With six swift kicks on Sunday, Paul McCallum erased two long years of bad football memories.
The B.C. Lions kicker nailed all six of his field-goal attempts in a 25-14 victory over Montreal in the 94th Grey Cup in Winnipeg.
Lions kicker Paul McCallum follows through on a field goal against Montreal in the first quarter.
(Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)
McCallum's last field goal midway through the fourth quarter was his longest at 47 yards and etched the 36-year-old's name into the annals of CFL playoff history.
He joins former Alouette Don Sweet (1977), Paul Osbaldiston (1986) and Sean Fleming (1993) as the only kickers to post six field goals in a Grey Cup game.
"It's a group effort. The guys did really well," McCallum, named the game's outstanding Canadian, told the CFL on CBC's Steve Armitage after the final whistle. "They got me into position [to make the kicks]. I was just doing my job.
"It hasn't really sunk in yet. Going from such a low a couple of years ago to now it's kind of indescribable. I think I proved I can still play."
McCallum probably left some wondering during the 2004 West final when he missed two field goals, including an 18-yarder in overtime, to allow B.C. to prevail 27-25 over McCallum and the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Change of scenery
Seeking a change of scenery, McCallum signed with the Lions as a free agent last winter and helped them to a 13-5 record in 2006, tops in the CFL.
The 14-year pro then saved his best performance of the season for the biggest game before a crowd of 44,786 at Canad Inns Stadium.
The Alouettes tried to put a damper on McCallum's night and the Lions' Cup hopes late in the game, but running back Robert Edwards fumbled the ball at B.C.'s two-yard line on second-and-goal with four minutes left on the clock.
From there, the Lions' vaunted defence, which led the league in five statistical categories this season — including fewest points allowed — held strong to give the team its first title since 2000 when B.C. upset Montreal 28-26.
"They say defence wins championships and our defence came up huge for us all year, especially in this game," Lions slotback Jason Clermont told the CFL on CBC's Brenda Irving.
For the Alouettes, Sunday's Grey Cup loss was the second in a row after they fell 38-35 in double overtime to Edmonton in last year's championship in Vancouver.
Montreal dropped all three meetings with the Lions this season by a margin of 109-47.
Much like the two regular-season encounters, the Alouettes had trouble handling B.C.'s offence.
Quarterback Dave Dickenson, who amassed 468 yards and three touchdowns in a combined five quarters in those two contests, guided the Lions down the field from the outset of Sunday's matchup.
He marched the ball 60 yards to the Montreal 27 on the team's first possession, a drive that culminated in a McCallum 34-yard field goal.
Dickenson hot in first half
Dickenson continued to move the chains and elude Montreal's pass rush throughout the first half to set up McCallum field goals of 35, 24 and 30 yards.
In the end, Dickenson connected on 18 of 29 passes for 184 yards and ran for 53 yards to earn most outstanding player honours for the game.
"You know, I want to do it [win a Grey Cup] again. It's feeling that good," Dickenson said. "I want to congratulate Montreal [because] they played us tough. But we just deserved this. We were the best team all year and in my opinion the best team won."
Dickenson's Alouettes counterpart Anthony Calvillo struggled to move the ball early on as Montreal was forced to punt on five of its first six possessions.
But Calvillo, who was sacked three times, had more success in the second half and finished with 234 yards on 20-of-41 completions to become the all-time passing leader in Grey Cup history.
A stellar Alouettes defence allowed the East champions to creep back into the contest as Montreal outscored its opponent 9-0 in the third quarter to trail 19-12 entering the final 15 minutes.
Momentum began to shift in the Alouettes' favour when rush end R-Kal Truluck sacked Dickenson, who appeared to drop the ball at Montreal's 47-yard line before his knee met the playing surface.
Alouettes coach Jim Popp challenged the original call, which was overturned to give his team possession.
Lions refuse to panic
But the Lions didn't panic and were able to control the ball long enough to let McCallum do his job.
"We played 20-odd games this year and we've been in situations like that," said Clermont. "We knew the D [defence] would come up big and when we needed a [scoring] drive, we'd get a drive."
After McCallum conceded the first of two safeties, Montreal closed to within 19-12 when Edwards capped an impressive drive with a two-yard run.
"I think we outplayed them in the second half. Unfortunately, we came out slow [to start the game]," said Montreal slotback Ben Cahoon, who finished with a game-high 11 catches for 137 yards.
The Lions took a 19-3 lead into halftime, thanks in large part to McCallum's right leg and rookie running back Ian Smart's 25-yard run for a touchdown, the first of his career in the CFL.
Dickenson credited the play of the Lions defence that he felt deserved to be named the most valuable players of the game.
"Honestly, the defence won this game," he said. "Offensively, they just give [the award] to your quarterback when you win. I'll take it. I'm going to take [all my teammates] out. We're going to party in Vancouver."