In the 103rd Grey Cup, in front of 36,634 in the freezing Manitoba night, Burris was handed the ball with three minutes and 81 yards to go. A chance.
But he could only get them to midfield. He took a sack. He waited to get the ball back. There was enough time.
Edmonton, however, was the best team in this league for a reason. They hammered the ball, hammered it again, strangled the clock. Burris never saw the ball again, and Edmonton won its first Grey Cup in 10 years, 26-20.
After a quick start, it felt like the underdog Redblacks were holding on, trying to ride a powerful bull. Edmonton is so full of explosive players, and every time they were defused you could almost hear the relief. Meanwhile, Burris was starting to make squirrelly throws after a surgical start, and you could see caution creep in. Edmonton kicker Sean Whyte missed one field goal in the first half, and doinked one off the upright in the second.
Everything Burris was throwing was short and safe, and that wasn’t going to do it. Ottawa still led 20-18 with a little over four minutes to go, because its defence had been making enough plays between big gains for Edmonton’s dangerous skill players. In only their second year of existence, in this strange year, the 12-6 Redblacks weren’t given much of a chance, until they gave themselves one.
But the Eskimos drew two pass interference calls that totalled 65 yards on a single drive, and scored on a third-and-goal from the one. It was enough.
It had started, strangely, with a lumberjack controversy. The lumberjacks are students from Algonquin College who serve as Redblacks mascots, and were en route to Winnipeg when the CFL somehow upheld the complaint from the Eskimos that having the lumberjacks on the sideline cutting a slice of a log after each Ottawa touchdown would constitute “a competitive advantage.”
Sheesh. The compromise involved lumberjacks but no cutting, or the CFL justice equivalent of cutting the baby in half. Edmonton’s complaint was, as Redblacks owner Jeff Hunt put it, “petty.”
But then the game became something where every little thing mattered. The Eskimos were 7.5-point favourites, and you could actually see the difference — an offensive line full of giants, huge cornerbacks, towering receivers who can run by you and laugh. The Eskimos went 14-4 with Reilly missing half his games, and finishing ninth in the league in passer efficiency when he did play. They tore 14-4 Calgary apart last week.