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Robbie wrote:Well, with the good comes the bad. And at least one person likes it, I'm sure two others (WCBF, BBGIRL) would like this thread.
Robbie wrote:And for those of you who are still not convinced that my memory is correct, the score at time of Dunigan's interception was 22-19 for the Blue Bombers, and not 22-21 as many of you would think. It was only after Bob Cameron conceded a safety did the final score become that way.
VANCOUVER — “The ones you win, you forget,” said Wally Buono, after his B.C. Lions booked their ticket to the Grey Cup game. “The ones you lose sting forever.”
Amen, says Matt Dunigan.
“I think I’ll tweet that,” said the Hall of Fame quarterback-turned TSN football panelist.
He’d been asked to reflect on 1988, the last time the Lions and Winnipeg Blue Bombers — who will play for Earl Grey’s big silver cuspidor next Sunday — met in the Canadian Football League’s title game.
Dunigan’s high-octane Lions, 8-1/2-point favourites, lost 22-21 to the Sean Salisbury-led Bombers on a warm, windy evening at Ottawa’s Lansdowne Park ... and yes, it stings to this day.
“It’s the woulda-coulda-shouldas that haunt you,” said Dunigan, reached on his cellphone Monday in Grey Cup city.
It is a personal and professional sorrow that has nagged at him for 23 years, ever since his potentially game-winning touchdown pass to Jan Carinci was tipped at the line of scrimmage and came to rest in the arms of Bombers defensive tackle Michael Gray.
"Every lineman's dream," said Gray, a former Lion.
B.C. had been on the Winnipeg seven-yard-line, trailing 22-19 with under two minutes left. A field goal would have tied it.
“Their defence played lights-out,” said Dunigan. “It’s the only play I remember, to be honest. I remember the play call. David Williams was one-on-one backside, and his guy fell down and David’s kind of walking in the end zone by himself. But I miss it, and the play unfolds, I try to knife it into Carinci, who had a step on his man on the crosser and Stan Mikawos gets his big mitt on the ball and ...
“It comes down to making plays. Winnipeg was one point better than we were that day, and it’s a hard one to swallow. We didn’t capitalize on our chances, and they tend to come back and bite you in the ass.”
Mike Riley, who coached that Winnipeg team — and the one that beat Edmonton 50-11 two years later at BC Place, the last time the Bombers won the Cup — remembers it somewhat differently.
“I’ve run that thing back in slow motion,” the 58-year-old said Monday from Corvallis, Ore., “and I’m pretty sure Michael Gray gets his hand on it, the ball pops up in the air, Bennie Thompson and [Carinci] collide at the goal line and Michael is running back to the ball and all three of them and the ball arrive at the same time, and Michael intercepts it and saves the game.
“And the lesson is, and I use that play to teach my team: defensive linemen rushing the passer and then running after the ball. It’s rare that something happens, but it changed everybody’s lives on that play.”
Riley, who’s been head coach at Oregon State for 11 years in two stints — interrupted by a three-year sentence as San Diego Chargers’ head coach and a couple of other NFL stops — recalls in detail the circumstances leading up to the Bombers’ victory in 1988.
“Great football game. I thought Bob Cameron might have won the game for us, with his punting,” he said. “We made some plays in the first half, offensively, and that was about it. Held on defensively, punted them out of good field position.
“And then we made a very controversial call, elected to concede a safety (ahead 22-19) instead of punting it out of there, and they had a big return (by Anthony Drawhorn) but I think [Tony] Cherry took a penalty on the play. So we held them, and survived.”
Salisbury was only quarterbacking the Bombers because their regular QB, Tom Muecke, had elbow problems in mid-season.
“Yup, Muecke came out of warmup one game, and [offensive coordinator] Bruce Lemmerman came to me five minutes before the game and said, ‘You better go get Salisbury, because Muecke’s out cold on the trainer’s table.’ His bursa sac on his elbow had swollen up and he’d come in to have it drained, and just passed out,” Riley said.
Salisbury — who went on to become an NFL backup and later an ESPN football commentator, before a Brett Favre-like lewd pictures scandal led to his dismissal a few years ago — did just enough the rest of that ’88 season to keep the job. He only completed 12 of 32 passes in the Grey Cup, “and I think all of them were in the first half,” Riley joked.
Dunigan and Riley agree on one thing: defence won the game, and usually does in the Grey Cup.
“When we won in ’91, even with the offensive team that we had in Toronto — Pinball [Clemons], Rocket [Ismail], D.K. Smith, Paul Masotti, David Williams — we had, I think, under 10 first downs,” said Dunigan.
“What I’m saying is that each game has its own circumstances. And oftentimes, from my experience, it’s defences that control those football games, and you just try to hang on and not hurt yourself offensively.”
“It’s always comforting to go into a Grey Cup confident in what your defence has done, and can do,” Riley said.
“In that era, we were the only 3-4 defence in the country, and had such good players at linebacker with James West and Greg Battle, Paul Randolph, and earlier there was Delbert Fowler, Darrell Patterson ... and Ty Jones, who was just the purrfect outside linebacker. He was with us the whole time, just a great, great football player.”
There was also a third-down gamble the Lions tried in the third quarter, deep in their end, that didn’t pan out, when Dunigan was stacked up at the line.
"It was a stupid decision and an insult to our defence," West would say later.
At the time, B.C. coach Larry Donovan seemed to suggest he had bad information from the spotter’s booth, and didn’t know the Lions had needed more than a yard.
Dunigan chuckled at that.
“Whatever. We should have made it,” he said. “You’ve got to give credit to Winnipeg for making the plays when they had to because, really, things weren’t going too well for them offensively, either.”
Matter of fact, both he and Riley say, the 2011 Bombers remind them a lot of the ’88 team. Not so hot on offence, but capable of great things defensively.
The Blue Bombers begin this week as a seven-point Vegas underdog.
It’s something to think about, for the Lions.
Robbie wrote:I stated several times before that along with the 2000 WDF, I consider this the most underrated and underappreciated Lions playoff win. Prior to this, the Lions never won a playoff game against Edmonton and never scored a playoff TD against them for that matter, and it didn't help that the game was played in the graveyard of Commonwealth Stadium. But that cursed was finally lifted and the Lions defence stood its ground by allowing only one TD while the Lions set the tone early in the game with a very long TD pass to Tony Cherry. A very close game with the Lions clinging on to 20-19 lead through the middle of the fourth quarter. A long pass to Scott Lecky gave the Lions a lot of momentum. Shortly afterwards, a quick TD pass to David Williams and then another to Eric Streater and a Lui Passaglia FG iced the game for the Lions.
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