Roughriders end Grey Cup drought
Defensive back James Johnson set a Grey Cup record with three interceptions, returning one for a touchdown, as the Saskatchewan Roughriders won their first championship in 18 years on Sunday.
Saskatchewan defeated Winnipeg 23-19 in the 95th Grey Cup at Rogers Centre in Toronto. The Roughriders last won a championship in 1989, when current coach Kent Austin was the starting quarterback.
"It's weird how things work out sometimes," Austin told CBCSports. "I'm just so proud of our guys."
Johnson, whowas named the game'soutstanding player,intercepted Blue Bomber quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie a final time with just over one minute left to seal the result.
"We hada few ups and downs during the season, but what we wanted to do was put together three good games," said Johnson. "It was all about the way we finished and that's what we wanted to do, finish hard."
Saskatchewanslotback Andy Fantuz had put his side up 23-14 early in the fourth quarter by taking a Kerry Joseph pass and rumbling 29 yards for a touchdown.
Fantuz finished with four catches for 70 yards and was named the game's top Canadian.
"They've been been so passionate all year, all lifetime," Fantuz said of the loyal Roughrider fan base. "I can't wait to get back there and celebrate."
Dinwiddie, making his first CFL start in the biggest game after starter Kevin Glenn broke his left arm in last week's East Division final, completed 15 of33 passes for225 yards and a touchdown. He also fumbled once.
Winnipeg scored the game's first offensive touchdown in the third quarter, with Dinwiddie completing a pass each to receivers who had been largely invisible in the first half — Terrence Edwards, Arjei Franklin and Derick Armstrong. Dinwiddie launched a bomb to Armstrong, who beat Johnson for a 50-yard score.
Joseph, named the league's most outstanding player earlier in the week, struggled to connect early on with his receivers, who had some crucial drops.
The Roughriders quarterback completed just 13 of 34 passes for 181 yards, with an interception.
Joseph did more damage with his legs than his arm, rushing10 times for101 yards.
"It wasn't my best game but we just kept fighting, we kept fighting as a team," said Joseph. "We made the plays when we had to."
Luca Congi added three field goals for the Roughriders, helping out for the third Grey Cup in franchise history.
"We have a special group of people and it's a reflection of our head coach," Saskatchewan general manager Eric Tillman told CBCSports.ca reporter Doug Harrison. "Kent Austin has done a magnificent job with this team, and the team always reflects the personality of the head coach.
"Kent went through some adversity last year [being fired as the Toronto Argonauts' offensive co-ordinator] but he didn't let other people define who he was or where he could go and he stands here today as a champion and I'm proud of him."
Johnson, who had five interceptionsduring the regular season,dove topick offDinwiddie's pass late in the second quarter, running it in for the game's first touchdown. Congi added a field goal on the final play of the second to give Saskatchewan a 10-7 lead at half.
Winnipeg's Troy Westwood scored the game's first points with a 16-yard field goal, and Saskatchewan conceded a pair of safeties for a 7-0 margin before Johnson's first interception.
The Roughriders conceded another safety in the fourth, and Westwood kicked his second field goal with just under four minutes remaining, but Winnipeg could get no closer. The Bombers last won the Grey Cup in 1990.
"I kept us in the game but didn't win it for us," Dinwiddie told CBC Sports. "I made too many mistakes."
While many will look to Dinwiddie's inexperience, Armstrong's only catch was his touchdown, with Edwards taking in just four passes for 30 yards. Armstrong and Edwards combined for 163 catches and over 2,400 yards receiving in the regular season.
Milt Stegall finished with five catches for 85 yards in what may have been his final game for Winnipeg. Stegall, the CFL's all-time touchdown leader, is said to be leaning towards retirement. He caught just one pass in the second half.
Glen Johnson got the assignment as the game's referee, his eighth Grey Cup.
The Grey Cup will be held in Montreal next year.