TORONTO — Every time it looked like the Calgary Stampeders were about to make a game-changing play, they self-destructed.
Calgary had multiple opportunities to change the momentum of the 100th Grey Cup but continued to shoot themselves in the foot in critical moments of the 35-22 loss to the Toronto Argonauts in front of 53,028 at the Rogers Centre.
Whether it was an underthrown pass from quarterback Kevin Glenn or an ill-advised penalty, John Hufnagel’s squad looked underwhelming and undisciplined for most of the blowout loss to the Argonauts.
“They played better than us,” Glenn said after the game. “We make drives and we only kick a field goal. Thats not what we’re about. We need to put some touchdowns on the board and we didn’t do it.”
They were outcoached, outplayed, and out-executed.
The missed opportunities occurred right from the start when Calgary failed to take advantage of a Ricky Ray interception on the opening possession by Quincy Butler in the first quarter.
The Stamps went two-and-out, losing six yards and gave the ball right back to the Argos.
Calgary continued to dig themselves into a hole when on the next series, running back Jon Cornish couldn’t handle an exchange from quarterback Kevin Glenn and lost a fumble in their own territory.
The fumble resulted in a five-yard Chad Owens receiving touchdown to open the scoring at 7-0.
The Stampeders failed to score a touchdown until late in fourth quarter in basically garbage time.
“If we score some touchdowns maybe things are a little bit different,” Hufnagel said after the game.
When they were deep in Toronto territory, Hufnagel seemed to pull out an ineffective or head-scratching play call and the Stamps couldn’t find a way to get the ball in the end zone.
“We couldnt get in a rhythm,” Glenn said. “It is as simple as that. We had chances to put seven on the board and that was the determining factor in the game.”
The Stamps’ offence was stuffed on third-and-short in a key play in the second quarter. When they had a chance to cut the score to seven later in the second, an end-around to wide receiver Romby Bryant was doomed from the start and blown up by linebacker Ejiro Kuale for a loss of seven in the red zone.
Even when they had big plays, they weren’t able to capitalize.
They came up with a huge stop in the first half, holding Toronto to a field goal on a 77-yard drive and followed it up with an impressive sequence, which included a powerful 61-yard catch from veteran wideout Nik Lewis.
But that drive ended with only a field goal. Once again, not enough to overcome their number of miscues.
The knockout punch didn’t necessarily come from the Argos.
It came on a holding penalty from defensive back Keon Raymond that negated a Larry Taylor 105-yard kick return touchdown. That would’ve brought the Stamps back within one score.
The life was sucked out and the Stampeders never recovered from that play.
The worn-out defence couldn’t slow down Argos running back Chad Kackert, who was the game’s MVP after putting up 195 all-purpose yards.
For Calgary to win, they needed their best players to be their best players. That’s what Toronto got from Ricky Ray down the stretch.
In what was supposed to be Glenn’s big moment on the big stage, he came up ever so short.
Almost as short as his underthrown ball that led to Pacino Hornes 25-yard interception for a touchdown the other way at 14:17 of the second quarter.
“They kind of under-cutted the route on me,” Glenn explained. “I tried to put it high and outside. I couldn’t get it and the outside guy fell off his guy and fell on the ground and made a hell of a catch. I’ve got to give the receiver a chance.”
Glenn finished 14-of-27 for 222 yards in what must have been an all too familiar sight after his Winnipeg Blue Bombers came up on the losing end of an ugly game at the Grey Cup in Toronto five years ago. He was on the sidelines after a season-ending broken arm.
Sunday’s loss had to be an empty feeling for Glenn. For a guy who was looking to cement his legacy after a rollercoaster of a career in the CFL, he wanted to do more. It just didn’t happen for Glenn or the Stamps.
Jon Cornish wasn’t much better, either. The Most Outstanding Canadian struggled on the ground, finishing with just 57 yards on 15 carries. He also registered one catch for 16 yards.
In all three losses to Toronto this year, Cornish failed to register a game over 70 yards. Not enough for a team that relies on a balanced offence.
The recipe just wasn’t right for Calgary all game long.
And it showed it the end. You could see the disappointment in the locker room. They didn’t play well enough and they certainly knew it.
The Stampeders were the hottest team in the league heading into Sunday, but when it mattered most, they came up empty and that’s how they’ll have to remember the 2012 season.
“It’s always a missed opportunity when you don’t win,” Glenn explained. “I feel like we had a chance to win this game. We had a good (enough) team to win this game.”