RedBlacks' dream fizzles in fourth quarter as Eskimos rally to claim Grey Cup

 

 
 
 
 
Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly hoists the Grey Cup after his teams win over the Ottawa Redblacks during the 103rd Grey Cup in Winnipeg, Man., Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.
 
 

Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly hoists the Grey Cup after his teams win over the Ottawa Redblacks during the 103rd Grey Cup in Winnipeg, Man., Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.

Photograph by: NATHAN DENETTE, THE CANADIAN PRESS

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WINNIPEG — The Ottawa RedBlacks' dream lasted deep into the fourth quarter of the 103rd Grey Cup game, and then it died on an instant replay of an incomplete pass.

A year after a fairly inconsequential shove in the back cost the Hamilton Tiger Cats the championship on a Brandon Banks punt return called back, a coach's challenge went a long way toward deciding this one.

But that's life in the technology age, and there wasn't any doubt about it: the play was a big enough moment that Edmonton Eskimos head coach Chris Jones took a time out to give his spotters in the press box time for a good, long look.

And then Jones threw the challenge flag, and it was a no-question foul on rookie of the year Derel Walker by Ottawa defensive back Brandon Sermons.

Two plays later, the ball was in the end zone and the Eskimos, playing in their record 25th Grey Cup, won it for the 14th time, 26-20.

"That was actually the second challenge of the year that we won. We'd lost every single challenge up until last week," said Jones.

"I thought I saw P.I. (pass interference) and I saw for sure illegal contact, but I couldn't get them to tell me for sure, and then the clock starts so I called time out. I said look at this, because it's too big a situation, and if it is, then we need to throw a flag."

It was a hard way for the RedBlacks to lose after a punishing physical effort against the favoured Eskimos, but in the end, the greatest one-year turnaround in the history of the Canadian Football League had a sour ending.

"Those guys are tough players, man. All those guys made my life tough, but, you know, we played just a little bit better," said Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly, named the game's most valuable player after throwing for 269 yards and two touchdowns, and running for another 66 yards on 10 carries.

He had to survive some hellacious hits to get to the big finish. "I'll find out in a couple of days," he said. "I probably won't really feel it until then. Right now, the emotional high . . . and I'll probably have a few drinks tonight, and tomorrow and the next day.

"They were coming after us pretty good. I got a ton of respect of that defence."

It began as if these RedBlacks would do what their Rough Rider forebears had done to another heavy Edmonton favourite in the last Grey Cup played by an Ottawa team: the 1981 game, in which the Riders had the Esks down 20-1 at the half.

In fact, the final score wasn't much different. Edmonton rallied to win 26-23 on Dave Cutler's winning field goal in '81.

This time, the RedBlacks' 40-year-old wonder Henry Burris picked the Eskimos apart on a ridiculously easy seven-play, 63-yard opening drive, completing five of six passes with the payoff to fullback Patrick Lavoie. When Edmonton's Kendial Lawrence fumbled the ensuing kickoff, the RedBlacks turned it into another score, ending in a seven-yard Burris toss to Ernest Jackson --- and six minutes in, after Chris Milo missed the convert, the Eskimos were in a 13-0 hole.

But the Esks' defence yielded very little after that early Ottawa outburst.

Order was restored gradually, first with a Sean Whyte 25-yard field goal after a good Edmonton drive stalled, and then when Burris threw a rare lame-duck trying to go deep, Patrick Watkins picked it off to set Reilly up with a 60-yard field.

He marched the Eskimos home, in just five plays, the last a 23-yard pass to Adarius Bowman to make it a three-point game.

Reilly took the Eskimos from their own 21 to the endzone with the half's final possession, using all but the last 12 seconds before hitting an uncovered running back Akeem Shavers from three yards out, the second time in three plays the Edmonton running back had been left utterly alone.

The winning score was a one-yard touchdown leap by third-string quarterback Jordan Lynch with with 3:17 left in the fourth quarter. Reilly passed to Shavers for a two-point convert and the final margin.

Burris, who led the expansion RedBlacks from a 2-16 record in 2014 all the way to the brink of an historic second season, couldn't rally Ottawa to an answering drive and the Eskimos ran out the clock.

The Eskimos had begun raining on the RedBlacks' parade long before game time. Club president Len Rhodes complained to the league in advance about the RedBlacks' signature lumberjacks who for two seasons have chainsawed a logoed "cookie" off a log after every scoring play.

Rhodes protested that the demonstration was a "competitive advantage" and new commissioner Jeffrey Orridge, still feeling his way along as the official arbiter of small-minded disputes, brokered a compromise allowing the lumberjacks but not the lumber.

In the end, there was neither inside the gates.

The RedBlacks made no excuses.

