What happened Sunday afternoon at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium will never be confused with the heartbreak of the 2009 Grey Cup which was played at the same venue, however like that game, the 2012 Western Semi-Final will go down as one of the most soul-clutching defeats in the history of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
It looked like the green-and-white were about to book reservations for the Western final having kept their playoff dominance alive over the hometown Stampeders, but the football gods had other ideas as Calgary came back in the game’s final moments to win it 36-30 ending the Saskatchewan season and leaving many to ask what happened.
Down 26-16 in the 4th quarter, the Riders staged a furious comeback that saw them take the lead with just one minute to play when Darian Durant threw his 4th touchdown pass of the afternoon to Greg Carr from 24 yards out to give the Riders a one point lead.
However, Drew Tate found a wide-open Romby Bryant down the sidelines for a 68 yard touchdown just 30 seconds later to give Calgary the lead once again and when Durant’s hail mary was intercepted by Keon Raymond at the goal-line it was game over, season over.
Riders defensive end Brent Hawkins says this is a loss that will definitely take some time to get over.
“This is almost like the 2009 Grey Cup,” a disappointed Hawkins said. “We made mistakes today, we can’t just blame this on one guy because we all made mistakes. We thought we had it, but no one felt that it was over. Its unspeakable. I don’t really have any words for it.”
While Hawkins was at a loss for words over what had transpired, Head Coach Corey Chamblin tried to piece together how this one got away.
“This wasn’t the way it was supposed to end, but we let it slip away.” Chamblin told 620 CKRM’s Carm Carteri. “That’s not the way you want to remember the end of your season, but at the end of the day I am proud of the team for coming so far and doing a lot of great things. I think we brought this team a long ways from the start of the season. We re-tooled the roster and we moved forward. We have some stars on this team and we have guys that can get us to the next level. Its not the end that I expected, but we learned a lot of lessons and that includes my coaching staff. We were just a couple of seconds away from going to the Western final and we did it after re-building from virtually the bottom up. With a move here and a move there, I think we can be a genuine contender next year.”
For Durant, it was a heartbreaking way to end the season. He threw for 435 yards and four touchdowns including the two in the final quarter to put his team in position to win. Like many others, he was crushed knowing the season had come to an end in such dramatic fashion.
“That’s the thing about football. Sometimes its out of your hands and you have to pray to the football gods and hope that guys step up and make plays.” Durant said. “Calgary did that at the end and full value to them for the win. "
The team will now do what it hoped to do in two weeks time and that is clean out the dressing room and say farewell to one another. That will happen on Tuesday and then the quest to win the 101st Grey Cup which will be played at Mosaic Stadium will begin.
• The two teams hooked up for 950 yards of total offense
• In his first game with the team, punter Ricky Schmitt had an impressive debut as he punted eight times for an average of just under 43 yards
• Durant became the first Rider since Ron Lancaster in 1975 to throw four touchdown passes in a playoff game.