History repeats! Well kind of.
Way back in 1986 the Toronto Argonauts lost to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in a two-game total point duo of games and the Ticats went on to win the Grey Cup over the Edmonton Eskimos. What was so unusual was that for the first six quarters Toronto was dominant and when halftime rolled around in the second game all logic said easy victory. Well in the end, Hamilton won 59-56 as Toronto self-imploded and Hamilton capitalized.
Fast forward some 27 years and again Toronto dominated (in the first half) and Hamilton came back to win in impressive fashion in the second half and won 36-24.
I thought there were three key aspects that determined the game. First, Hamilton scored to end the first half to make the game 24-17 as compared to 24-10 if Hamilton did not score. All of a sudden it was a one-touchdown game. It's much easier to play a second half when you know you only need one touchdown. And that is what happened on the first drive of the second half with a Tiger-Cats touchdown and a 24-24 game. And confidence went from the team in blue to the team in white very fast.
Ticats dominated time of possession almost 2 to 1. That was so surprising because during the regular season no team was better at avoiding two plays and a punt more than Toronto. But they had four in the game and three in the third quarter. By the start of the fourth Hamilton was in complete control.
The final issue was red zone efficiency. To end the season the Argos were the best in red zone defence. Now you could move the ball with ease from the 20 to the 20 but all year anything inside the 20 the Argos stopped. Not Sunday afternoon, with 30 points scored by Hamilton from the 20 and in with three touchdowns and three field goals.
Out west, yes I thought Calgary could win it by three but completely mis-evaluated the significance of the absence of the two defensive tackles Demonte' Bolden and Micah Johnson. Big guys can't do a little guy's job in football and little guys can't do a big man's job either. The seven turnovers killed any chance for Calgary but even if the turnovers were significantly less I still don't think Calgary wins. The Riders beat Calgary as much as Calgary beat themselves.
Truth is that the West Semifinal was a greater threat to the Riders than the final itself. The BC Lions were close to beating Saskatchewan while the Stampeders never really came close.
Grey Cup Promise
With both Saskatchewan and Hamilton in the Grey Cup there are many unique stories to unfold. Kent Austin back in Regina. Same with Henry Burris and Andy Fantuz. A third home Grey Cup team in a row and this time with the best football fans. Darian Durant trying for his first Grey Cup win after two losses. George Cortez as an offensive coordinator competing against a team he was the head coach of not long ago. The one hundred and first Grey Cup is easy to make entertaining and interesting.
There is no doubt that the Tiger-cats will be heavy underdogs come Sunday and they should be. The Riders beat Hamilton twice, at home 37-0 and at University of Guelph with Drew Willy at quarterback. But until the game is played you never know. Because you know that as a head coach Kent Austin will take an "us against the world" approach. He'll say that nobody gives us a chance and we "have them exactly where we want them".
Corey Chamblin will be sending a message more towards "don't underestimate anyone", especially a team that started 1-4, and finished 10-4.
Either way in the city of Regina you are guaranteed a great week with two new teams, the hometown fans and two quarterbacks closer to ending their careers than starting them. This year's Grey Cup could be one of the best in many different ways.