The B.C. Lions won the 99th Grey Cup last Sunday, doing something no other CFL team had ever done—starting a season 0–5, but going on to win it all.
Their 34–23 Grey Cup triumph over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers was, to some extent, a microcosm of their season. The Lions started slowly, and although they never trailed, the Lions had proven their superiority with a terrific second half performance.
Lions quarterback Travis Lulay was named MVP. “I missed a few throws that I hadn’t missed in a while…Just got to keep fighting,” said Lulay in an on-field postgame interview with TSN about his slow start and strong finish.
“I’m ecstatic!” said Lulay who is also the CFL’s most outstanding player during the regular season.
In truth, the game could have been put away by the end of the first half as Winnipeg had failed to get anything going on offense. The Blue Bombers recorded only their second first down with less than four minutes to play in the half.
Meanwhile, Lulay and Lions missed big plays to star wideout Geroy Simon and Shawn Gore. The Lions led 14–6 at the half.
Things remained tight throughout most of the third quarter with B.C. narrowly missing a touchdown and settling for a third Paul McCallum field goal before Lulay found Kierrie Johnson for a 66-yard touchdown bomb.
With the score now 24–9 in favour of the Lions, came the game’s most critical moment.
Winnipeg’s one chance to possibly turn the game came. From deep in his end, Lulay attempted a screen pass, which was nearly picked off by Winnipeg’s Odell Willis. Had it been picked off, Willis had a casual stroll to the end zone.
That would’ve made the score 24–16, but instead B.C. drove down the field and a touchdown pass to Arland Bruce made the score 31–9, essentially killing any Bomber hopes.
“I don’t want to repeat what went through my mind,” said Lulay about his ill-timed screen pass that was almost returned for a TD. “You need some breaks to win championships.”
The Bombers made the score respectable and the game quite interesting with two touchdowns with less than four minutes to play, but McCallum tacked on a fourth field goal to close the scoring.
“I’m extremely proud of the players, coaches…We all stuck together when a lot of people counted us out,” said Lions head coach Buono.
“This is so special to win it at home. To come from where we came from…” said Simon. “I think everybody was a little nervous but we finished it off.”
Buono and Simon were referring to that 0–5 start, after which B.C. won 12 of 13 games to take the Grey Cup.
“We started off slow in the first half. We came together [in the 2nd half]. We did it! We did it!” said Bruce perhaps also reflecting slightly on the Lions season.
And the theme of winning it all despite a modest start certainly applies to Lulay’s career with the B.C. Lions. Lulay had come a long way, from being a fourth-string QB just two years ago with B.C. to taking over the reins. “It’s just a culmination of a lot of hard work. This is incredible,” said Lulay.
The Blue Bombers nearly capped off an incredible season after a 4–14 record last year.
Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice put the loss down to not coming up with enough plays early in the game. “You gotta make more plays early in the game and we didn’t. We didn’t create a lot of first downs on first down,” LaPolice told TSN after the game.
Next year’s 100th Grey Cup will return to Canada’s largest city, Toronto. Big plans are already underway.
Follow Rahul on Twitter @RV_ETSports