Three times the Saskatchewan Roughriders took the Calgary Stampeders' best shots, but eventually a knockout blow was delivered in return.
So the Stamps can only blame themselves for letting so many opportunities slip away last season in their rivalry with the Riders in 2009. There’s only one way to change it.
“It’s just finishing,” said Stamps cornerback Dwight Anderson. “We didn’t finish a lot of games last year.
“You see the difference in a team that plays 60 minutes and a team that doesn’t. There are a lot of things that weren’t working for them, but they kept coming back to it over and over.
“It just broke out for big plays at the end. We have to execute for 60. That’s a team that keeps going for 60 minutes.”
All three regular-season meetings between the clubs were close, and each time the Riders survived.
By doing so, the Riders hosted the West final, and the Stamps were no match for a wild crowd at Mosaic Stadium.
In the first meeting in Calgary, the Stamps were holding a six-point lead in the final minutes when Darian Durant went deep to Chris Getzlaf for a 65-yard touchdown and the 24-23 victory.
On Oct. 17, also in Calgary, the two heavyweight clubs delivered haymaker after haymaker, and nothing was settled during a 44-44 sawoff that was one of the most entertaining games in recent CFL history.
But the Stamps still could have taken the season series with a two-point victory in the season-finale Nov. 7, and they came up short. The Riders built an early lead and then turned a seven-point edge into a 30-16 victory with nine late points.
There were so many chances to swing the momentum in their own favour, and all of them burn the memory.
“At the end of the day, it was the last one,” Anderson said.
“We still had to play ball no matter where it was at. We had lots of opportunities ... We had it at the end of the season, and then another one to go to the Grey Cup. I would say the last one is the toughest.”
The Riders, of course, went on to take over the Stamps’ locker-room for Grey Cup week after winning the West Division final 27-17.
With four 2009 outings against the Riders and no wins, the Stamps know this Saturday’s meeting at McMahon Stadium could be a season-changer, even during a young campaign.
“It’s hard to say which one loss was toughest,” said Stamps quarterback Henry Burris. “If we just finish out like we’re supposed to, and do the little, subtle things here and there, we could have taken one of those games against Saskatchewan.”
The Riders are the CFL’s only undefeated team, and they’ve looked impressive in getting to 3-0.
They came from behind to take the Montreal Alouettes to overtime and eventually win 54-51 in a wild opener.
They went into B.C.’s Empire Fields and put a hammer down on the Lions.
They needed another comeback against the Edmonton Eskimos, but they forced two key turnovers Saturday in their own zone to stifle Ricky Ray and company.
A year ago, the Stamps were the reigning Grey Cup champions, and the Riders knocked them off their pedestal.
The Stamps would like to knock the Riders off their lofty perch as West Division champs now.
“We were in their shoes last year,” Anderson said.
“Now, we’re looking to get back there. You have to take the measurements off a team that’s been there. You have to give them respect because they did it.
“We were on the top and we understand what it’s like when a team is coming to take shots at you. Now, we’re on the bottom, and there is only one way up.”