Full disclosure: I am a football nerd. I’ve been a football nerd since I was an itty-bitty kid who watched his favorite quarterback join his local USFL team. (That’s Doug Flutie joining the New Jersey Generals – yes, I know, I’m old.) I’ve followed the Arena Football League, the World League of American football (later NFL Europe), and both iterations of the XFL. But the off-brand league I love the most is the Canadian Football League. Last week, though, the league announced the 2020 season would be canceled. The reasons why are long and there were a lot of missteps along the way. With the season coming to an end without a game being played, I decided to revisit an article concept I wrote a few months back and relive the 2000 Grey Cup between Montreal and BC.
The Montreal Alouettes looked to make a jump into the catbird seat in the East Division. They had been consistently in the hunt to go to the Grey Cup since relocating from Baltimore in 1995. Quarterback Anthony Calvillo went from perennial backup to full-time starter throwing nearly 4,300 yards and 27 TDs. Running back Mike Pringle continued his All-Star status with 1,778 yards and a record 19 rushing TDs. On defense, the Alouettes boasted a stellar secondary that had 31 interceptions in 2000, led by All-Stars Baron Miles and Davis Sanchez. The Alouettes finished 12-6 and advanced to their first Grey Cup since 1979 with a 35-24 win over Winnipeg.
The BC Lions, meanwhile, had an unspectacular season. The Lions finished 8-10 and withstood multiple losing streaks throughout the season. After starting 3-4, head coach Greg Mohns resigned and wide receiver coach Steve Buratto took over. Veteran quarterback Damon Allen was in his sixteenth season but was still going strong with 4,840 yards and 24 TDs. Journeyman running back Sean Millington returned home to Vancouver and ran for 1,010 yards on only 156 attempts. Defensively, lineman Carl Kidd and cornerback Chuck Levy helped stabilize the defense after a rough start. The Lions traveled to Edmonton and got to a big lead in the West Semifinal before holding on, 34-32. They stayed in Alberta to beat Calgary, 37-23, in the West Final.
The Alouettes swept the season series between the two teams, but when it comes to the Grey Cup, you can throw the records out the window. The Lions managed to established the running game early with the Lions going at the league-leading Alouettes defense and took an 8-0 lead. Calvillo threw an early interception in Alouettes’ territory, which led to a short Allen touchdown. The Alouettes managed a Terry Baker field goal for their only points of the first half. Both teams featured stingy defenses with neither team giving up much. The Lions took a 12-3 lead into the locker room at McMahon Stadium.
The third quarter was just as uneventful with the only score being Calvillo’s one-yard pass to wide receiver Jock Climie to bring the Alouettes within two. But the fourth quarter was when things got really interesting. Lions running back Robert Drummond ran for a 44-yard touchdown in the first minute to put the Lions up 19-10. Baker kicked his second field goal, which was followed by Allen’s second touchdown run. However, the Lions failed on the two-point convert and the score was 25-13 with 7:22 remaining.
Pringle followed Allen’s touchdown with a five-yard touchdown run of his own to bring the score to 25-20. After three misses during the day, Lions’ kicker Lui Passaglia kicked a 29-yard field goal with 1:25 remaining to go up eight. Then came one of the wildest finishes in Grey Cup history.
The Final Minute – and Some Controversy
After a short return from Winston October, the Alouettes would get the ball at their own 46. They needed a big play and they got it. Three plays in, Calvillo found wide receiver Ben Cahoon on a deep slant for 59 yards to score a touchdown with 44 seconds left in the game. Head coach Charlie Taffe opted to go for the two-conversion to potentially send the game to overtime. However, Calvillo’s pass went over the head of running back Thomas Haskins. Upon replay, though, it appears that Chuck Levy brushed Haskins, which caused Haskins to fall. The Alouettes looked for a flag, but it was for naught. Montreal attempted an onside kick that was recovered by Lions receiver Alfred Jackson. A couple of kneels later, BC would defeat Montreal for their fourth Grey Cup championship and became the first with a losing record to win the trophy.
The Alouettes appeared in seven out of the next nine Grey Cups, winning three (2002, 2009, 2010) with Calvillo at the helm. Calvillo emerged as one of the league’s best players in the 2000’s, winning league Most Outstanding Player in 2003, 2008, and 2009. He retired in 2013 and is currently the quarterback coach at the University of Montreal. Pringle stayed with the team through the 2002 season, signing with Edmonton, where he started his career. He played two more season with the Eskimos, helping the team win the Grey Cup in 2003. Pringle retired as the league’s career leading rusher in 2005.
The Lions remained in the playoff picture in the West Division through the 2000’s, finishing first in the division in four consecutive seasons (2004-2007). They went to the Grey Cup in 2004, losing to Toronto – with Allen at quarterback. BC returned to the Grey Cup in 2006, defeating Montreal again. As for Damon Allen, he played for eight more seasons and finished his career after the 2007 season. Upon his retirement, Allen finished as the all-time leader in passing yards and third in rushing yards, amassing over 84,000 total yards. His career passing yards record was surpassed by Calvillo in 2011. Millington initially retired after the 2002 season, but returned in 2005 to reunite with Allen in Toronto. He now lives in Vancouver as an investment advisor.
What are your memories of the 2000 Grey Cup? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter, @WhoIsRyanMcC.