B.C. Lions defence torched by Stampeders’ QB Kevin Glenn in CFL West Final
‘We didn’t play football,’ says disgusted Leos cornerback Dante Marsh
Calgary Stampeder #81 Jabari Arthur gets tackled by the B.C. Lions.
Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG
VANCOUVER — On the whole, the optics of the 100th Grey Cup being contested by two teams with the same owner, David Braley, weren’t going to be the greatest.
So the B.C. Lions may have saved the Canadian Football League a little embarrassment Sunday by losing the Western Final. Alas, there was still plenty left over.
Most of it, though by no means all, belonged to the members of the CFL’s No. 1 regular season defence, who were taken to the woodshed by the quarterback who wasn’t supposed to play for the Calgary Stampeders, Kevin Glenn — and even his backup, Bo Levi Mitchell — who lit the Lions’ secondary up like the proverbial Christmas tree.
The breakdowns in the veteran-laden B.C. defensive backfield were epic, and more than once led to foot-stomping, finger-pointing tirades, as time and again the backs were left wondering who was supposed to be covering whom.
The final score, 34-29, flattered the home team.
“We didn’t play football,” said cornerback Dante Marsh, and there was no disguising that fact.
“I don’t know what that was, to be honest with you. As a collective group: offence, defence, specials. We didn’t do squat. They made plays, Kevin Glenn made plays. That’s it. There’s no ‘rusty quarterback’ or ‘we had a bye’, none of that. We’ve been doing this for a decade, played in a lot of Western finals with a bye.
“I didn’t even think it was going to be close.”
Close was always a possibility, whatever the Leos thought, but nothing in the regular season would have prepared fans, or players, or coaches, for the Stampeders’ ability to torch the Lions repeatedly with major gains, including 154 yards from scrimmage by their outstanding player finalist, Jon Cornish, and touchdown passes of 68 yards (to Marquay McDaniel on the game’s second play), 29 yards (to Maurice Price) and 57 yards (to Romby Bryant.)
Travis Lulay and the Lions’ offence, meanwhile, could only play dink-and-dunk all day, making the comparison even more odious. The Stamps’ secondary did what the Lions’ could not: kept the whole game in front of them. The few times Lulay even tried to go deep, the coverage was textbook.
“Got a lot to think about, I want to see it on film,” said halfback Korey Banks, who more than once was looking around, gesturing, wondering where the help was, after a big play. “All I saw is people running wide open. I know who’s supposed to be there, but ...
“I wasn’t I was frustrated, it’s just, you know what you have to do at certain times of the game — we’re a championship team — and at times I thought we were panicking, because the crowd got loud and our communication wasn’t crisp, and one mistake in the secondary, it’s a touchdown. Too many mistakes to go to the Grey Cup.”
Wait a second. The crowd noise hurt the Lions, in their own dome? That’s a switch.
“He’s right, though,” said Calgary offensive coordinator Dave Dickenson, the old Lions QB. “The fans were real well-trained as far as being quiet when their offence was on the field, but defence, especially a veteran group that talks things out, makes checks, makes calls ... all it takes is for one guy not to get it ... and I’m sure that’s what happened a couple of times. “We just tried to outnumber them sometimes, flooding certain areas of the field, or creating some motion packages that they hadn’t seen. I think if you talk to Stube (Lions defensive coordinator Rich Stubler) he probably had an answer for it, but the guys didn’t get it communicated, and Kevin found ’em.”
“We didn’t have the ability to stop them on the play we saw all year, the bubble screen,” said Banks. “Cornish pretty much did whatever he wanted. They just made the plays they had to make and we didn’t.”
“They attacked some disciplines and there were a couple of blown coverages, but at the end of the day it wasn’t based on anything that they did that we weren’t familiar with,” said Ryan Phillips. “It was the fact that we didn’t stay disciplined, and they turned into big plays, and especially if there’s more than a few of them. One turns into three or four, and now you’re playing from behind and time is not on your side.”
Rust was not an excuse the Lions were willing to accept, but the truth is, the Stampeders just looked to be up to game speed from the get-go, and the Lions did not — and all day long Calgary won the line of scrimmage.
“The thing was the protection,” said Glenn, who took the Lions apart with precision, passing for 303 yards and making just one mistake — a wide throw that Banks jumped on and returned 77 yards for a touchdown to tie the game after McDaniel’s early thunderbolt.
But that was the only TD — that and five Paul McCallum field goals — the Lions would score until garbage time, when the Stamps’ defence bent enough to give them a late score.
“The offensive line gave me the time to let guys get downfield and get behind them,” Glenn said. “Typically, their defensive line helps out the secondary by forcing the quarterback to make quick throws, but the offensive line, when we had the plays called to go downfield, they gave me time, and I just tried to put it up and give (the receivers) a ball they could handle.”
Glenn would not have started Sunday if Drew Tate hadn’t broken a bone in his forearm last week, but the man who won 10 games as Stamps’ starter this season showed his mettle — and finally will get to play in the Grey Cup game at Rogers Centre he was denied five seasons ago, when he broke his arm in the East Final, leaving Ryan Dinwiddie to quarterback the Blue Bombers in their loss to Saskatchewan.
“I can’t explain the feeling,” said the 33-year-old pivot who came from Hamilton as part of the trade for Henry Burris, the Stamps’ QB in their 2008 Grey Cup win, John Hufnagel’s rookie year as their head coach.
“I compare it to my wedding, my graduation, and the birth of my two kids. I am just so excited, and speechless. I’m just grateful the man above put me in this situation, and I’m trying to take advantage of it.”
Overall, it was a lost day for the Lions, who were considerable favourites to win on their home turf, though home field has meant very little to first-place teams over the last quarter-century.
“This is a great group that has always answered the bell and today, the Stampeders just played better than we did. And the finality of it is the hardest part to deal with,” said rookie head coach Mike Benevides, who’s now had a taste of what his boss and predecessor, Wally Buono, has experienced in Western finals.
Since Buono’s arrival in B.C. in 2003, the Lions are now 3-3 in Western finals at home. Since its completion in 1983, they’re 5-5 here.
The big top is only a building. It’s what happens inside that counts, and these Lions didn’t give themselves a chance.
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