullahu field goal, Mitchell’s endzone toss intended for Marken Michel is picked off by Toronto’s Matt Black with 20 seconds left on the clock.

No tit-for-tat field goal. No tie. No second consecutive Grey Cup OT game.

“On a play like that,’’ said Jorden of his crippling faux pas, “in a position like that on the field, I just have to be smart with the ball.

“I shoulda had two hands on it. I let it get away from me. In weather like that, conditions like that, you gotta be able to hold the ball to keep the team in position to win the game.

“I didn’t do that.

“It hurts, man. It sucks. The fumble was a big-time fumble and I cost this team the game.”

Mitchell, the way leaders do, downplayed Jorden’s fumble and shouldered the blame.

“I thought he had a helluva game. I thought he was locked in. One bad play. He’ll kick himself for it, sure. But I love him. We still had a chance to win the game at the end.

“Last year, after the Grey Cup, I said I wanted the ball in my hands to win the game. This year it was and I didn’t get it done.”

The Argos finished with an aggregate 135 yards in offence through the first half.

One hundred and ten of it on one play.

Quite a play, granted, Ricky Ray launching the ball into the whitening heavens for DeVier Posey to run under down the sidelines, the customarily immaculate Tommie Campbell’s leap in search of a pick going awry.

The longest TD pass-and-run play in Grey Cup history.

Other than that, though, the Toronto attack was stuck in a snow drift.

The Argos’ offence improved in the second, scoring a TD on its opening drive. But when Jerome Messam, in search of his first ring, latched onto a Mitchell pass to stake the Stampeders to a 24-16 lead, the West champs had the momentum all back on their side.

The final six minutes, though, almost defied description or analysis.

And so after once again putting together the best regular-season record in the land, the Stamps are left to wonder what might have been.

“You’ve gotta look it for what is,’’ said Mitchell. “There’s no credit in this game. No matter how good you play, the group played as a team.

“The fact is at the end of the game they got the job done. We didn’t.

“Bottom line.”