The B.C. Lions defused the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 34-23 to capture their second Grey Cup in five years on Sunday and cap one of the greatest turnarounds ever seen in the Canadian Football League (CFL).
Travis Lulay, the CFL's most outstanding player in 2011, was named most valuable player of the championship game after completing 21-of-37 passes for 320 yards, including touchdowns to Kierre Johnson and Arland Bruce as the Lions became just the fourth team and first since 1994 to host and win the Grey Cup.
I missed a few throws that I hadn't missed in awhile in the first half and unfortunately it ended some drives, Lulay said during an on-field interview. But in championship games you just have to keep fighting and in the end it feels pretty sweet.
The CFL's version of the National Football League's Super Bowl featured two unlikely teams.
A year ago, Winnipeg had been the league's worst team with just four wins while Vancouver opened the 2011 campaign with five straight losses.
But the Lions recovered to win 11 of their final 12 regular season contests and capped off the stunning turnaround with a sixth Grey Cup and first since 2006.
With most of the capacity crowd at BC Place -- the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Olympics -- backing the hometown Lions, the Western conference champions jumped out to a 14-0 first half lead.
Andrew Harris opened the scoring on a 19-yard touchdown run while Paul McCallum added a pair of field goals and a 57-yard single for a 14-0 lead before Winnipeg responded with 30- and 15-yard field goals off the foot of Justin Palardy.
The Winnipeg kicker trimmed the Lions advantage to 14-9 with 33-yard field goal early in the third quarter but B.C. was quick to respond.
After McCallum settled for a single point on a wide field and connected on a 22-yard chip shot, the Lions seized control when Lulay hooked up with Johnson for a 66-yard touchdown on the final play of the third quarter and a 24-9 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Lulay found Bruce with a six-yard touchdown strike to take a 31-9 lead before the never-say-die Bombers mounted a stirring late comeback.
We started out slow but kept our composure, took a deep breath the second half, came out, stuck together and put some drives together and we did it, said Bruce. I come to work every day, ready to play, ready to win and hoped that would rub off and it did.
With under four minutes on the clock and Lions fans in full celebration mode, Buck Pierce tossed a 45-yard touchdown strike to Greg Carr and found Terrence Edwards for another 13-yard score to slice the Lions advantage to 31-23.
But the Winnipegers would get no closer, McCallum snuffing out the comeback with a 33-yard field with less than a minute to play to put the championship out of reach and earn coach Wally Buono a fifth Grey Cup.