Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Grey Cup rematch is set, as Riders beat Calgary in Western Final

The Saskatchewan Roughriders beat the weather and a tight opposing defense to defeat the Calgary Stampeders in the CFL Western Final 20-16, setting up a Grey Cup rematch with Montreal next Sunday in Edmonton.

Calgary got out to a 4-0 first quarter lead, on the strength of a 77 yard Burke Dales punt single 1:14 into the game, and a 15 yard Rob Maver field goal with 4:45 left in the quarter. The lead grew to 11-0 not quite three minutes later. Two plays after a Malik Jackson interception, Henry Burris found an open Arjei Franklin, who broke a tackle and ran it in from 22 yards out for the major score. Maver kicked the convert with 1:49 remaining in the opening quarter.

The Riders sliced into the lead late in the half, grinding out 6 points on a drive that went 80 yards in 8 plays, ending with a 6 yard Darian Durant to Chris Getzlaf touchdown pass. Warren Kean converted with 2:07 left in the first half, shrinking the Stampeder lead to 11-7. Saskatchewan got set up deep in Calgary territory in the waning moments of the first half, as James Patrick picked off a Burris pass over the middle, returning it to inside the 10. After an illegal contact penalty gave the Riders a second and goal at the 6, Durant found Cary Koch at the back line of the endzone for a major score with 3 seconds left in the half. Kean converted, giving Saskatchewan a 14-11 halftime lead.

Dales nailed a 51 yard punt single 1:04 into the third quarter for the Stamps, then kicked a 25 yard field goal with 9:09 left in the third, putting Calgary back in the lead, 15-14. The Roughriders responded after the field goal, by marching 75 yards for the go-ahead score on a drive that included a lengthy review that overturned a fumble call  against Wes Cates and allowed them to keep the ball. Cates finished the drive by punching it in from 4 yards out with 2:29 left in the third. The convert snap was bad and Kean's desperation pass fell incomplete, and Saskatchewan's lead was 5, at 20-15.

The Stampeders started a drive from around midfield late in the third, which stalled early in the fourth, thanks to a Byron Bullock sack of Burris. Dales missed the coffin corner on his punt, instead getting a 42 yard punt single 21 seconds into the final quarter, leaving the Rider lead at 4, 20-16. With around 2-and-a-half minutes left in regulation, Ryan Grice-Mullen couldn't handle a Dales punt, with a mad-scramble ensuing. Fortunately for Saskatchewan, a Calgary player pushed the ball into the endzone, where it was recovered by the Riders' Jerrell Freeman, giving Saskatchewan the ball at their own 25, with no points awarded to the Stampeders. The Riders made the most of their good fortune, running out the clock and winning the Western Final, 20-16. For Saskatchewan, it was their fifth straight playoff win over Calgary, with four of those coming in the past five seasons. "Down by 11, that's kind of our comfort zone," joked Rider Head Coach Ken Miller after the game with Rider Radio's Carm Carteri. "We get down there, then we come back. Really, Darian (Saskatchewan quarterback Durant) started completing some balls, we scored a touchdown, James Patrick made a great interception to set up a second touchdown, and then a great third quarter drive offensively." About his defense, Miller said they "played lights out all night. It was a great team effort, played mentally tough and played physically on them." On returning to the Grey Cup for a rematch with Montreal, Miller said that "It's an opportunity the men are looking forward to and certainly I am."

The Riders were led, as usual, by Darian Durant. The Saskatchewan pivot was 20-of-36 passing for 180 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. Chris Getzlaf caught 8 balls for 109 yards and 1 touchdown, Cary Koch caught a touchdown pass, Wes Cates ran the ball 12 times for 60 yards and 1 touchdown and Warren Kean kicked 2 converts. The Stampeders were led by Henry Burris, who was 19-of-28 passing for 229 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Arjei Franklin caught a touchdown pass and Rob Maver kicked 2 field goals, 1 convert and 3 singles. The Riders had 267 total yards, 22 first downs, had the ball for 32:21, sacked Burris 3 times and were penalized twice for 15 yards. Calgary had 296 total yards, 13 first downs, had the ball for 27:39, sacked Durant just once and were penalized 10 times for 102 yards.

Saskatchewan now heads to Edmonton next Sunday for their third Grey Cup appearance in the past four years. Waiting there for them will be the defending Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes, who beat Toronto in the East Final earlier in the day, 48-17. The Alouettes kicked a field goal on the game's final play to beat the Riders in last years Grey Cup match. Kickoff is set for 6:30pm EST next Sunday night.

Darian Durant and Henry Burris embrace after the game.

Jerrell Freeman, the Riders' defensive hero, celebrates after the Riders' Western Final win.

Chris Getzlaf talks with TSN.

The Riders celebrate with their fans.

Rider Coach Ken Miller.

Western Conference Championship Trophy presentation.

Bring on Montreal!

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