The Saskatchewan Roughriders made the Regina organizing committee and their fans happy Sunday with a 35-13 upset of the Calgary Stampeders in the West Division final.
Chants of "Henry, Henry" rang out in the visitors' locker room at McMahon Stadium. Saskatchewan will face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and quarterback Henry Burris in next Sunday's Grey Cup at Mosaic Stadium.
The Roughriders will attempt to become the third host team in a row to win the CFL's championship trophy. The Argonauts beat Calgary in Toronto last year to take the Cup and the B.C. Lions won it in Vancouver in 2011.
"That's another part of the storyline, but for us, it's about having a Grey Cup at home," Roughrider quarterback Darian Durant said. "We know how hard it is to come to Mosaic for opposing teams. To have forty or forty-five thousand Rider fans, it's going to be great."
The Ticats punched their ticket to this year's championship game with a 36-24 win over the Argonauts in the East Division final earlier Sunday.
This year's Grey Cup features teams that finished second in their respective divisions and needed to win division semifinals and finals to get there.
"We know Rider Nation is fired up," Durant said. "They deserve it and it's going to be a fun week."
Saskatchewan last played in the Grey Cup in 2009 and 2010 and lost to the Montreal Alouettes in both games.
Calgary boasted the best regular-season record in the CFL at 14-4, but could not hang onto the ball Sunday. The No. 1 offence in the regular season turned the football over seven times and had possession of it for just eight minutes and 43 seconds in the first half.
"It’s hard to explain," Calgary head coach John Hufnagel said. "Obviously we're a little bit in shock the way the game unfolded. Having that many turnovers to ruin the game (and) to have that type of tackling by our team, it’s hard to explain."
Trailing 22-6 at halftime, Hufnagel replaced starting quarterback Kevin Glenn with Drew Tate, but the Stampeders managed just one touchdown in the second.
Durant completed 24-of-30 passes for 280 yards with touchdown passes to Rob Bagg, Weston Dressler and Chris Getzlaf.
Running back Kory Sheets scored on a one-yard touchdown plunge. Kicker Chris Milo made two field goals in the fourth quarter after his first of the game was blocked.
Calgary's Rene Paredes made both of his field-goal attempts. Tate threw a touchdown pass to Joe West.
Glenn completed 7-of-13 passes for 180 yards and was intercepted twice. Tate was 5 for 11 for 90 yards.
Calgary was minus-4 in rushing yards in the first half. Stampeder running back Jon Cornish, the CFL's leading rusher this season, mustered 67 yards in the game. Sheets finished second in rushing to Cornish, but romped for 177 yards Sunday.
"Tonight was just about the team winning and team goals," Sheets said. "There was nothing individual, nothing personal."
Calgary was without starting defensive tackles Micah Johnson and Demonte Bolden because of knee injuries suffered in the final game of the regular season. The Roughriders keyed on replacements Junior Turner and Freddie Bishop III.
"They were missing their two big plugs inside and we knew that going in," Durant said. "We wanted to exploit that, especially with two guys that haven't played all year. We knew they weren't in the type of shape they needed to be to stop the run."
The Roughriders lost both games at McMahon during the regular season, but their most recent Oct. 26 was by just four points.
"The games where we played them earlier this season, we felt like we gave them the games," Durant said. "All along, we felt like we were the better team."
Calgary had set a franchise record for the fewest turnovers in a season with 27, which was also the second-lowest in league history. But receivers Mo Price, Jeff Fuller and Brad Sinopoli each fumbled after the catch and turned the ball over.
With just over four minutes remaining in the game, returner Larry Taylor lost control of a Roughrider punt. Paul Woldu knocked it out of bounds to give the visitors the ball on Calgary's 32-yard line and Saskatchewan converted the turnover to a field goal.
Glenn was intercepted twice and also had an attempted touchdown throw to the end zone knocked down in the first half. Calgary also turned the ball over on downs once.
"You go from the highest high to the lowest low," Glenn said. "Right now, it’s pretty low.
Saskatchewan had a banner season in takeways with 53 —their second-highest in 17 seasons — and they made the most of Calgary's errors.
Roughrider defensive back Dwight Anderson, who screamed "Calgary sucks" into media microphones after the loss Oct. 26, thought that Stampeders receiver shouldn't have worn long sleeves.
"It was a cold-weather game. The ball was going to be slippery," Anderson said. "Guys were wearing sleeves out there so the ball won't sit well on the sleeves. We just had to go after the ball."
Kickoff was under a sunny sky and a temperature of minus-8 with an announced 33,174 in the stadium. A light south wind made it feel more like minus-14 and the temperatures dropped as the sun lowered.
Saskatchewan beat the Lions in a cold division semifinal at Mosaic last week. Durant felt that battle-hardened his team well for the West final.
"I heard the weather was nice here for the past couple weeks and they weren't used to playing in this weather," Durant said. "Going out there and practising in Regina and playing against B.C. in basically minus-20, we were ready for this.
"We think the weather played a factor in their ball security."
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