Whyte, who missed just two field goals all season, missed two in the game, including a 35-yarder for the lead on the last play of the third quarter that went off the upright for a dead ball. Those points looked crucial when the RedBlacks were still leading entering the fourth quarter, but the pass interference call switched momentum completely.

The penalty put the ball on the Ottawa 10. Two plays later, after Reilly shook off a tackler and connected with Nate Coehoorn just outside the endzone, Lynch leaped and reached in for the winning TD.

"We were not built to do this once, with the GM that we have, the coaching staff that we have and the players we brought in," said Reilly. "We've been built to do this multiple times, and it's on us to make sure that happens."

ccole@vancouversun.com

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Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly hoists the Grey Cup after his teams win over the Ottawa Redblacks during the 103rd Grey Cup in Winnipeg, Man., Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.
 

Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly hoists the Grey Cup after his teams win over the Ottawa Redblacks during the 103rd Grey Cup in Winnipeg, Man., Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.

Photograph by: NATHAN DENETTE, THE CANADIAN PRESS

 
Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly hoists the Grey Cup after his teams win over the Ottawa Redblacks during the 103rd Grey Cup in Winnipeg, Man., Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.
Members of the Edmonton Eskimos celebrate after defeating Ottawa Redblacks to win the 103rd Grey Cup in Winnipeg, Man. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.
Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly hoists the Grey Cup after his teams win over the Ottawa Redblacks during the 103rd Grey Cup in Winnipeg, Man. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.
Edmonton Eskimos’ quarterback Mike Reilly hoists the Grey Cup after his team’s win over the Ottawa Redblacks during the 103rd Grey Cup in Winnipeg, Man. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.
Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Henry Burris walks off the field following a loss to the Edmonton Eskimos in the 103rd Grey Cup in Winnipeg, Man., Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.
Tony Washington (58) and others members of the Edmonton Eskimos hoist the Grey Cup after they defeated Ottawa Redblacks at the 103rd Grey Cup in Winnipeg, Man. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.
Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly hoists the Grey Cup after his teams win over the Ottawa Redblacks during the 103rd Grey Cup in Winnipeg, Man. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.
Edmonton Eskimos’ Akeem Shavers celebrates his touchdown against the Ottawa Redblacks during the 103rd Grey Cup in Winnipeg, Man., Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.
Edmonton Eskimos’ head coach Chris Jones gets gatorade poured on him following his teams win over the Ottawa Redblacks during the 103rd Grey Cup in Winnipeg, Man. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.
Edmonton Eskimos’ Akeem Shavers, right, celebrates his touchdown with teammates during the first half of the 103rd Grey Cup against the Ottawa Redblacks in Winnipeg, Man., Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.
Members of the Ottawa Redblacks celebrate a touchdown during the 103rd Grey Cup against the Ottawa Redblacks in Winnipeg, Man. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.
Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly kisses his wife Emily after his teams win over the Ottawa Redblacks of the103rd Grey Cup in Winnipeg, Man. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.
WINNIPEG, CANADA - NOVEMBER 29:  Ottawa Redblacks fans in the stands prior to Grey Cup 103 against the Edmonton Eskimos  at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Trevor Hagan/Getty Images)
Edmonton Eskimos’ quarterback Jordan Lynch scores a touchdown during the second half of the 103rd Grey Cup against the Ottawa Redblacks in Winnipeg, Man. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.
The Ottawa Redblacks take the field prior to Grey Cup 103 against the Edmonton Eskimos at Investors Group Field on November 29, 2015 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Edmonton Eskimos’ Adarius Bowman (4) and Nate Coehoorn (85) celebrate a touchdown during the second half of the 103rd Grey Cup in Winnipeg, Man., Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.
Edmonton Eskimos’ quarterback Jordan Lynch (5) scores a touchdown during the second half of the 103rd Grey Cup against the Ottawa Redblacks in Winnipeg, Man., Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.
Hugh Charles #28 of the Ottawa Redblacks is hit by Cauchy Muamba #8 of the Edmonton Eskimos during first half Grey Cup 103 action  at Investors Group Field on November 29, 2015 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Members of the RMCP bring the Grey Cup onto the field prior to Grey Cup 103 between the Edmonton Eskimos  and Ottawa Redblacks at Investors Group Field on November 29, 2015 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Edmonton Eskimos’ Greg Morris flips over Ottawa Redblacks’ Brandon Sermons during the second half of the103rd Grey Cup in Winnipeg, Man. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015.
Ernest Jackson #9 of the Ottawa Redblacks celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Edmonton Eskimos during first half Grey Cup 103 action at Investors Group Field on November 29, 2015 in Winnipeg, Manitoba,
The Edmonton Eskimos  take the field prior to Grey Cup 103 against the Ottawa Redblacks at Investors Group Field on November 29, 2015 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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