Stars align for Argonauts in come from behind Grey Cup victory over Stampeders
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OTTAWA — The Toronto Argonauts talked all week about destiny and having the stars align.
And maybe that's what happened as a record-breaking, 100-yard touchdown pass and a stunning fourth quarter 109-yard fumble return TD turned the Argonauts into Grey Cup champions in a snowstorm at TD Place on Sunday night.
Just when it appeared that Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was about the put the final nail in Toronto's coffin, scrimmaging from the Toronto eight yard line with five minutes to play, Kamar Jorden fumbled while trying to scramble away from pressure and Argos defensive back Cassius Vaughn scooped it up and ran it all the way back.
A second two-point conversion catch of the game by Oakville, Ont., native Declan Cross made it 24-24 with 4:35 left to play before Lirim Hajrullahu's late field goal gave Toronto the 27-24 win.
"I was just there for the moment," said Vaughn. "That was the best moment of my career.
"To be able to come back and give my team what they needed at the right time — there's nothing like it. We were tired. But our execution was the difference. We played with a chip on our shoulder so big there was nothing they could do. We were the better team. We're the championship team and that's all that matters."
The Argonauts were the underdog against the CFL's top regular season team, but there was a feeling going into the title game that they had a chance.
After a 4-7 start to the season, the team largely rebuilt under new general manager Jim Popp and new coach Marc Trestman finished 9-9 to take first place in the weak East Division, then pulled out a close win over Saskatchewan in the division final. The Argonauts were coming together when it mattered most.
"Coach showed us the plan to get there, but we were just going one week at a time, trying to figure our what kind of team we had," said 38-year-old quarterback Ricky Ray, who won his fourth Grey Cup and second with the Argos since their upset win over Calgary in 2012. "We were taking a step forward and two steps back and it seemed the last third of the season we started playing good football and turned the corner and were able to finish it off."
It took an uncanny break to do it. Despite the conditions, Jorden's fumble was the first turnover of the game.
"I was thinking, it's going to be tough being down two scores to these guys," said Ray. "I was hoping we could hold them to a field goal.
"Man, I don't know why plays happen like that sometimes, but our defence made a play, like they've done all year, and that got us right back in the game."
Even equipment manager Danny Webb got into it. He urged the team to change into shoes with better grip at halftime to improve their footing on the slick artificial turf and it worked.
In the first half, all Toronto could muster was Ray's perfect strike to DeVier Posey for a 100-yard TD.
In new shoes, Ray engineered an eight-play TD drive to open the second half.
It recalled the Ice Bowl of 1977, when the Montreal Alouettes put staples in their shoes to improve their footing and scored a big win over Edmonton.
"I got a lot of high fives after the game," a smiling Webb said.
"The snow was tough," said Vaughn. "Danny Webb made it happen."
There was more magic after Toronto took the lead. Mitchell marched the Stampeders back to the Argonauts' 24 with just enough time to take one shot at the end zone, with seconds left over to try to tie the game on a field goal. But Matt Black's interception in the end zone clinched the Cup.
"At halftime we got together and said we've got to pick it up on offence," said Cross. "The defence is playing amazing, special teams are playing amazing.
"As it turned out, everybody picked it up. That was a team victory. It had to happen exactly like it happened."