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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

MORE GREY CUP COVERAGE

TORONTO - The Calgary Stampeders head into the Grey Cup as the CFL's hottest team but certainly had their trouble this season with the Toronto Argonauts.

Calgary will look to cap its season with a seventh straight win when it faces Toronto in the 100th Grey Cup at Rogers Centre on Sunday. However, the Argos swept the season series 2-0 and have won the last five head-to-head matchups.

However, that's of little solace to Scott Milanovich, Toronto's first-year head coach.

"Once the playoffs start the records, head-to-head competitions, I think it's all out the window,'' he said Monday. "This is one game, it's 60 minutes for the 100th Grey Cup.

"I don't think any of that matters at this point.''

Calgary advanced to the Grey Cup with a 34-29 road win over the defending-champion B.C. Lions in the West Division final Sunday after a hard-fought 36-30 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the conference semifinal. The Stampeders posted the second-best record in the CFL at 12-6 and their last loss was a 27-22 decision at B.C. on Oct. 6.

"Calgary has been hot and has played as well if not better than anybody the last 10-to-15 games,'' Milanovich said. "As we're getting more familiar with them we're going to know what's in store for us.''

Toronto finished second in the East Division with a 9-9 mark, then defeated the Edmonton Eskimos 42-26 in the East semifinal before travelling to Montreal on Sunday and defeating the Alouettes 27-20. The Argos head into the Grey Cup having won four straight.

Toronto defeated Calgary 39-36 at Rogers Centre on July 7. Stampeders starter Drew Tate suffered a shoulder injury in that contest that forced him to miss 14 starts. The Argos then earned a 22-14 victory at McMahon Stadium on Aug. 18, a game that saw linebackers Brandon Isaac (a former Stamp) and Marcus Ball fined for illegal hits on Calgary running back Jon Cornish.

Backup Kevin Glenn led Calgary to nine wins during Tate's absence before returning to the bench gracefully when Tate earned the start in the Stampeders' semifinal win over Saskatchewan. But Tate suffered a fractured forearm in that contest, putting Glenn under centre against the Lions.

The veteran quarterback - obtained in the off-season trade that saw Henry Burris head to Hamilton - threw for 303 yards with three TDs against one interception (which was returned for a touchdown) against B.C.

"I think everybody as a Calgary Stampeder fan feels the same way, very pleased that he had the game that he did, that he responded to a pressure situation the way he did and led this football team to a very important win,'' said Calgary head coach/GM John Hufnagel. "I said the day I made the trade how pleased I was that Kevin was involved with the trade.

"I always had a great amount of respect for his ability.''

Glenn finally gets to play in a Grey Cup game in Toronto five years after suffering a broken forearm in Winnipeg's East Division final win over the Argos. With Glenn unable to play, Ryan Dinwiddie got the start for Winnipeg in its 23-19 loss to Saskatchewan at Rogers Centre.

Glenn has developed a well-earned reputation of being a streaky player, a fact not lost upon Milanovich.

"He gets very hot, as hot as anybody,'' Milanovich said."You have to disrupt him just like you would any other good quarterback.

"He's playing well right now. He has waited a long time for this moment, too, and I'm glad for him that he's getting this opportunity.''

Toronto starter Ricky Ray enjoyed a lot of success this season against Calgary, completing 51-of-73 passes for 723 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Glenn was 37-of-52 passes for 464 yards with three TDs and three interceptions.

The Argos did a good job against Cornish, holding the CFL's leading rusher to a combined 82 yards on 19 carries. But Milanovich said Toronto will have to again be stout against the run because Calgary will definitely give Cornish the ball Sunday.

"They're going to run the football,'' he said. "I say it every week, you've got to start defensively by stopping the run.

"But they've got a ton of talent . . . they've got everything you're looking for on offence. I think (Calgary offensive co-ordinator) Dave Dickenson does a tremendous job. We're going to have our hands full.''

This will mark the third Grey Cup meeting between the two franchises. Calgary earned a 14-11 victory in the '71 final before Toronto captured a 36-21 win in the '91 contest.

Toronto is the second team in as many years to play in the Grey Cup as the host city as the Lions defeated Winnipeg 34-23 at B.C. Place last season.

There will be plenty of enticing storylines this week.

Toronto defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones will garner plenty of interest. He left the Stampeders in the off-season to join Milanovich and Argos GM Jim Barker - a former head coach and front-office executive with Calgary. Trouble was, Toronto didn't ask for permission to speak with Jones and was fined $5,000 by the CFL for tampering.

Some of the former Stampeders on Toronto's roster include linebackers Isaac and Robert McCune, tackle Tony Washington, receiver Ken-Yon Rambo and defensive back Ahmad Carroll.


