59th Grey Cup
|Date||November 28, 1971|
|Most Valuable Player||Wayne Harris|
|Most Valuable Canadian||Dick Suderman|
|Network||CBC, CTV, SRC|
|Teams||1 Q||2 Q||3 Q||4 Q||Total|
The Argonauts had not appeared in a Grey Cup championship game since 1952. The Stampeders were making their third Grey Cup appearance in the last four years, but had not actually won a championship since 1948.
The 10-4 Argonauts faced the 9-6-1 Stampeders for the first time in the Grey Cup. Both teams finished in first place in their divisions, but Toronto, led by star rookie quarterback Joe Theismann was the favourite. Calgary was making their second straight appearance in the Grey Cup game, but had not won it since the famous 1948 game. Toronto had nearly as long a drought, with their last victory coming in 1952.
The 1971 Grey Cup was the first to be played on artificial (Tartan) turf.
Field conditions were poor for the game, as it had been raining heavily, leaving sheets of water over the artificial turf at Empire Stadium.
Calgary opened the scoring with Herm Harrison making an incredible one-handed grab of a Jerry Keeling pass in the end zone for a touchdown. Toronto countered with a big play, a 55-yard pass reception by fan favourite tight end Mel Profit, but would come away from this drive deep into Stampeder territory with only a field goal from Ivan McMillan.
Jesse Mims added another Stampeder major, ending the scoring for the half and for Calgary on the day.
The second half saw Joe Theismann replaced by Greg Barton, but the Argos could not move the ball. Their only touchdown came when sure-handed Calgary punt returner Jim Silye dropped a kick which was then recovered by Joe Vijuk. Vijuk had the presence of mind to lateral to Roger Scales, who ran 33 yards for the touchdown.
Dick Thornton, a great two way player who had already made a fantastic reception, intercepted a Calgary pass and returned it to the Stampeder 11-yard line. With Theismann back in the game, he handed the ball off to Leon McQuay, the Argonauts' star running back. As McQuay cut left across the field, he promptly slipped on the soggy turf and fumbled the ball, which was recovered Stampeder Reggie Holmes. To this day, there is still some dispute about this play, as McQuay dropped the ball when his elbow hit the ground and he had not been contacted by a Stampeder defender, thus bringing up the football adage that "the ground does not cause a fumble". As well, then-Argo coach Leo Cahill still laments the play, often quipping that "when Leon (McQuay) slipped, I fell."
Toronto still had a chance as there was 1:53 left in the game, and Calgary was in a deep hole. Not getting a first down they had to punt. Unfortunately, the punt returner, Harry Abofs, in an effort to capture the wet ball, accidentally kicked it out of bounds while reaching down. CFL rules state that when a ball is kicked out of bounds, possession goes to the other team, giving Calgary possession of the ball once again. If Abofs had knocked the ball out of bounds with his hand, Toronto would have had one last chance.
Argonaut coach Leo Cahill, who won the 1971 Coach of the Year award, would later say, "When Leon (McQuay) slipped, I fell." He was fired in 1972 after the team, beset by injuries, stumbled to a 3-11 finish.
Jim Silye was later a Member of Parliament for Calgary.
The 1971 Argonaut team was the focus of an episode of Engraved on a Nation.