Hamilton and Calgary meet in 102nd Grey Cup

Nov 26, 2014 - 4:18 PM Vancouver, BC (SportsNetwork.com) - The time has come to crown a champion in the CFL, as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Calgary Stampeders clash in the 102nd Grey Cup at BC Place on Sunday.

All season long it was assumed that the Stampeders would be here at the end, vying for the title, but the same could not be said for the Tiger-Cats who were 0-3 to start the 2014 campaign and a mere 1-6 by the middle of August. Nevertheless, the Ticats turned it on when they absolutely needed to, at one point winning four straight and taking three of the last four outings to close out the regular season.

With a mark of just 9-9 which, had they played in the Western Division would have them barely slipping into the postseason, the Tiger-Cats finished first in the East ahead of a Montreal team that had the same overall record. Hamilton dominated at home this season, winning seven of nine dates, but on the road there were just two victories in nine chances, which might be a concern for the team entering this neutral-site event.

After the Alouettes blew out the British Columbia Lions, 50-17, in the Eastern Division Semifinal on Nov. 16, the Tiger-Cats saddled up and took down Montreal in a 40-24 decision in the division final last weekend.

Quarterback Zach Collaros converted 18-of-27 passes for 199 yards and while he did not throw a touchdown against Montreal, he also refrained from tossing an interception as well. Running back Nic Grigsby, who started the season with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers before requesting his release last month, gained 93 yards and tallied a pair of majors on 18 carries versus the Als.

But as well as both Collaros and Grigsby played, the real star of the game was Brandon Banks who not only returned a punt 93 yards for a score near the end of the first half, he also brought back a punt 88 yards for a TD in the fourth frame as well. Also along the lines of special teams, kicker Justin Medlock booted through all four of his field goal tries and finished with 16 points.

As for the Stampeders, they made it look rather easy as they challenged for the club's all-time wins total for a single season. The squad was an impressive 10-1 through 11 games and then put together another four-game win streak after bowing to Montreal (31-15) during Week 13 action. There was another setback later in the season to Winnipeg (18-13), but by then Calgary had already locked up the division title.

With the best record in the league by far, the Stampeders waited around for the Edmonton Eskimos to show up for the Western Division Final last Sunday and then firmly dismissed the visitors in a lopsided 43-18 decision. The game was pretty much over by the half as Calgary built up a 29-4 lead before easing off the gas.

Bo Levi Mitchell, who has taken over the Calgary offense and made it his own, did considerable damage to the Edmonton defense as he converted 14-of-22 passes for 336 yards and four touchdowns. He was sacked three times, but that did little to slow the attack as he also qualified for a rushing major in the meeting.

Calgary receivers Marquay McDaniel and Eric Rogers both caught TD passes from Mitchell, the latter had two in fact, but again the most dangerous player on the field for the Stamps turned out to be running back Jon Cornish. The league's leading rusher during the regular season, Cornish not only turned 14 attempts into 54 yards and a score, he also caught four passes for 120 yards and a TD as he continually kept the Edmonton defense guessing.

The one-two punch of Mitchell and Cornish were difficult to match for any opponent this season. In fact, the only way to slow either one of them down was to keep them out of the lineup, something that happened for several games for both performers. Still, Cornish was the only player to run for more than 1,000 yards (1,082) in the league, while Mitchell finished with a league-best 98.3 efficiency rating based on his 22 touchdowns and only eight interceptions.

Collaros, who also spent time on the sidelines due to injury, had a sold efficiency rating of his own (91.9) as the Hamilton passing attack finished second in the league in yards with 4,854, yet had almost as many interceptions (16) as touchdowns (22).

The emergence of Banks as a legitimate threat every time he touches the ball, justifies his being first in the league in combined yards with 1,968, while Grigsby has found new life with his new team, finishing second in the CFL with 1,363 yards from scrimmage.

The teams met twice during the first half of the season, with the Stamps winning both contests. The first took place on July 18 in Calgary where the hosts posted a narrow 10-7 victory, but a few weeks later the Stampeders logged a more convincing win, 30-20, on the road.

The Stampeders lead the regular-season series with Hamilton by a count of 57-30, but the postseason is a completely different beast, particularly in the championship game, so throw out the notion that Calgary has won six straight regular-season meetings and 10 of the last 11 overall.

From a historical perspective, Hamilton has won the Grey Cup a total of eight times in 19 opportunities, but the most recent of those triumphs was back in 1999 when the squad defeated Calgary by a score of 32-21.

Over on the other side the Stamps, winners of the 2007 title versus Winnipeg (22-14), have won it all six times in 13 chances and most recently played in the championship game two years ago when they lost to Toronto, 35-22.

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