EDMONTON — Terry Williams helped the Calgary Stampeders end their Grey Cup misery.
Williams had a record 97-yard punt-return touchdown on a slippery Commonwealth Stadium turf Sunday night to lead Calgary past the Ottawa Redblacks 27-16 in the Grey Cup.
Calgary finally won the CFL title in its third straight appearance. The Stampeders lost 39-33 in overtime to Ottawa in 2016 before dropping a 27-24 decision last year to the Toronto Argonauts.
Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell — the CFL’s most outstanding player this season after tossing a league-best 35 TDs — was the game MVP with two touchdown passes but also two interceptions.
"It feels surreal," Mitchell said. "I know we talked that (the two previous losses) didn’t mean anything but we couldn’t make the game bigger than it was. We had to understand that this was one game and you can only win one game and win only one Grey Cup. I think the guys who were on those two teams, even on the team last year, the emotions at the 30-second mark kind of hit. It wasn’t about redemption against anybody else or the league … it felt like as an organization we’ve been at the top too much not to finish the job. It feels amazing to get it done for the city of Calgary."
Stampeders receiver Lemar Durant was named the outstanding Canadian with four catches for 30 yards and a TD and a 22-yard run.
"It’s huge, it’s like a 100-pound weight lifted off me," Durant said. "Growing up, all you want to do is be a champion and to have those chances and let them slip out of your hands and think like you might not get a shot at this. There’s been people in this league 10-plus years and never get a chance. To be able to come back and just get that is huge."
Mitchell finished 24-for-36 passing for 253 yards. Redblacks counterpart Trevor Harris had a rough night, going 20-for-38 for 288 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
Ottawa — in its third Grey Cup in four years — appeared to score on Greg Ellingson’s acrobatic one-handed grab in the fourth quarter but replays showed the ball hit the turf. The Redblacks ended up turning the ball over on downs at the Calgary seven-yard line with just over eight minutes remaining.
After Ottawa turned the ball over on downs again, Calgary’s Jamar Wall and Tre Roberson followed up with interceptions on consecutive Redblacks possessions. Roberson’s pick came with 1:22 to play.
Calgary players will receive the $16,000 winner’s share while the Redblacks get $8,000 apiece.
A Commonwealth Stadium gathering of 55,819 watched the opening kickoff in 1 C conditions with an 11 kilometre-an-hour wind. But the field proved to be the story of the game.
On Saturday, several Calgary players said the turf was hard and slippery and footwear would be important. During the pre-game warmups, many Stampeders wore shoes featuring short, traditional turf cleats or those with a flat rubber sole.
Ottawa head coach Rick Campbell downplayed the field conditions.
"It’s alright, it is what it is," he said before the game. "It’s the CFL."
But it became apparent early footing would be an issue. That was especially clear with 38 seconds left in the first quarter when Williams had both feet slip from beneath him while returning a missed 47-yard Lewis Ward field goal try.
Rene Paredes put Calgary ahead 27-14 with a 29-yard field goal at 2:54 of the fourth. It was set up by Wynton McManis’s recovery of Diontae Spencer’s fumble on a punt return at the Ottawa 25-yard line.
Calgary went into the fourth leading 24-14 thanks to Paredes’s 34-yard field goal at 11:24 of the third. It came after Ward’s 41-yard boot at 7:56.
Don Jackson had Calgary’s other TD. Paredes booted the converts and two field goals.
Julian Feoli-Gudino had Ottawa’s touchdown. Jean-Christophe Beaulieu added a two-point convert while Ward booted two field goals.
Williams provided the first half’s biggest play, a Grey Cup-record 97-yard punt return TD at 14:59 of the second. After taking the ball, Williams nearly slipped heading upfield but an Ottawa defender engaged with a blocker slid on by, allowing Williams to hit the open field, then run past punter Richie Leone to put Calgary ahead 21-11.
"I thought I was gonna bust my butt for a second but I caught myself, saw an opening and hit it full speed," Williams said. "It was big, we needed the spark. We were battling all game and needed to make it happen and that we did."
Williams provided the entertainment factor in an otherwise sloppy opening half. The two teams combined for four turnovers (three picks and a fumble), some ugly drops and eight punts.
Mitchell was 14-of-21 passing for 182 yards and two TDs with two interceptions. Redblacks quarterback Harris never seemed to be in any rhythm despite having time to look downfield, completing 8-of-17 passes for 132 yards with a touchdown and interception.
Ottawa’s most consistent offensive weapon was William Powell, who ran nine times for 58 yards while sporting bring neon orange shoes before changing to white ones at halftime. But the CFL’s second-leading rusher also had a costly fumble at the Calgary 28 in the second to end a Redblacks’ scoring threat with the team trailing 14-3.
Ottawa pulled to within five at 14-9 on Harris’s 55-yard TD strike at 12:45 to Feoli-Gudino, who broke two tackles after the catch. Harris then found Beaulieu on the two-point convert.
Mitchell put Calgary ahead 14-3 with a 17-yard TD strike to Durant at 6:50. It came two plays after Durant dropped a wide-open screen pass.
Ward — the CFL’s top rookie and special teams player this season — connected from 30 yards out at 2:28 after a rare miss from 47 yards out in the first. Ward made 51-of-52 field goals this regular season, including a record 48 straight that will carry over into 2019.
Jackson’s 21-yard TD catch opened the scoring at 10:46 of the first. With Ottawa coming on a blitz, Jackson took Mitchell’s screen pass and scored easily.
NOTES: Stampeders coach Dave Dickenson said Sunday eight Calgary players were stuck in an elevator Saturday night for an hour and 15 minutes. A coach was involved and Dickenson said he had to buy lunch for that member of his staff … Dickenson said ‘a little bug’ worked its way through his players — including Mitchell — and coaches this week. Dickenson was confident the worst was over and added when he played quarterback he performed better when he wasn’t feeling well. He was hopeful that would be the case Sunday. TSN reported six Ottawa players, including linebacker Chris Ackie and cornerback Sherrod Baltimore, battled sickness this week.