The Green Machine Brings It Home

By Michael-Louis Ingram
Updated: December 10, 2007

PHILADELPHIA — The 95th edition of Canada’s professional football championship ended in a sea of green and white as the prairie drought for one of the plains teams ended at Sky Dome on November 26.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 23-19 as defensive back James Johnson iced the victory with a late interception of Winnipeg quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie.

Dinwiddie, making his first CFL start in the biggest game after Kevin Glenn broke his left arm in the East Division final, completed 15 of 33 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown.

Rider pivot Kerry Joseph had some early timing issues and dropsies with his receivers, but did enough to get the job done. Four of his 13 completed passes went to slotback Andy Fantuz, who looked like the second coming of Ray Elgaard as he threw off a couple of ‘Bomber tacklers for a 23 yard touchdown.

Just as he has done so many times during his MVP season, Joseph went to the ground attack; meaning himself. He gained 101 yards on 10 carries to add to his 184 passing yards, and was not shy about slapping hats with the opposition.

Toronto Argos quarterback Damon Allen marveled at Joseph’s effort. “He seemed a little nervous at first, but he came through,” said the CFL’s all-time passing leader.

When asked to compare running styles, Allen laughed. “Hey, that’s a tough young man,” referring to Joseph. “I’m always looking to avoid contact, but Kerry gets down and dirty there in hitting that pile. I know that it’s uplifting to his teammates that their quarterback shows the toughness the team wants to reflect as part of its image. But not only that, Kerry has also proven to be a great leader off the field as well.”

‘Bomber go-to guy Milt Stegall, the league’s all-time touchdown leader, may leave the game he loves without being able to sip from the Cup, but has nothing to be ashamed of.

Should he leave, Stegall goes out with 144 major scores on the board, a record that could stand for a long time.

Three the Hard Way

It seems fitting that 3 would be the lucky number for the Green Riders. Johnson’s late interception was his third of the game and a CFL record.

Saskatchewan’s Grey Cup tour took them through Calgary, B.C. and finally Winnipeg on their tour to grab the Cup.

Coach Kent Austin, who won the last Cup for Saskatchewan in 1989, and quarterback Kerry Joseph hit the jackpot in their third year of collaboration (Joseph being with Austin in Ottawa) and in their 95 years of existence, Saskatchewan wins only their third Grey Cup.

Many Happy Returns

In the National Football League, the buzz is deservedly tossed at the Chicago Bears return man Devin Hester as arguably the best ever. With less than two full seasons under his belt, Hester has returned 10 kickoffs and punts to the house.

Hester also returned a kickoff for touchdown in last year’s Super Bowl and brought back a missed field goal for 108 yards and a major score.

While there is no doubt that Hester may be a Bad Mamma Jama, he has a ways to go before eclipsing the shadow of the greatest kick return man ever — Henry “Gizmo” Williams.

The power pack from East Carolina University spent the bulk of his career with the Edmonton Eskimos after heading to the CFL after a brief stint with his home team, the USFL Memphis Showboats.

Listed at 5-foot-6, Williams was blessed with blazing speed, and although he played receiver for parts of his career, the Gizmo’s forte was running for daylight. With 26 punt returns, two kickoffs and three missed field goal returns for touchdown, 31 touchdowns over 13 seasons and 149 games ain’t bad.

Buddy Ryan saw enough to bring Williams down to the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles in 1989, but the experiment was shortlived. Williams retired in 2000, and made the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame in 2006.

Two amazing tidbits about Williams: as a pro football analyst for CKNW in Vancouver, host Don Taylor once questioned me on whether Williams deserved CFL HOF status on his radio show. “All he does is run back punts,” Taylor pooh-poohed — and this wasn’t an attempt at humor.

He felt Williams’ contributions weren’t significant and not worthy of Hall of Fame status. Well, averaging 31 touchdowns over 149 games comes out to roughly a score every five games; over an 18 game regular season, that’s a guaranteed 24 points per season. Tell me how many players in the league can guarantee that kind of consistent output from touching the ball maybe 3-6 times a game.

Hell, if Hester can last that long, he’d better hope his legs hold up. But the one thing that no statistician has been able to keep track of is with all the touchdowns Williams has scored, he has had almost as many called back.

While Williams has claimed at least 20 scores on returns called back via penalty, I can personally attest to seeing at least 9 of those would-be majors while living in Canada. So now these 40 majors in 149 games would bring the ratio down to one score every four games.

Now, if Hester can do that, then he really is a Bad Mamma Jama! But until then, don’t go parking any moving vans into Mr. Henry Williams’ neighborhood.

“Pinball” Resigns As Argos Coach

Michael (Pinball) Clemons turned in his track suit for a suit and tie last Tuesday as he stepped down as head coach of the Toronto Argonauts to become the team’s chief executive officer.

Defensive co-ordinator Rich Stubler will take over as head coach, while former Ottawa Renegades executive Brad Watters was named chief operating officer.

Clemons leaves the sidelines after guiding the Argos to an 11-7 record this season and a 65-55-1 career tally. His final game was a 19-9 loss to Winnipeg in the East Division final.

The former running back and kick returner has spent 19 years with Toronto as a player, coach and president.