Football Fever At Its Peak for Canada’s 102nd Grey Cup

Canada’s biggest single sporting event to be witnessed by millions!

This Sunday, November 30th, Canada’s biggest single sporting event and television program will keep Canadians occupied all day.

An expected sold-out crowd of 60,000 fans plus a TV viewing audience of roughly 12 million will watch the 102nd Grey Cup from Vancouver’s B.C. Place Stadium.

In fact, the game is annually the single most watched sports program in Canada.

BC Place_Aerial

Aerial view of B.C. Place, site of the 2014 Grey Cup

This year, the Calgary Stampeders, the runaway leaders of the regular season and playoffs (16-3 overall), will face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the winners of the Eastern Conference with a 10-9 overall record.

This will be the third meeting between these two teams in Grey Cup history. The Stampeders prevailed in 1998 26-24 while Hamilton returned the favor the following year winning 32-21.

The 102nd edition (yes it is that old) of Canada’s football championship, held in Vancouver, B.C., pits two teams that were moving in opposite directions as the season opened.

DC-GreyCup08.jpg

The historic (first awarded in 1909) Grey Cup is always escorted the Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police onto the field at the end of the game for presentation

Calgary the favorites

The Calgary Stampeders have been the class of the CFL for much of the 2014 season while the Hamilton Tiger-Cats recovered from a horrific 1-6 start to make their way back to the Grey Cup.

Heading into Sunday’s final at BC Place in Vancouver, it’s hard not to see the Stampeders as the team to beat. The Stamps had a league-best 15-3 record and their convincing Western Final win over the Edmonton Eskimos only affirmed the the Stamps’ status as Grey Cup favourites.

Key to Calgary’s success has been running back Jon Cornish, the only player in the league to run for more than 1,000 yards this season despite playing just 10 games. Cornish, who grew up in New Westminster, BC, not far from the site of  the game Sunday, will have a tough task ahead, as the Ticats allowed fewer rushing yards than any team in the CFL this season.

Calgary vs Hamilton 2014

Jon Cornish has to be stopped by the Hamilton defense for the Tiger Cats to have a chance

In the West Division final, Cornish proved his hands were as dangerous as his feet, catching four passes for 120 yards and a touchdown.

Ticats happy to be underdogs

After going 1-6 to start the season, the Ticats finished the season strong, looking particularly good in their 40-24 Eastern division final win over the Montreal Alouettes. The Alouettes, feeling confident after their 50-17 thrashing of the BC Lions the week before, talked plenty of trash ahead of the East division final, but the Ticats focused on the job at hand. Their backfield, in particular, stepped up, snagging three interceptions and stifling star Alouettes receivers S.J. Green and Duron Carter.

A tale of two quarterbacks

Both Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell and Hamilton’s Zach Collaros will be playing in just their second post-season game when they square off in Sunday’s big game.

Calgary Stampeders - Bo Mitchell

Bo Levi Mitchell has been outstanding for Calgary this season

Mitchell was solid in his first season as starter, completing over 63 per cent of his passes for 3,389 yards with 22 TDs and just eight interceptions. And on Sunday, Mitchell threw four touchdown passes against Edmonton.

Mitchell knows similar success at BC Place won’t be easy to come by.

“We’re playing a very good tough, football team,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got to buy into it, man. This is all we have. For the next seven days, I’m going to live, breathe, eat, sleep Hamilton make sure I know every single thing about them.”

As for Collaros, the Ticats were 8-5 with him in the lineup, and just 1-4 without him. Calgary has yet to face Collaros, who missed part of the season with a concussion, and could struggle to contain the quarterback who prides himself on mobility.

“Offensively they’ve been sparked since Zach came back,” said Mitchell after the West Division final. “He’s a very good quarterback and he plays the game with his heart on his sleeve.”

Zach Collaros

Zach Pollaros has been a difference maker for Hamilton

Banks the X-factor

Ticats receiver Brandon Banks ran two kicks in for touchdowns in the East division final and set a CFL playoff record with 226 return yards, reminding longtime CFL fans of the glory days of diminutive speedsters like Mike “Pinball” Clemons and Henry “Gizmo” Williams.

Banks’ star turn caught the attention of Stampeders head coach John Hufnagel.

Hamilton action4 - Banks

Banks had two punt return touchdowns in the Eastern final against Montreal

“Wow,” said Hufnagel after being asked about Banks’ role in the win over the Alouettes. “He had an excellent game, but special teams coverage has been a strength of our football team. We just need to be strong on Sunday.”

Exorcising demons

The Ticats are looking to avenge their embarrassing 2013 Grey Cup loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Stamps, meanwhile, are still stinging from their loss in last year’s playoffs.

As for the Stamps, they’re hoping to erase recent post-season disappointments.

Despite a regular-season record of 88-37-1 in Hufnagel’s seven seasons at the helm, Calgary’s only other Cup appearance was in 2012, when they lost to the Toronto Argonauts. It’s a memory the Stamps will work hard to erase.

“I think I was so overwhelmed by the 100th Grey Cup,” said Stampeders linebacker Keon Raymond, while adding that he’s humbled to get the opportunity to play in his second title game in three years. “I remember that feeling, leaving that hotel room in 2012, and that’s not a feeling I want to feel again just like that feeling last year in the West Final.

“We want to make sure we finish and do the little things we can preparation-wise. Honestly, I think the mindset of this team is different. I think guys understand what’s at stake.”

The game will televised live in Canada on TSN and in the United States on ESPN2.

Kickoff is 3 pm local Vancouver time, 6 am EST and at 3 am CET.

Sources: Global News and Canadian Press

Roger Kelly
Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.
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