Bombers bound for Grey Cup, lose Glenn
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers advanced to the Grey Cup for the first time in six years by stunning the Toronto Argonauts on Sunday but lost star quarterback Kevin Glenn in the process.
Keith Stokes returned a punt 81 yards in the third quarter for the CFL East final's biggest play to lead Winnipeg toa 19-9 win.
Milt Stegall caught a Glenn touchdown pass, while Troy Westwood accounted for the team's other points with some clutch kicking.
Toronto linebacker Kevin Eiben guaranteed this week Winnipeg wouldn't score more than 10 points. While the Winnipeg offence didn't score much more than that, the Bombers dominated most of the game on special teams and defence.
"They [were] talking all that mess before the game ... and we took it upon ourselves to come out here and prove them wrong," Winnipeg running back Charles Roberts told CBC Sports.
"Our team scored enough to win the game and that's all that counts," he added.
Roberts finished with 105 yards on 25 carries.
Eiben will undoubtedly still be hated in Winnipeg after colliding with Glenn during a fumble early in the fourth quarter. Glenn, the CFL East outstanding player of the year nominee, left the game with a broken left arm.
While replacement Ryan Dinwiddie had some problems getting plays in on time, the former Boise State standout was strong in relief, completing all four of his passes for 80 yards and running precious time off the clock
Dinwiddie could find himself among the unlikeliest of Grey Cup starting quarterbacks in history.
He told CBC Sports he was excited for the opportunity but disappointed for Glenn.
"You just gotta manage the game and protect the football and then make the throws you need to make," he said of the pressures of coming in late in a game.
Argo quarterback Michael Bishop struggled all day in his first career playoff start, misfiring on several throws. Bishop completed21 of 45 passes for 376 yards and rushed for Toronto's only touchdown.
"I'm not going to point fingers at anybody," Bishop said. "We didn't win the game. They scored more points than we did, that's plain and simple … we didn't win the game. That's the bottom line. "All I know is we made strides all year. Our winning streak came to an end."
Head coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons was hoping for better things fromBishop with a trip to the Grey Cup on the line.
"He [Bishop] struggled — the timing wasn't there all day," Clemons said.
"It's the kind of thing where you have a quarterback like this who you think is going to be your quarterback of the future. If he's going to be that guy, this is the kind of game he has to win."
Toronto kicker Noel Prefontaine was also not at his best, missing a field goal and having another attempt blocked by Winnipeg's Jerome Haywood.
Glenn completed 15 of 21 passes for 201 yards before leaving.
He completed passes to four different receivers to give Winnipeg an early 7-1 lead after Prefontaine's miss.
Winnipeg caught a break when Glenn's pass deflected off Derick Armstrong in the end zone and into the waiting hands of Stegall forthe score.
A 26-yard interference penalty incurred by Toronto defensive back Kenny Wheaton led to a 34-yard field goal from Westwood in the second quarter.
Bomber running back Roberts had had amassed 67 rushing yards by the first half, with Winnipeg leading 12-1.
The Blue Bombersappeared to be headed to an easy win after the electrifying punt return by Stokes.
Bishop hooked up with Obed Cetoute on a 47-yard gain in the third but overthrew veteran Derrell Mitchell on what could have been a touchdown.
It proved costly as Prefontaine's field goal attempt was blocked by Haywood.
Early in the fourth, Winnipeg botched a handoff deep in Toronto territory, with Glenn taking the hit that ended his season.
Bishop connected with Arland Bruce on a 90-yard pass play and thenplunged in for a touchdown andwith the score at19-8 score, Toronto would not be able to close the lead any further.
Winnipeg lost in the 2001 Grey Cup and last won it all in 1990, the franchise's 11th championship.
Stegall could have an opportunity to end his career with a championship, which would be his first. The CFL's all-time touchdown leader is believed to be leaning towards retirement at season's end.
Toronto was looking for a second Grey Cup in the last four years, with the championship game being played in their own stadium. The last CFL team to win the Grey Cup on their own fieldwas B.C. in 1994.
Sunday's game could be the last for several veteran Argo players, like Mitchell, Mike O'Shea and Damon Allen, as well as Clemons, whois rumoured to be stepping down as coach.
Clemons said he will likely discuss hisfuture with his family once Grey Cup week is complete.
With files from the Canadian Press