Calgary Stampeders

- 1985 -

3 Wins 15 Losses - 5th Place West Division

East: W L T F A Avg Att Most Outstanding Player Mervyn Fernandez (BC)
Hamilton 8 8 0 377 315 14,992 Most Outstanding Canadian Paul Bennett (Ham)
Montreal 8 8 0 284 332 22,068 Most Outstanding Defensive Player Tyrone Jones (Wpg)
Ottawa 7 9 0 272 402 21,184 Most Outstanding Lineman Nick Bastaja (Wpg)
Toronto 6 10 0 344 397 29,057 Most Outstanding Rookie Mike Gray (BC)
            Coach of the Year Don Matthews (BC)
BC 13 3 0 481 297 42,336 Playoffs Ott 20 @ Mtl 30
Winnipeg 12 4 0 500 259 28,739   Edm 15 @ Wpg 22
Edmonton 10 6 0 432 373 41,927   Mtl 26 @ Ham 50
Saskatchewan 5 11 0 320 462 23,117   Wpg 22 @ BC 42
Calgary 3 13 0 256 429 15,394 Grey Cup Hamilton 24 BC 37


The Worst Teams Of All Time Part 21. The 1985 Calgary Stampeders

 Jsportsfan - August 19, 2012


The early 1980s were not the best time for the city of Calgary. The deadly combination of low oil prices and summer droughts made job prospects scarce in the Stampede City. Southern Alberta was known for oil and farming and with neither industry doing well, the city of Calgary was taking its lumps. The citizens needed an escape. In winter, they had the Calgary Flames, who were showing promise and potential. In summer, they had the Calgary Stampeders who were desperate to end a long Grey Cup drought. However in 1985, they hit rock bottom.

The Stampeders were forced to watch their bitter provincial rivals, the Edmonton Eskimos reel off 5 straight Grey Cup victories from 1978 to 1982. With the Eskimos starting to decline, the Stamps thought they were ready to make their move. Following a disappointing 1984 season, in which the Stamps finished 6-10, Calgary decided to pursue quarterback Joe Barnes, who was unhappy with his situation in Toronto. Barnes led the Argonauts to a Grey Cup champ

ionship in 1983, but was relegated to a backup role thanks to the emergence of Condredge Holloway. Barnes was looking for a new home. The Stamps were looking for a quarterback. A trade was made and Barnes became the starting quarterback in Calgary, and all hopes were pinned on the Texas Tech grad.

Calgary also had their eyes on the future as well. The Stamps used their first selection of the draft to pick hometown hero Greg Vavra. Born and raised in Calgary, Vavra was a star at the University of Calgary, leading the Dinos to a Vanier Cup Championship in 1983. Vavra was considered the next great Canadian quarterback by some scouts.

The Stamps started the season with high expectations. Those expectations were dashed very quickly. The Stampeders lost their first 5 games of the season, as the offence was non-existent. Calgary averaged a mere 13.4 points in those 5 games. In an offensive league like the CFL, that is atrocious. The Stamps did breakthrough in Week 6, scoring a 35-32 upset victory over the BC Lions. However, that moment of exaltation was short-lived as the next week, the Stamps were thrashed 43-6 by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. General Manager Earl Lunsford had seen enough. He fired head coach Steve Burrato and replaced him with his good friend Bud Riley.

Riley was the head coach in Winnipeg from 1974-77 while Lunsford was the GM in Winnipeg. Lunsford was hoping Riley could turn the fortunes of the Stamps around. He didnít. Calgary went 2-7 under Riley, to finish with a 3-13 record, the worst record in the CFL in 1985.

