VANCOUVER Defend our cup with pride was the motto, but the B.C. Lions failed to claw their way back to the Grey Cup final with a shocking 34-29 loss to the Calgary Stampeders before 43,216 disappointed fans including Premier Christy Clark at B.C. Place on Sunday.
Former VI Raiders runningback Andrew Harris and Victoria Rebels offensive lineman Jesse Newman could not duplicate a performance from last season as the Lions were looking to follow the Montreal Alouettes footsteps from 2009-10 with back-to-back championships.
Two straight Grey Cup victories have not been achieved by a West team since the Edmonton Eskimos won five straight back in 1978 to 82.
Instead, it is former Rebels receiver and current Stampeders fullback and special-teams player Rob Cote who will be looking for his second Grey Cup ring after Calgary claimed the West Division crown.
This is very sweet, especially giving it up throughout the week that nobody, outside of Calgary, gave us a chance, an elated Cote said of beating the favoured and defending West and Grey Cup-champion Lions.
B.C. is a great football team, as they have proved all year. But this is the Canadian Football League; no game is decided before it starts.
Now Cote is looking ahead to play the Toronto Argonauts in the Grey Cup final next Sunday in Toronto. He was a member of the championship 2008 Calgary team but was not in the lineup in a win over Montreal that season, one year removed from junior football.
I was there, but I wasnt on the roster. This would be the first [Grey Cup] with my pads on, said Cote, who does have a Grey Cup ring. This one would be infinitely sweet, to be able to play in the game and have that experience. This is what you play for.
And the Stampeders simply outplayed the Lions in their own stadium, outscoring them 17-13 in the second half, allowing a late Travis Lulay to Nick Moore touchdown toss to make it closer than it really was.
The Lions never seemed to get untracked offensively; the late score was the first major offensively of the afternoon.
We fell short of making plays today, said a dejected Harris. Seeing that sign up [on the scoreboard] saying, Thank you fans, is never good to see. Like I said, I hate losing more than I like winning.
I take this personally and Im just going to come back next year with a vengeance and I just have to get better.
Newman was also back in the lineup for the Lions, starting at right guard.
Harris was outshone by Calgarys Jon Cornish in a matchup that was hyped as a battle of Canadian runningbacks. Cornish ran for 112 yards on 18 carries and added two catches for 42. Harris finished with 33 yards rushing on eight carries and a tidy 75 yards receiving, but on 10 catches for a 7.5-yard average.
Harris had a phenomenal regular season establishing a new record for yards from scrimmage by a Canadian with 1,830 yards breaking the old mark of 1,662 set by Terry Evanshen back in 1967.
Stamps receiver Kevin Glenn stunned the Lions more than once on this day, throwing for 303 yards with three touchdowns. His first score came quickly, just 59 seconds in, to become the second-fastest offensive touchdown in CFL playoff history as he connected with Marquay McDaniel for a 68-yard strike over the vacated middle.
Glenn was burned by Korey Banks, though, when the veteran Lions defensive back jumped a route and took an interception back 77 yards for a touchdown that set a new Lions team record for longest pick returned for a score just over nine minutes into the game.
Glenn bounced right back with a TD strike to Maurice Price for a 14-7 first-quarter advantage and added a 57-yard strike to Romby Bryant to silence the crowd in the third quarter.
Backup Stamps QB Bo Levi Mitchell added a one-yard TD plunge on a third try from the Leos goal line after Mitchell surprised the B.C. defence on a 42-yard hookup with Price on a third down and short situation in which the Lions were expecting a run. The pass took the Stamps to the one.
Rene Paredes added field goals of 16 and 20 yards for the visitors, while veteran Paul McCallum had five field goals for the Lions from 35, 18, 41, 33 and 45 yards.
We had two trips into the red zone in the first half where we ended up kicking field goals. Thats a difference in the football game right there, said Lulay, who finished 33 of 46 in passing for 274 yards and just the one late TD. Our inability to finish drives cost us on the offensive side. Our first two drives in the third quarter werent good enough.
Veteran offensive lineman Angus Reid echoed that statement.
They did good things out there, and we didnt match that in a lot of areas, Reid said.
Calgary had 478 yards of net offence to B.C.s 367, and 75 of those Lions yards came on the final scoring drive in the dying minutes.
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