"That definitely brings a little bit of a twist to the game,'' Hufnagel said. "There's a lot of familiarity between the coaching staff and the players.

"It should make a good story leading up to the game and I think it's going to be a very, very good football game.''

Hufnagel said the Stampeders don't have an advantage being familiar with Jones's defences.

"There's always some help to it but obviously it didn't help enough in the previous two games in the regular season,'' he said. "We know we have our work cut out.''

But Hufnagel has won in a hostile environment before. In 2008, he led Calgary to a 22-14 victory over the Montreal Alouettes before over 60,000 spectators at Olympic Stadium.

"I'll go back and feed off our 2008 campaign and the procedure we followed in that Grey Cup week,'' he said. "Hopefully with the same results.''

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MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - Scott Milanovich's gameplan for Sunday's Grey Cup remains a work in progress, but it won't involve the Toronto Argonauts following the same dangerous path that they took to get to the CFL title game.

The Argos have had to rally from early 10-0 deficits twice in the playoffs in order to take their place as the home team against the Calgary Stampeders in the 100th Grey Cup game at Rogers Centre. As a result of its resiliency, Toronto finds itself in its first CFL title game since winning the league championship in 2004.

"We would love to get started fast,'' Milanovich said Monday. "Nobody enjoys falling behind, but fortunately if we do fall behind we'll be OK.''

Edmonton surged to a 10-0 advantage over Toronto in the East Division semifinal Nov. 11 at Rogers Centre, outrushing the home team 99-0 through the first quarter. But the Argos countered with two turnovers that set up 14 points in a playoff-record 31-point second to take control of the contest en route to a 42-26 victory.

On Sunday at Olympic Stadium, Toronto fell behind early 10-0 in the first quarter and had three first-half turnovers - a fumble and twice on downs in short yardage situations, including once at the Montreal goal line. Again, the Argos' defence delivered, forcing three turnovers (two interceptions, fumble recovery) while the offence scored two TDs in the third to erase a 17-10 half-time deficit to advance to the Grey Cup with a 27-20 victory before more than 50,000 spectators.

Milanovich said being able to twice rally for the win in the playoff attests to the Argos' resiliency.

"It speaks to their belief and faith in their teammates,'' he said. "It's one of the last things we said when we left the locker-room, when things get tough today you just have to find strength in your teammates and they'll pull you through it.

"Pretty much that's what happened.''

In both playoff contests, the Argos' mirrored the calm demeanour of their starting quarterback Ricky Ray. The 10-year veteran, twice a Grey Cup champion over his first nine seasons with Edmonton, finished 28-of-37 passing for 399 yards and a TD to lead Toronto to the win over Montreal.

The previous week, Ray led Toronto to its first win in three games this season with Edmonton, the team that dealt Ray to the Argos in the blockbuster trade in December 2011 that saw quarterback Steven Jyles, Canadian kicker Grant Shaw and a 2012 first-round draft pick go to the Eskimos.

"Ricky just does not get rattled,'' Milanovich said. "He keeps getting up and shaking himself off and planting his feet and delivering the football. He certainly gives me a lot of confidence. I'm sure he gives his teammates confidence to.''

But offensively, Ray had plenty of help in Montreal.

Receiver Chad Owens had 11 catches for a team playoff-record 207 yards while running back Chad Kackert added 139 yards rushing and a TD on 13 carries. Owens finished the regular season as the league's receiving leader (94 catches for 1,328 yards, six TDs) while also amassing a CFL-record 3,863 all-purpose yards. He has been named a finalist for the league's outstanding player award with Calgary running back Jon Cornish.

Having the Argos in the Grey Cup is certainly a boost to the Toronto organizing committee, but would also appear to put the weight of big expectations squarely on the team's shoulders. But Milanovich said the players and coaches are well aware of what's at stake and that their job isn't finished.

Milanovich might be preparing for his first Grey Cup as a CFL head coach, but he was a part of two winning teams while an assistant with the Montreal Alouettes. And his staff has plenty of Grey Cup experience.

Argos defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones - who previously held the same position with Calgary and Montreal - is preparing to coach in his sixth Grey Cup game while quarterback coach Jason Maas, special-teams coach Mike O'Shea and secondary coach Orlondo Steinauer all won championship rings during their respective playing careers.

"The guys can feel the magnitude of their participation in this game and how important it is to the city and our organization,'' Milanovich said. "How much of that they'll take as pressure, I don't know but I didn't feel like the weight of having the Grey Cup in Toronto was a factor for our guys during the season . . . but our guys have been professional and pretty under control most of the season and all they have to do is do it for one more week.

"It's important for me to win it. The thing we've talked about all season and through the playoffs is just because you win one game or just because you get to the Grey Cup it's not time to relax. I'll relax Sunday night at about midnight.''

