The story of 1994 will be remembered forever. Underdog Lions taking down a group of outsiders from Baltimore who was trying to steal the historic Cup and make a home for it down south. With the CFL’s Grey Cup On Demand Portal now showing championship games from the 1990s, we figured we’d take another look back at the epic Lions win over Baltimore. It was a day where Lui Passaglia and company seemingly had the backing of an entire nation.
Last week, we discussed the 1985 Lions team that finally got over the Grey Cup hump and provided a high point for a decade that provided plenty of memories for Lions fans. 1994 was different for plenty of reasons. There was a nationalism angle. And then the underdog factor with the Lions becoming a rare example of a team winning two road playoff games before the big dance.
Getting to watch our team play and win a Grey Cup in their home stadium was also special. But one thing yours truly has grown more appreciative of in recent years is just how balanced this 1994 Lions team was. They had to be in order to beat this Baltimore team that did not require to play a quota of Canadian players.
On many occasions before Passaglia’s last-play field goal to win it, the Lions defence and special teams units both came up huge to help preserve the franchise’s third Grey Cup victory. Let’s set the stage for a memorable day at BC Place.
Starting quarterback Kent Austin and the offence set up Passaglia for his first field goal on the game’s opening drive. On the second down play right before that, Austin narrowly overthrew Darren Flutie who was open at the Baltimore ten-yard line. A connection there would have provided an even bigger opening statement, but the Lions had an early 3-0 lead.
The defence then made an early statement of their own. A super athletic play by James Jefferson led to an interception of Tracy Ham on Baltimore’s second play from scrimmage. Perhaps Ham was already adjusting to the deafening noise inside BC Place. But there was that defence, coming up huge just as they did in the previous week’s Western Final win in snowy Calgary.
The euphoria was short-lived as Baltimore’s Karl Anthony (more on him later) outdueled Ray Alexander in the end zone and intercepted Austin’s pass. Instead of six on the board, the Lions had given the ball right back to Ham and company. Both defences made an early statement.
Fast forward to the second quarter when the CFLers- remember this was when Baltimore was in between official ‘nicknames’-, took back the momentum with a Ham touchdown plunge followed by Anthony’s return touchdown after a lateral from Alvin Watson who had intercepted a pass from Austin. The good guys would later return the favour with a Charles Gordon 17-yard interception return. Baltimore added a field goal to lead 17-10 at the half. Talk about a day of momentum swings.
One big moment occurred just before the break when Danny McManus replaced Austin at quarterback after three interceptions. Credit to Austin for battling through with a badly injured shoulder but for the third straight week, the Lions were going to need both quarterbacks in order to win.
Both defences continued to play tight as the teams traded field goals to begin quarter three. And then, a major turning point. The Lions took advantage of a perfectly-executed fake field goal attempt and run by Darren Flutie that would set up their lone offensive touchdown of this 82nd Grey Cup. Three plays later, McManus would score on a one-yard run on 3rd and goal. Passaglia’s second field goal of the game made it all even at 20 heading into the fourth quarter.
You know what happens before the final gun. With the score tied 23-23 and just over a minute on the clock, Passaglia’s go-ahead field goal attempt sailed wide. Given the circumstances, Anthony had no choice but to take it out and not take a single.
Shout out to the Lions’ cover unit for getting there quickly and tackling him shy of the two-yard line. Special teams, again! A quick two-and-out left the Lions with great field position and Passaglia the chance for redemption. He made good on his winning attempt as the clock ticked toward zero. The Lions were Grey Cup champs for the third time in team history and the 1994 Cinderella story was complete. Oh, Canada indeed!
Other Observations From 1994 Grey Cup Re-Watch
- First off, for a more thorough run-through of the Grey Cup Portal from 1994, check out Cauz’s column above at CFL.ca. A nicely laid out list of observations with timestamps for your reference!
- We love the player intros at the start of this one. In particular when Passaglia runs out to the loud Luuuuuu chants that were such a staple at BC Place for many years. The start of the 1994 Grey Cup was shades of a pro wrestler being introduced in the ring.
- Gordon’s interception return was some nice redemption for one he dropped on Baltimore’s second series of the game. This defence clearly fed off the crowd noise. Also, Gordon’s play was set up by a great Passaglia punt that pinned Baltimore deep in their own territory. Like we were saying about both defence AND special teams…..
- Don’t assume Passaglia was limited in his skills only because of the position he played. On Flutie’s run on the fake field goal (1:10:35 mark), it’s none other than number five in white serving as the lead blocker. Love the specialists who get involved in every situation.
- Even if this game wasn’t remembered for much offence, the Lions two-headed running back monster of Cory Philpot and Sean Millington certainly played a role in the Lions’ success that 1994 season.
- The late Don Wittman was a brilliant broadcaster. His best quality: not making his broadcasts about him. He was certainly behind the mic for some memorable Vancouver sports moments such as this 1994 Grey Cup and Pavel Bure’s double-overtime winner in Game 7 at Calgary earlier that year. Wittman, Danny Kepley and James Currie made an awesome team in the booth.
- We mentioned in the 1985 feature just how much swagger Don Matthews had. That is also evident in this Grey Cup, even if he was on the other side. Looking back, he was the perfect head coach for a team like Baltimore, whose players clearly fed off him.
- Baltimore’s pre-game pleas to not allow any “home team” crowd pumpers didn’t much matter in the end, did they? The BC Place crowd was rocking, with our without the presence of Krazy George or the Fan-O-Meter on the scoreboard.
- Shout out to former Lion O.J. Brigance who made a big impact in this game for Baltimore, most notably disrupting the Lions offensive line right before the fake field goal. O.J. has been living with ALS for nearly a decade and should serve as an inspiration to us all. He remains the only player in history to win a Grey Cup (1995) and Super Bowl (XXXV with the Baltimore Ravens) in the same city.
- It’s a shame a bunch of fans storming the field prevented those of us in attendance from seeing a Grey Cup trophy presentation live on the field. Instead, it was awarded in the home team locker room. Not quite the same.
- How good is this? Not only did we beat Calgary that year but we also get to remind them they are the ones who eventually lost the Grey Cup to an American based team. Sorry, couldn’t resist.