The lowest point of the season took place on October 25 in the last home game for the Stampeders in 1985. The organization was to honour former slot back Tom Forzani, by retiring his number 22 at halftime of their game against Winnipeg. It became a Murphyís Law night for the Stamps. Whatever could go wrong, did go wrong. The weather was brutal, as a combination of freezing rain, sleet, snow and wind made the artificial turf at McMahon Stadium into a skating rink. The fans didnít want to endure the horrid weather as only 11,184 patrons braved the frosty conditions to honour Forzani. By contrast, the next night, the Flames played in front of 16,762 spectators at the Olympic Saddledome. The players didnít want to be there either, as the Stamps were destroyed 47-4 by the Blue Bombers. To put it mildly, this was one of the lowest points in Stampeder history.

Things were so bad in Calgary, that the franchise was in danger of folding up shop. At the end of the season, a campaign was started to save the Stampeders. The franchise needed 20,000 season ticket subscribers or the team would be no more. Despite the problems Calgary was enduring in the job market, the people stepped up and the franchise was saved.

Where did it go wrong for the Stamps in 1985? First off Joe Barnes turned out to be a total bust at quarterback. Barnes did complete 58.56% of his passes for 2,864 yards and 11 touchdowns. However Barnes was picked off 19 times, giving his defence little rest. Greg Vavra couldnít handle the pressure of being the hometown saviour. Vavra only completed 43.84% of his passes for 391 yards, 1 touchdown and 5 interceptions. His quarterback rating was a pathetic 37.0. Vavra was released at the end of the season. He tried his luck with the BC Lions in 1987, but failed to make the grade and he faded into oblivion. Things were so bad, the Stamps tried slotback Danny Barrett behind centre. Barrett did go on to have a solid career as a CFL quarterback proving that sometimes the accidental discoveries are the best ones.

The quarterbacks werenít helped by a lack of a running game. Larry Mason ended up being the Stamps leading rusher, gaining only 247 yards for the entire season. Dwight Beverly was the next closest as he rushed for 238 yards for the season. This team couldnít run the ball against a senior citizens shuffleboard team.

The lone bright spot was slotback Emanuel Tolbert. The MVP of the Stamps in 1985, Tolbert caught 67 passes for 1,124 yards and 6 touchdowns. Sadly for Tolbert, he had no help surrounding him.

After the season concluded, Bud Riley decided not to return as head coach. Lunsford decided to hire Bob Vespaziani as his new coach. Vespaziani was the offensive co-ordinator of the Blue Bombers for 3 seasons before taking the reigns in Calgary. Barnes was traded to Montreal and the Stamps decided to go with Rick Johnson at quarterback. The Stamps drastically improved in 1986, going 11-7, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in 4 seasons. The city of Calgary is now a boom town. Oil prices are through the roof, and farmers are experiencing bumper crops. Calgary is now the fastest growing city in Canada, and one of the hip destinations for young people. Things havenít gone well for Emanuel Tolbert though. Tolbert was convicted of sexual assault on a minor in 2001. He is currently serving a 15 year prison term. How times have changed since 1985.



1985 Team Statistics



  Passing           Rushing    
Att Cmp Yds Pct. TD Int Lg C Yds Avg Lg TD
Joe Barnes 362 212 2,864 58.6 11 19 67 42 198 4.7 14 0
Rick Johnson 167 71 932 42.5 3 11 70 13 64 4.9 14 0
Greg Vavra 73 32 391 43.8 1 5 38 13 28 2.2 11 0


Running Back

  Rushing         Receiving  
C Yds Avg Lg TD C Yds Avg Lg TD
Larry Mason 51 247 4.8 39 1 18 152 8.4 23 1
Dwight Beverly 56 238 4.3 36 4 14 128 9.1 38 0
Lewis Walker 39 139 3.6 29 0 29 268 9.2 54 1



  Receiving       Punt Return  
C Yds Avg Lg TD No Yds Avg Lg TD
Emmanuel Tolbert 67 1124 16.8 70 6          
Tag Rome 25 410 16.4 43 0 30 214 7.1 40 0
Ray Alexander 22 361 16.4 44 1          
Greg Fieger 44 347 7.9 30 2          



Conv     Field Goal      
A G % A G % LG Pts
J.T. Hay 21 21 100% 42 27 64.3 44 120




McMahon Stadium

Avg Att: 15,394


Week 1 - Bye

Week 2 @ Montreal

Montreal 22,

Calgary 18 

att: 24946

Montreal FB Rich Thomaselli ran two yards for the go-ahead TD in the fourth, after Joe Barnes threw first-half TDs to Emmanuel Tolbert and Greg Fieger to stake Calgary to an early 15-0 lead.