Milanovich said his players will have a curfew to adhere to this week but hasn't decided what that time will be yet. And the Argos head coach won't be delivering an impassioned pre-game speech moments before leading his team on to the field at Rogers Centre.

"It won't be fiery,'' he said. "I'm going to try and settle them down and I don't think they're going to need the motivation, they're not going to need me to get them any more hyped up then they already are going to be.

"I'll try to be calm and steady with them.''

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CALGARY - A fast start helped propel the Stampeders to the Grey Cup game, and Calgary will hope to duplicate that feat in Sunday's championship.

Led by quarterback Kevin Glenn, the Stamps are looking to employ the same strategy against the Toronto Argonauts that helped them to a 35-29 victory over the B.C. Lions in the CFL West Division final.

"With Toronto and it being their home, they're going to have a lot of fans,'' Glenn said on Monday as the Stamps met with the media in Calgary for the final time before heading to Toronto on Tuesday. "It's big when you go into somebody else's house in order to come out with a fast start.''

That's exactly what happened on Sunday when Glenn tossed a 68-yard touchdown pass to Marquay McDaniel just 59 seconds into the game.

"That momentum with the fast start helped propel us throughout the whole game,'' said Glenn, who completed 15-of-25 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns.

"Kevin and Marquay and really the whole offence did an excellent job of picking up the blitz,'' said Calgary head coach and general manager John Hufnagel. "Obviously there was a mistake on the other side of the football and we were able to take advantage of it.''

Hufnagel would like to see his team strike early against the Argos again on Sunday, while adding that building on any momentum is equally important.

"It's always nice to get off to a fast start, but I don't think it's the most important thing,'' he said. "It's making sure that what's important is being able to finish the game. Getting off to that type of start doesn't hurt your chances.''

McDaniel would like nothing more than for the Stamps to continue their aggressive style when they go up against the Argos.

"We want to come out and get a fast start, execute early, put some points on the board, not play from behind, play with the lead and I think that will be big,'' he said.

McDaniel, who finished up last season on Calgary's practice roster after being released by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, said he was in shock after the victory over the Lions.

"I've never won a playoff game in college, high school or here,'' said McDaniel, who finished with three catches for 103 yards. "This is my first year getting out of the first round. To get to the championship game of the 100th Grey Cup, it's pretty big, especially from being on the practice squad last year. I was definitely in shock after the game. I had to take it all in.''

The Stamps lost both games they played against the Argos in the regular season - 39-36 in Toronto on July 7 and 22-14 in Calgary on Aug. 14. Despite that fact, McDaniel has confidence that the Stamps can prevail on Sunday.

"We're a totally different team now,'' he said. "We're just going to go look at the film. Their defence is good. They don't give up too many big plays, so we've just got to go out there and execute and we'll be fine.''

Glenn said he's looking forward to the challenge of taking on the Argos in front of a capacity crowd.

"I think it's going to be an evenly matched game,'' Glenn said. "They're a great team out there. They've got a good pressure defence and their offence is putting up points. We're just going to have to come out and take the same approach that we did last week and that's being aggressive and let it all out - let it all loose and win the game.

"We've got one more task at hand and that's to bring the Grey Cup back to Calgary.''

To do that, the Stamps will have to beat the Argos at Rogers Centre, which is something they haven't accomplished since Aug. 28, 2009.

"This is a unique opportunity,'' said running back Jon Cornish, who's up for the league's outstanding player award along with receiver/kick returner Chad Owens of the Argos. "We need to overcome whatever has been haunting us in the Rogers Centre and what better time than the Grey Cup.''

Quincy Butler, who led the Calgary with nine tackles against B.C., said the reason that the Stamps have had success is because of the way the players have come together as a team.

"We're just a team that wants to win,'' he said. `"We love playing as a group. We play with passion. We live and thrive for this.''

Fellow defensive back Keon Raymond added that the Stamps are up for the challenge that awaits them in Toronto.

"We're going to have our hands full, but it's the Grey Cup,'' he said. "I wouldn't have it any other way.

"I know they want to get us, but I think we want it just a little bit more.''

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TORONTO -- The 100th GREY CUP PLAYOFFS continued Sunday with huge audiences for TSN and RDS.

Overnight data from BBM Canada confirms that the Western Final with Calgary @ B.C. was watched by an average audience of 2 million viewers on TSN and RDS (1.9 million on TSN; 105,000 on RDS).

On TSN, this marked a 3% increase compared to last year. Audience levels peaked at 2.9 million on TSN late in the fourth quarter of the game as the Stampeders held on to defeat the defending Grey Cup champions at BC Place.

