The 13th man in green proved to be the difference but for all the wrong reasons.
After Damon Duval missed a field goal attempt with mere seconds remaining in the 97th Grey Cup, a Roughriders' penalty for too many men gave the Montreal kicker a second chance. And Duval made the most of it, converting from 33 yards out with no time on the clock to give the Montreal Alouettes a 28-27 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
"Going into the (first kick), I just sped up a little too much and I thank the man upstairs that I got a second chance," said Duval. "If we lost this game, I would have put this on me. But to come out in the second half and knock this thing through - I can't even explain the feeling right now."
Last year, the Alouettes had the chance to win the Grey Cup in front of their fans at Olympic Stadium in Montreal but watched as the Calgary Stampeders walked away with the trophy. This year, they rallied from a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit at McMahon Stadium in Calgary to claim their first title since 2002.
"We didn't quit and the guys came back - and what a joyful event," said Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo. "We wanted another chance to come back and win a championship and we pulled it off. What a feeling."
Calvillo completed 26 of 39 passes for 314 yards and two touchdowns to improve his his record to 2-5 in Grey Cup games. He also became the all-time leader in touchdown passes in the title game with nine.
With 40 seconds remaining, the Alouettes found themselves on their own 34-yard line and trailing by two points. Jamel Richardson and Kerry Watkins caught 2nd down passes to keep the drive alive, setting the table for Duval.
''This man is an unbelievable leader. He flew this plane on his own," Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman said about the exploits of Calvillo. "He is a leader in the truest sense and the team rallied around him.''
Avon Cobourne was named the game's Most Valuable Player with 85 yards rushing, 64 yards receiving and one major. Richardson and Ben Cahoon, who was named the game's Most Valuable Canadian, caught touchdown passes from Calvillo.
For the Roughriders, Darian Durant passed for one touchdown and rushed for another in a losing cause. Andy Fantuz had one touchdown and Luca Congi chipped in with four field goals.
Running back Wes Cates was the Riders' best player, picking up 91 yards on the ground and 24 yards through the air, including a 26-yard romp early on.
In the first half, Congi kicked three field goals and Fantuz caught the only touchdown as the Roughriders dominated play. The Alouettes struggled offensively as well as on special teams with Duval having issues punting the ball.
After missing on his first chance, Congi made amends on his second attempt, connecting from 40 yards out to give the Roughriders an early 3-0 lead.
The usually high-powered Alouettes offence did not register a first down in their first three possessions. And on their fourth possession, Calvillo fumbled the ball, Keith Shologan picked it up and rumbled down to 8-yard line. From there, Durant hit Fantuz for the touchdown and a 10-0 lead after the first quarter.
Early in the second frame, Calvillo drove the Alouettes deep into enemy territory and Duval put the Alouettes on the board with a 28-yard field goal. Also on the 8-play, 44-yard drive, Ben Cahoon became the all-time leading receiver in Grey Cup history.
Midway through the quarter, the Alouettes were driving again before Kerry Carter was stripped of the ball. Roughies' linebacker Anton McKenzie scooped it up before going out of bounds for the second Alouettes turnover.
Late in the first half, Congi converted on another field goal, this time from 44 yards out.
After the Alouettes were stopped on the ensuing drive, Duval shanked a punt in the final minute that travelled just seven yards. The Roughriders took advantage but not without the use of a challenge flag. With two seconds remaining, Fantuz appeared to catch a long pass at the 2-yard line but officials ruled him out of bounds. However after a Saskatchewan challenge, the catch was ruled legal and Congi kicked a 9-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.
The Alouettes picked an inopportune time to play their worst half of football, which included five 2-and-outs, but head coach Marc Trestman was confident his players would come out and perform in the second half. And he was right.
"I told them to calm down and lay low for a while," said Trestman. "Our coaches did an outstanding job at halftime settling guys down, breaking the first half down and explaining what happened. Their will and their character in the second half shone through because they never gave up."
On the opening drive of the third quarter, Calvillo drove the Alouettes down the field and hit Richardson for an 8-yard touchdown pass to cut the Roughriders lead to 17-10. The 9-play, 74-yard drive took 5:23 off the clock.
"It's been an amazing two-year jounrey," said Calvillo. "All year long we were a very dominant team. And we all believed we could win with one another and that's what we said going into the second half of this game - and we did it."
Then, the Alouettes defence stepped up with a big play of their own and the momentum appeared to be changing. With the Roughriders threatening to score again, Billy Parker dove in front of Rob Bagg at the 5-yard line for the interception to snuff out the drive. But the Montreal offence was unable to capitalize on the opportunity.
Congi connected from 23 yards out for his fourth field goal of the game to extend the Roughriders advantage late in the third quarter and with the knowledge that the Roughriders had not lost a game all season when leading after three quarters, confidence was high on the Saskatchewan sideline.
After a punt single from Duval, Durant capped a 5-play drive by scrambling into the end zone from 16 yards out for the major to extend the lead to 16 points. With ten minutes remaining in regulation, the sea of green could feel victory within their grasp.
But the Alouettes answered right back with a 74-yard drive, capped off when Cobourne dove into the end zone from three yards out. The ensuing two-point conversion made the score 27-19 in favour of the Riders and the game was far from over.
"I enjoy seeing us reap the rewards from very hard work," Trestman said of his team. "It's just a pleasure and a privilege to be with them. They never gave up. They worked hard and the harder you work, the harder it is to give up."
Then, Alouettes' defensive back Jerald Brown set up the late-game dramatics with an interception of Durant, giving his offence another opportunity to score. And Calvillo made the Roughriders pay with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Cahoon to close the gap to two points. But the subsequent two-point conversion attempt to tie the game failed, leaving the Alouettes trailing with precious few minutes remaining.
But Calvillo and the Alouettes were handed one more chance by the defence and made it count. With the help of a too many men penalty on the next-to-last play of the game, Duval split the uprights along with the hearts of an entire province.
''There's not a lot of listening going on," said Riders' head coach Ken Miller outside a shocked Riders' locker-room. "But I told them I was not disappointed in them as much as I was in the result."
In 1989 with TSN's Glen Suitor holding, Dave Ridgway kicked the winning field goal for the Saskatchewan Roughriders to beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats with no time left on the clock in the 77th Grey Cup. But Duval turned the tables on RiderNation in 2009, in a game that will be talked about for many years to come.