Week 3 v BC

BC 39,


att: 15793

The temperature was sizzling at 34 C, as B.C. Lions QB John Pankratz caught seven passes for 105 yards, including a 27-yard TD pass from Tim Cowan.

Week 4 @ Ottawa


Calgary 12

att: 19364

The Riders won, as Dean Dorsey kicked FGs of 24, 27 and 41 yards. Ottawa added singles on two missed field goals and punter Ken Clark booted three punt singles.

Week 5 @ Edmonton


Calgary 15

att: 41493


Week 6 v Montreal

Montreal 29,


att: 13231

Montreal rallied for three second-half TDs, two by RB Alan Reid, to hand the Stamps their fifth straight loss. Reid carried the ball 11 times for 98 yards and caught four passes for 34 yards.

Week 7 @ BC

Calgary 35

BC 32

att: 37462

Joe Barnes passed for 495 yards, including three TDs, and J.T. Hay's fourth FG gave the Stampeders their first win with new coach Bud Riley. Lion QB Roy Dewalt passed for 491 yards.


Week 8 @Winnipeg


Calgary 6

att: 28166

 QBs Tom Clements and John Hufnagel each tossed two TDs as they passed for a total of 413 yards. Clements became the third CFL quarterback to reach the 30,000-yard plateau.

Week 9 v Edmonton

Edmonton 34


att: 18253

The Eskimos rebounded from an early 17-1 deficit, as QB Matt Dunigan threw fourth-quarter TD passes to SB Marco Cyncar and RB Chris Skinner to cap the comeback.

Week 10 - Bye


Week 11 v. Ottawa


Ottawa 7

att: 12076

 Calgary's J. T. Hay kicked his 247th consecutive convert, bettering the CFL record of 246 he shared with Lui Passaglia. QB Joe Barnes threw two TD passes for the Stamps.


Week 12 @ Edmonton


Calgary 6

Att: 39327

The Eskimos won in a game so dominated by defences that only one TD was scored. That was a six-yard pass by Matt Dunigan to Chris Woods with eight minutes left in the game.

Week 13 v Hamilton

Hamilton 30,

Calgary 13

att: 14061

QB Ken Hobart scored the first Ticat TD on an 11-yard run in the first quarter, then threw a four-yard TD to FB Dave Graffi in the fourth. Bernie Ruoff added five FGs, two converts and a single.

Week 14 @ Saskatchewan


Calgary 10

att: 19700

 QB Joe Paopao tossed TD passes to WRs Michael Elarms and Daric Zeno to pace the Riders, who rolled to a 10-0 lead after one quarter, and 17-10 at the half.

Week 15 v Toronto


 Toronto 17

 att: 18303

Stamps QB Greg Vavra made his first start of the season, and saw his team get a pair of TDs from newly-arrived running back Dwight Beverly and one from wide receiver Ray Alexander.


Week 16 @ Toronto


Calgary 1

att: 26352

Argo QB Condredge Holloway was good on 18 of 27 passes for 248 yards and rushed for 27 more. No more than 15,000 spectators were at the game on Fan Appreciation day.

Week 17 v. Winnipeg

Winnipeg 47

Calgary 4

att: 15346


Week 18 @ Hamilton


Calgary 17

att: 14052

The TiCats won the East, as Calgary was able to net only 131 yards in the rain, QB Rick Johnson and Greg Vavra completed only six of 28 pass attempts and were sacked five times.