CALGARY — Delight turned to desolation for the Saskatchewan Roughriders as an on-field mistake cost them a Grey Cup championship Sunday.
Leading 27-25 in the final minute, the Roughriders began celebrating a CFL title when Alouettes kicker Damon Duval missed a 43-yard field goal attempt with no time remaining.
But penalty flags flew as the ball sailed wide. Saskatchewan was called for too many men, which gave Duval another chance from 33 yards this time. The Montreal kicker did not miss his second chance.
Saskatchewan watched in disbelief as the Als ran onto the field to celebrate at 28-27 victory.
“The disappointment of this loss is going to affect us as long as we’re on this planet,” said an emotional head coach Ken Miller said after the game.
The Roughriders sent an extra lineman onto the field for the second field goal attempt to try and block it, but failed to take another player off.
Special teams co-ordinator Kavis Reed took responsibility for the gaffe and refused to say which player should have come off.
“The player’s name is not important,” Reed said. “What’s important is that a mistake was made and ultimately I think I’m responsible for that mistake.
“It was not a heat-of-the moment thing. I was going through the mechanics of counting. I asked people to verify the count and that mistake was made.”
The Roughriders took over the Calgary Stampeders’ dressing room upon their arrival in the city and it was nearly silent after Sunday’s game. A few players stood facing their lockers for some time before heading to the showers.
“I’m not going to lie to you. It’s unbelievable right now,” returner Jason Armstead said.
“You’ve got to play four quarters until that last tick is off the clock.”
Ironically, Saskatchewan was the least penalized team in the CFL this season.
Montreal was favoured to win the 97th Grey Cup after posting a 15-3 regular-season record and dominating the B.C. Lions 56-18 in the East Division final.
The ’Riders hoped their inexperienced quarterback Darian Durant would rise to the occasion and that the team would be elevated by the sea of green-clad fans in the stands.
That did happen for much of the game. Durant, playing in his first Grey Cup, ran for a touchdown and threw another. He held his own against Montreal counterpart Anthony Calvillo, who was making his seventh appearance in a CFL final.
Durant completed 17 of 29 passes for 201 yards and ran for another 57.
“It’s a tough feeling. It’s hard to describe. It really is,” said Durant.
“You have to look forward to next year. It’s going to be a tough one to swallow, but time heals all wounds. It’s going to take a little time. It’s a little added motivation to come back and get it right.”
While the penalty will be the talk of the game for years to come, Jerald Brown’s interception of Durant in the fourth quarter led to a Montreal touchdown that allowed the Als to pull within two points.