Calgary Stampeders pivot on Kevin Glenn, upset B.C. Lions 34-29 to advance to Grey Cup (with video)
'I’m excited to get this opportunity. We’ve still got one game left. I’m not finished'
Shawn Gore, 85, of the B.C. Lions gets twisted against the Calgary Stampeders.
Photograph by: Stuart Davis, PNG
VANCOUVER — Kevin Glenn talked about authoring “a storybook finish” to his season prior to Sunday’s CFL West Division Final against the Lions.
Indeed, he’ll get the chance to script the final chapter.
Glenn was the story, the Calgary Stampeders have booked passage to next Sunday’s Grey Cup game in Toronto, and the Lions were left with a cruel fate, seemingly written by the Brothers Grimm.
“The most underrated player” in the CFL is a label that has weighed on Glenn like a millstone since he broke into the league with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2001.
In 11 previous seasons, he had never gone to the Grey Cup game as a participant.
He will now.
The veteran quarterback threw three touchdown passes in Sunday’s 34-29 defeat of the Lions, a game witnessed by 43,216 fans at BC Place Stadium who will tell you the scoreboard stretched the truth like Pinocchio. It wasn’t that close.
“When you get voted ‘most underrated player’ in the league, you tend to embrace it,” Glenn said. “I just believed, ‘Keep the faith.’ I believed God had a plan. What better place for it to happen than Toronto. My graduation from college, my wedding, the birth of my kids … that’s what this feels like. Those are moments I’ll never forget, and this is one I’ll never forget. I’m excited to get this opportunity. We’ve still got one game left. I’m not finished.”
In 2007, as a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Glenn was the East Division nominee for most outstanding player. He broke his arm in the East Final, however, and watched from the sidelines as his team went down, 23-19, to the Roughriders.
Now he’ll actually play in a Cup final for the first time, after passing for three scores and 303 yards against the No. 1 defence in the CFL, one that went through bouts of confusion and, at times, veered into discombobulation.
Lions cornerback Byron Parker, a seven-year veteran with the Argos before the team released him had, like Glenn, a similar hope of returning to Toronto for his first Grey Cup appearance. In four previous trips to a division final, Parker had never gone beyond that point. He was fifth time unlucky Sunday.
“It’s a wasted year, like Stoobs (Lions defensive coordinator Rich Stubler) said,” Parker remarked. “There’s only one reason you play the games. That’s to win the Grey Cup. First place, a 13-5 record, a first-round bye … none of that means anything now. All of that’s fine. All of that’s cool. But the Grey Cup is the ultimate prize.”
Glenn, 10-5 as the Stamps’ starter in the regular season, following a shoulder injury to No. 1 QB Drew Tate, got Sunday’s start only because Tate was scratched three days earlier after it was revealed he suffered an arm fracture in last Sunday’s 36-30 win over the Roughriders in the West semifinal.
The Stampeders ended that gunfight with only 20 seconds left in the game, as Tate threw a 68-yard touchdown pass to Romby Bryant to put a dagger in the heart of the Roughriders.
Seven days later, on the Stampeders’ first completion since that game, Glenn threw another 68-yard touchdown pass to Marquay McDaniel, a perfect piece of symmetry. McDaniel was marooned in open space, without a Lion defender in hailing distance, and suddenly the Lions were down 7-0 with many in the audience still finding their seats.
“I watched Drew last week,” Glenn said. “I got loose in the pocket, stepped around some guys and threw the ball deep. Drew does that kind of thing naturally, just because of the athlete he is. I got a lot of help from him, and those coaches on the sidelines.”
“We felt we needed a play to try and get ’em off their landmark,” said Stampeders offensive coordinator Dave Dickenson, a former Lions quarterback. “We wanted to try and confuse ’em if we could. They’re (Lions secondary) such a veteran group. They read routes well. If you can give them something, and make it look like something else, then it can play to your benefit. But Kevin still has to find them (receivers).”
The Lions got that first touchdown back, when Korey Banks picked off Glenn’s only mistake of the game and returned the interception 77 yards for a pick-six. It was the longest interception return in Lions’ playoff history. But it also served as the Lions’ only touchdown, until Travis Lulay tossed a two-yard touchdown pass to Nick Moore with 1:09 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Between those scores, kicker Paul McCallum booted five field goals for the Lions.
Meanwhile, Glenn was throwing touchdown passes of 29 yards to Maurice Price and a 57-yarder to Romby Bryant. The Stampeders’ fourth touchdown came on a one-yard plunge by backup quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, after Mitchell launched a 42-yard pass to Price, who was tackled at the Lions’ one-yard line.
Those long Stampeder strikes for touchdowns blew away what was supposed to a Lions’ strength. They were the best team in the CFL this season defending the pass.
“Games like this, whatever you’ve been doing bad all year, those things come back to haunt you,” Banks said. “We blew some coverages like we did tonight earlier this year. They (Stampeders) were confident. They thought they could beat us. I put 50 per cent of their win on them. But I put 50 per cent of it on us. When you play average football in a playoff game, like we did today, you lose.”
Back on July 28, the Lions humbled the Stampeders 34-8 in their first meeting, at McMahon Stadium, when Calgary failed to score a touchdown and feature back Jon Cornish was held to minus-one yards rushing on six carries.
Cornish admitted Sunday it was a turning point in his season, personally, and for the Stampeders, collectively. The team is 11-2 in its past 13 starts, and Calgary’s momentum simply rolled over the Lions, as did Cornish, who had 18 carries for 112 yards. In three career playoff starts as the Stampeders feature back, the 28-year-old native of New Westminster has never been held to fewer than 100 yards rushing.
“I’ve always said I feed off energy, both negative and positive,” Cornish said. “There were 50,000 people in here cheering for their team. That raises my own capabilities. You can track it all the way back to high school (St. Thomas More, in Burnaby). Any playoff game, any bowl game, any big game I’ve played in, I’ve had more than 100 yards. To me, this is when you make your mark — in the playoffs.”
In the 2012 Grey Cup, the Stamps will face an old Alberta nemesis — Ricky Ray, the former Eskimo now quarterbacking the Toronto Argonauts.
Like the Lions, who played host to and played in the 2011 Grey Cup, the Argos qualified for the championship game in their own barn with a 27-20 win over the Montreal Alouettes, becoming the first of two road teams to win on Sunday.
For Glenn, who has never dressed for a Grey Cup game before, next Sunday represents more than just a rite of passage in an unfulfilled career.
“There’s one more chapter to this story book finish,” he said. “You guys better get your pads and pens ready.”
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