A resounding road victory was the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ ticket to the 2013 Grey Cup game.
“I don’t like to say it was a cakewalk … but it was a cakewalk,” former Roughriders defensive back and return specialist Tristan Jackson said, breaking into a smile.
Ten years ago on Friday, the Roughriders downed the host Calgary Stampeders 35-13 in the CFL’s West Division final.
As the anniversary loomed, two other defensive backs from the 2013 Roughriders reflected on a lopsided contest that was held at McMahon Stadium.
Terrell Maze: “That was fun. Not too many people said it out loud but …”
Tyron Brackenridge: “… that was the Grey Cup.”
Calgary had finished the 2013 regular season with a league-best 14-4 record. Saskatchewan (11-7) was second in the West.
However, the Stampeders’ sterling slate was rendered meaningless as the Roughriders cruised to a 22-6 halftime lead in Calgary.
“They had no chance,” Brackenridge said. “We knew we were going to go out there and do what we did.
“I’m not just saying that because that’s what happened. We had that mindset. We knew exactly what we were going to do when we got there — and we did exactly that.”
A berth in a Regina-based Grey Cup game was incentive enough for the Roughriders, but they also had a score to settle after what had transpired the previous November in Calgary.
With 52 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of the 2012 West semi-final, Darian Durant had thrown his fourth touchdown pass of the day — a 24-yarder to Greg Carr. The convert by Sandro DeAngelis snapped a 29-29 tie.
Just 32 seconds later, however, Romby Bryant crossed the goal line for a 68-yard TD after catching a bomb from Drew Tate. Rene Paredes’ convert completed the scoring as Calgary won 36-30.
“Honestly, the year before, we lost that playoff game there,” Maze recalled. “For me personally, I was like, ‘I need to do better here.’ I wanted to show up even more.
“I think everybody had that little bit of a chip on their shoulder from the previous year.”
The Roughriders returned to the West semi-final on Nov. 10, 2013, defeating the visiting B.C. Lions 29-25.
Next stop: McMahon Stadium.
“We wanted Calgary bad that game,” Brackenridge said. “That was a big game for us right there — to go to Calgary and do what we did.
“I think we had seven takeaways.”
Two interceptions, four fumble recoveries and one turnover on downs.
Offensively, the Roughriders controlled the game on the ground — as they were wont to do in 2013 — as Kory Sheets rushed 28 times for 177 yards and one score. Jock Sanders added 61 yards on eight carries.
Durant was efficient through the air, completing 24 of 30 passes for 280 yards. He threw first-half TD passes to Weston Dressler, Rob Bagg and Chris Getzlaf.
Over the course of the game, the Roughriders amassed 536 yards of total offence, compared to Calgary’s 370, and owned the time of possession.
Saskatchewan virtually monopolized the football, which it controlled for an eye-popping 40 minutes 42 seconds.
“In warmups, every man, when you looked in his eyes, you just saw a different level of focus and readiness,” Maze said. “You’d look over on their side and it was, ‘They’re not going to mess with us tonight.’ ”
Not with a home-field Grey Cup Game as the grand prize.
The vision was set on Day 1 of training camp, when then-Head Coach Corey Chamblin asked the players: “How many days until the Grey Cup at our stadium? We have to be there and we have to win.”
Those words still resonate with the players.
“That’s how he painted the picture: ‘Someone’s going to be sitting in front of your No. 20 locker, going to play in the Grey Cup, while you’re at home,’ ” Maze said. “No. That’s unacceptable.”
With that in mind, the Roughriders rolled over Calgary before registering a second consecutive 22-point victory one week later.
In the 101st Grey Cup Game, the Roughriders enjoyed a second successive scorching start, assuming a 31-6 lead and ultimately defeating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 45-23.
“We knew that (Calgary) was going to be the hardest opponent,” Maze said. “When we ran through them the way we did, we didn’t say it out loud because obviously we still had to get the job done, but that felt sweet because we knew that was probably going to be the hardest opponent that we were going to face.”
A decade later, the mere mention of the Calgary game to anyone affiliated with the Roughriders still elicits a wide smile.
“We knew what we’d done,” Brackenridge reflected. “We knew we’d done what we needed to do.
“It was a raid. We kicked in the door and raided that place.”