Earlier in the afternoon, the Eastern Final, featuring Toronto @ Montreal, attracted an average audience of 1.9 million on TSN and RDS (1.43 million on TSN; 466,000 on RDS).

On TSN, the Eastern Final was up 15% compared to last year. Audience levels peaked at 2.7 million viewers on TSN as the Alouettes set up their last play of the game.

Overall, more than 8.6 million Canadians watched some part of the 100th GREY CUP PLAYOFFS on TSN and RDS on Sunday.

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MONTREAL - It's become the number one question of the Alouettes' off-season in recent years: Will Anthony Calvillo return?

Less than 24 hours after the Toronto Argonauts ended their season, the Alouettes were back at Olympic Stadium to gather their belongings and say their goodbyes for the winter months. And while the Eastern Final loss still stung, Calvillo wasn't about to make a rash decision on his future.

"When the season's over, you're just an emotional wreck, to be honest. You're very drained mentally, you just want to take a break and make sure you make the best decision possible so that's what I'm going to do,'' he said. "I'm going to take a couple of weeks, relax with the family and then evaluate from there.

"I just don't want to let this drag on too long.''

In a season that saw him celebrate his 40th birthday, the veteran quarterback was at the top of his game once again, reaching new heights in what has already been a remarkable career. Calvillo finished his 19th CFL campaign - 15th with the Alouettes - with 5,082 passing yards, making him the first pivot in league history to hit 5,000 yards in a single season seven times in his career.

He also threw for 300 yards in eight straight games, breaking Doug Flutie's single-season record set in 1991 with the B.C. Lions.

"I think this has been one of his best years, I really do. I think he's been tremendous and very productive. I don't see any limitations in his performance,'' Alouettes coach Marc Trestman said. "Not only do I think he can play but play at the very, very high level, which I thought he did throughout the season.''

Calvillo made it through the 2012 season relatively unscathed compared to recent years. A left shoulder injury - his non-throwing arm - suffered early in the season lingered but didn't keep him off the field. He finished the season having started all but the Alouettes' regular season finale in Winnipeg.

He said his shoulder will need some attention during the off-season, noting that he still can't lift it. And while he said he feels "fantastic'' both mentally and physically, shoulder aside, he knows a better indication of his future will play out in the coming weeks.

"I always tell myself that if my body's hurting and it's very difficult to get out of bed week in and week out and it's not fun, then that's going to play a major role. But you don't know that until the end of the season,'' Calvillo said. "During the season when things are banged up you don't think about it, you have to get ready for the next game. Now that the season's over, this is when you start to feel everything.''

Both Trestman and general manager Jim Popp both expressed their desire to see their quarterback return in 2013. Popp admitted that the earlier he knows, the better, but will let Calvillo take the time he needs.

Backup quarterback Adrian McPherson will also have a decision to make on his future in Montreal. Set to be a free agent on Feb. 15, he's spent five years with the Alouettes, the last few as the No. 2 guy. During that time, he's been mostly relied on for short yardage situations.

He'll turn 30 before next season begins.

"It's been a tough road for him at times by not playing because he was playing a lot (in the Arena Football League before joining the Alouettes),'' Popp said. "Even if Anthony returns, it wouldn't surprise me if he returns, too. But he may want a change of scenery and then we move on.''

If Calvillo returns and McPherson moves on, soon-to-be 26-year-old Josh Neiswander would move up the depth chart into the back-up spot.

It's been suggested by some that perhaps Calvillo could move into a mentorship role, as Tracy Ham did when the tail end of his career coincided with Calvillo's early days in Montreal. Popp said they brought Calvillo in knowing that Ham was soon planning to call it quits.

"Last year, I remember commenting about (a mentorship role) and, to be honest, that's where I was mentally. I felt that maybe we should let somebody else get an opportunity, maybe I could be that mentor type of guy,'' Calvillo said. "Then once the season was over and I started evaluating a bit more, I said no, I want to play. I want to go out there and compete at a high level.

"That's the difference between last year and this year. I'm going to help this team in any way possible.''

( With files from the Canadian Press and TSN, Photo credits: La Presse, CBC.ca, Calgary Herald)

3 comments:

GeorgesB said...

It is a great story for Glenn to make it to the big game.

Did not I see coach Hufnagel say in a press conference that Tate had x-rays on his arm and they were negative? Then later in the week they announced Glenn as the started for the West Final saying Tate had a fracture? Just wondering.

Glenn would be the only player I would pull for on that squad. He may have a tough road against the double blue at home tho'. Ray certainly knows how to win the big game.

Anonymous said...

GO STAMPEDERS !

Anonymous said...

Anthony Calvillo best QB In the CFL, he will be back for 2013 season. Still has the competitiveness to be the best as always.