Nov. 19, 1972 Abendschan boots Blue in stadium’s greatest game

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LET'S start with this: more than a few around the Blue Bombers' offices are still waiting for a different ending, some 40 years later.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/09/2011 (4085 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

LET’S start with this: more than a few around the Blue Bombers’ offices are still waiting for a different ending, some 40 years later.

The hometown team might want to argue the fact — given the disappointing score and the events that led to the outcome — but the 1972 West Division final between Winnipeg and the Saskatchewan Roughriders could be considered as the greatest game to ever grace the surface of Winnipeg/Canad Inns Stadium.

All the ‘big game’ elements were present that day. Two Prairie rivals squaring off for a chance to play in the Grey Cup; quarterback star power with Winnipeg’s Don Jonas and Saskatchewan’s Ron Lancaster at the controls; and a memorable football finish that could only happen in Canada.

Postmedia Regina Leader-Post George Reed

The Bombers entered the contest as the class of the Western Conference with a 10-6 record. They jumped out to a 21-7 lead at halftime, much to the delight of the 19,534 in attendance, and appeared poised to avenge the playoff loss to the Riders a season ago.

But then Winnipeg linebacker Mickey Doyle suffered a broken leg. His injury gave the Riders ground game life, with running back George Reed taking advantage of Doyle’s absence. He had 26 carries for 156 yards and two touchdowns.

Saskatchewan cut the lead to 24-14 heading into the final 15 minutes, and roared back with 10 unanswered points — including a Reed major with 3:24 left to play — to square the affair.

And then it got interesting.

Riders kicker Jack Abendschan misses a field goal as no time is left on the clock. Mike Law, knowing he can’t allow the single point under any circumstances, promptly boots the ball out of the end zone and back into the field of play. “I got it off as fast as I could,” Law told the Free Press after the game.

“Did it have a spiral on it?”

Lancaster picks up the pigskin and launches a punt back into the Winnipeg end. His kick is picked up by Paul Williams, who quickly punts the ball back to roughly the Bombers 30-yard line, where the Rider returner eventually gets tackled.

Overtime, right? Wrong.

Amid the craziness, Winnipeg gets flagged for a no-yards penalty, an infraction to the defensive team that allows Abendschan a second chance at glory. He punches through a 32-yard field goal to give Saskatchewan a 27-24 victory.

“I missed the big one but they gave me two chances,” Abendschan said after the game. “As I was running back into position, I pass (Winnipeg’s Rob McLaren) and said: ‘You gave me one too many chances.'”

The memorable loss, though devastating at the time for the Bombers and their fan base, has actually had a positive impact on Winnipeg’s post-season play at home. Since that game, the Bombers have a 14-6 playoff record at Winnipeg/Canad Inns Stadium.

adam.wazny@freepress.mb.ca

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