Grey Cup - 1974 - Empire Stadium - Montreal 20 - Edmonton 7
Johnny Rodgers a clear winner in epic duel with Highbaugh By Jim Proudfoot – Toronto Star – November 25, 1974
VANCOUVER – Football connoisseurs could never hope to see a more spectacular man-to-man match-up than yesterdays Grey Cup duel between wide receiver Johnny Rodgers (pictured) of the Montreal Alouettes and Edmonton Eskimos’ fleetest defensive back Larry Highbaugh.
Montreal ordinary superstar as Rodgers describes himself was the clear winner and his victory was vitally important in Alouettes’ 20-7 capture of the national title. It was the most damaging weapon Als had going for them at Empire Stadium.
Here is the play-by-play:
A penalty against Highbaugh for interference on Rodgers set-up an unsuccessful field-goal attempt in the first quarter after Edmonton had taken a 7-0 lead.
A similar penalty call after two Alouette plays gad gone wrong gave Als a reprieve and allowed them to score their first and only touchdown of the day.
A Rodgers’ completion just before half-time led to the first of four field goals by Don Sweet and an 11-7 Alouettes edge.
Rodgers escaped Highbaugh for a 13-yard shot that led nowhere when quarterback Sonny Wade fumbled.
Rodgers then eluded Highbaugh for a 17-yarder prior to yet another Sweet placement, stretching the margin to an unbeatable 17-7.
Highbaugh stuck with Rodgers once, then missed him on a 18-yard strike that increased the count to 20-7.
“After the first penalty, Larry asked me if he’d really interfered with me and I said he sure as hell had.” Rodgers said afterwards.
“After the second, he asked again and I had to say I wasn’t sure because it was mighty close.”
“But it was a very friendly rivalry out there. We really respect each other.”
The interference penalties incensed Highbaugh.
“That was an Eastern official calling them and it seems to me hey use different standards down there.” he complained.
“I’ve spoken to officials out here about being turned around that way when I’ve been on offence and they said there was no problem because I wasn’t the intended receiver. So that’s the way I play it because that’s the way I expect it to be called. And now, all of the sudden, they call me for the very same thing.”
“I think they ought to have consistent standards of officiating for both conferences, so players will now where they stand.”
Rodgers said Highbaugh had asked him to intercede with Alouette officials and get him transferred to the Montreal club.
Highbaugh denied it later but admitted he’s having contract problems with Eskimos stemming from his frequent appearances on offence where his immense speed is supposed to throw the opposition defence into confusion.
“They told me I’d be only on defence this year and I’m paid as a defensive back.” Highbaugh said. “But I’ve been on offence in every game we played.”
It had been anticipated that Highbaugh’s speed would enable him to snuff out Rodgers’ pass-catching threat And it did anytime sheer quickness was the main factor. But Rodgers bewildering repertoire of fakes outwitted the Edmonton back time and again- winding up with four completions in all plus the two interference penalties, plus a third when Gerry Lefebvre replaced Highbaugh temporarily.
“These were three important completions in the second half because they allowed us to maintain control at a time when Edmonton might have been ready to come back said quarterback Sonny Wade.
Montreal Alouettes 20 Edmonton Eskimos 7
Johnny Rodgers, Alouettes’ million-dollar receiver caught 4 passes for 67 yards against Eskimo defenders and was instrumental in Montreal’s surprising triumph against all odds and forecasts.
Wade who started only one game for Alouettes this season and missed the entire 1973 campaign with a knee injury had his own mental battle to fight and win.
“I had thought all week I would be starting the Grey Cup game and was really looking forward to it.” said Wade. “It wasn’t until Saturday night that the coach told me that Jimmy was going to start.
“I was disappointed but then I thought maybe it was a good thing I didn’t get the news until the last night. That way, there was no let-down in my preparation for this game.
“You know, I’ve been watching from the sidelines for almost two years and that can destroy you.” added Wade.
“But you’ve got to believe in yourself, or no one else will.”
Wade made believers out of 36,000 capacity crowd at Empire Stadium, hitting on 10 of 25 passes for 139 yards with no interceptions.
His poised pocket passing, despite a strong Eskimo rush by defensive end Leroy Jones and tackle Bruce Smith, forced Edmonton corner Larry Highbaugh into two pass interference penalties against Rodgers and Garry Lefebvre was nailed once.
Wade use Alouettes’ running game with telling effect as fullback Steve Ferrughelli and running back Larry Sherrar combined for 109 yards. Sherre scored a 5-yard touchdown in the second quarter to erase a 7-0 Eskimo lead.
“We felt we could sweep against Edmonton linebackers and we did.” explained Levy with reference to Dale Potter and Rob McLaren. “That gave us ball control and we only had 1 turnover.”
Eskimo coach Ray Jauch, quit naturally had a different perspective of the game, but in no way did he try to diminish Alouettes’ winning performance.
Montreal defensive end Junior Ah You made his presence felt in the first quarter when he and tackle Glen Weir sacked Eskimo quarterback Tom Wilkinson and drew a 15-yard roughing call.
Wilkinson stayed in the game for one more play, an 8-yard TD pass to fullback Calvin Harrell and then left with torn muscles in his right shoulder.
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