Pressure's on ... who?

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:45 AM ET

REGINA -- As guarantees go, it wasn't on the level of Joe Namath or even Mark Messier.

In the aftermath of a 32-11 defeat by the Montreal Alouettes Oct. 12, Calgary Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris responded to a question about the East Division winners running up the score by saying his team would see them again Nov. 29.

That would be at the Grey Cup in Calgary.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have presumed -- as the Edmonton Eskimos did a week ago -- that Burris promised to get his team there.

Heading into today's West final at Mosaic Stadium (2:30 p.m., TSN), Riders quarterback Darian Durant once again brought up the 'guarantee' and how it affects the visitors.

"We're not the ones talking," Durant said. "They guaranteed they would be in the Grey Cup, so there is extra pressure on them. They are coming in here, and we're at home. It's on them."

Burris responded with an 'Oh, Darian.'

"There is more pressure on them," Burris said. "I say that from experience. This is Darian's first (playoff start). He has no idea.

"They are the greatest thing ever, and they have to come out and prove it. They were the first place team in the West Division, rightfully so. They earned it and deserve it.

"As we know, the team that is the best has to go out and prove it. The world is on their shoulders. For us, I said what I said and it motivated our team. It has nothing to do with nobody else. If they feed off that, that's for them."

So just who is under the most stress to come away with a victory?

Is it the Riders, who haven't hosted a West final since 1976 but are playing in their fifth one in the past seven years, only to get to one Grey Cup?

Or is it on the Stamps, who have the double whammy of hosting the championship game and trying to repeat at the same time? Usually, it's tough to do one of those things, and the Stamps are attempting to accomplish both in one fell swoop.

If either team comes out feeling tight and full of anxiety, it will be obvious within the first few minutes.

"The world is on their shoulders," Burris said. "They need to whatever they can to come out and get off to a good start. Our job is to keep the momentum on our side.

"You see it's a loosey-goosey team out here. We're much more relaxed, and we're ready to play our style of football."

This is a rubber match of the past two Grey Cup champs, so experience in big games is just about even.

In three meetings this season, it was the Riders who appeared to stay calm and cool when things got tense late in the fourth quarter.

Durant stepped up his play, especially after the three-minute warnings. He hit Chris Getzlaf with a 65-yard TD pass in Week 5 of the season to give the Riders a 24-23 win at McMahon Stadium.

"The first win against Calgary was a turning point for our team and Darian individually," said Riders head coach Ken Miller, who admitted he's a bit nervous for the game. "He showed his maturity and has developed throughout the season. When we've played Calgary, every player on our team has been on point.

"What you will see from Darian is what you saw two weeks ago (in a 30-14 win over Calgary), being calm and confident and managing the game well."

Being at home traditionally hasn't meant much in the West final.

The home side is actually 5-5 in the past 10 title games, meaning there is hardly an advantage in that respect, although the Stampeders did beat the B.C. Lions last year at McMahon Stadium.

Only two Grey Cup host teams have even competed in the title game since the Lions won in B.C. Place Stadium back in 1994.

So just getting there is immensely difficult, which the Riders say is another obstacle for the visitors to overcome.

"The only thing they really have going for them is they are defending Grey Cup champions," Riders running back Wes Cates said. "Coming into a hostile environment, everyone knows this is the toughest place to play.

"For them to say we have the pressure on us is them talking and trying mind tricks. They know they have come in and see us and we've been playing good football," Cates added.

"They are trying to take the focus off their worries and put them on us."

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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