Here's an exclusive perspective on what fans should be watching for as the Calgary Stampeders take on the Toronto Argonauts in Grey Cup 100.
University of Calgary Dinos football coach Blake Nill shares his unique take on what might make the difference on the field.
Coach Nill has lead the Dinos since 2006. A native of Hanna, Alta., Nill has 25 years of football experience as an athlete and as a coach. Nill won the Frank Tindall Trophy as Canadian Interuniversity Sport Coach of the Year in 1999 and served as a guest coach with the Calgary Stampeders in 1997 and 1998, the Ottawa Renegades in 2002 and 2003 and the Edmonton Eskimos in 2007.
Here are his top five things to look out for:
- "Watch the special teams closely. Both team's coordinators have done a great job. Which unit is going to make a big play or give up a big play? At some point in the game, one unit is going to make a play that will be a difference-maker."
- "Can Toronto stop receiver Nik Lewis on second down? Having watched Calgary all season, when it's second and seven or second and 10, everyone knows who's getting the ball. It's Nik. It's interesting that other teams haven't put special defences to stop him. Will Toronto?"
- "Watch to see if the Calgary run game gets established early enough. There have been games where they have struggled to get running back Jon Cornish moving early. Getting the ball to Cornish really opens up their passing game because they are a balanced offence. (Stamps offensive coordinator Dave) Dickinson will want to get the run game started early."
- "Obviously Toronto Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray is going to be a huge factor in the game. He's a very patient quarterback. He takes what the defence gives him. Field position is important to him. Calgary will have to stop Rick Ray from moving the ball via short passes so as not to get burned by a big vertical play or a downfield pass."
- "Watch for what I call The X Factor: the two head coaches. Scott Milanovich is in his first Grey Cup as a head coach and John Hufnagel is in his second. There are a lot of stresses on these coaches, but Hufnagel has the advantage. He's got the experience (leading Calgary to a Grey Cup win in 2008) and that gives Calgary an edge when it gets down to the nitty gritty."
And Nill's advice to the Stamps locker room?
"This is an opportunity that you will not have every day. You're fortunate. Make every opportunity while you are on the field count. Those little things might mean the difference between victory and defeat. You're one win away from a ring. Remember that."