CALGARY (Reuters) - Damon Duval booted a 33-yard field goal with no time left on the clock to give the Montreal Alouettes a heart-stopping 28-27 comeback win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders to claim the 97th Grey Cup on Sunday.
Trailing 27-11 in the fourth quarter, the Alouettes registered 17 unanswered points in the final 11 minutes to leave the Riders and their green clad supporters packed into Calgary’s McMahon Stadium in stunned silence.
“We didn’t quit. We came back and the guys fought, what a joyful event,” Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo told reporters.
Adding to the agony, the Roughriders thought they had clinched their second Canadian Football League championship in three years and stampeded on the field in wild celebrations when Duval initially missed a 42-yard attempt.
However, the party was cut short when Saskatchewan was penalized for having too many men on the field and the Montreal kicker made no mistake a second time, drilling the winning field goal through the uprights.
“The fact that we missed that field goal and they had too many guys, to me it’s just part of destiny,” Calvillo added.
“We could have lost it right there but we didn‘t.”
Duval also felt divine intervention had played a role in the team’s last-gasp victory.
”On the first one I was way too quick,“ Duval said. ”I knew before I even swung that I was going to push the ball.
“As soon as I saw that flag I just looked up and said: ‘Thank you for a second chance.'”
Averaging a league-best 33 points a game during a 15-3 regular season, the Alouettes arrived at the championship game as the heavy betting favorite while the Green Riders enjoyed a huge edge in support.
While the CFL has lurched from crisis to crisis, the Regina-based Roughriders boast a unique success story similar to the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, both small community-owned teams with a popularity stretching well beyond the city’s boundaries.
Shortly after the winning kick sailed over the uprights, the disappointment of the loss was made evident by Roughriders coach Ken Miller.
”You can’t imagine the devastation,“ Miller told reporters. ”The swing in emotions was pretty wide.
“I told them (the players) I was not disappointed in them but I was obviously disappointed in the outcome.”
It was a sad end to a festive week for the ‘Rider Nation’ who had descended on Calgary for an extended party that has become known as the “National Drunk,” bringing with them their gopher mascot and truckloads of watermelons to be carved into head wear.
All the good luck charms, however, were no match for Calvillo, a 16-year veteran who claimed his third CFL most outstanding player award earlier in the week, engineering two late touchdown drives to slice the Roughriders lead to 27-25.
Calvillo would work one final bit of magic in taking his team into Duval field goal range to set the stage for one of the most dramatic finishes in CFL history.
Additional reporting Jeffrey Jones; Editing by John O'Brien