The 64th Grey Cup was played on November 28, 1976, at the Exhibition Stadium at Toronto. The Ottawa Rough Riders defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders by the score 23 to 20 in what is considered one of the most thrilling Grey Cup games and with perhaps the most exciting plays in Grey Cup history.
Attendance for the game was 53,467 – at the time a record for a Grey Cup game. The large crowd was made possible by a recently completed expansion to the stadium that had been carried out to accommodate the Toronto Blue Jays, a Major League Baseball expansion team that commenced play the following year. Attendance would have been a league record prior to the 1976 season, the first to see more than 50,000 fans attend CFL games following the completion of Olympic Stadium in Montreal. Toronto’s Grey Cup attendance record would only last one season before being broken by the 65th Grey Cup, which was held at Olympic Stadium.
After an early field goal, Ottawa increased their lead in record setting fashion, with Bill Hatanaka (a York University graduate who would later attend Harvard University) returning a punt for a 79-yard touchdown (then a CFL record.) It was 10 – 0 for Ottawa in the first quarter.
Saskatchewan owned the second quarter. CFL legend Ron Lancaster hit Steve Mazurak and Rob Richardson with touchdown passes and Bob Macoritti added a field goal. On defence, all star Ted Provost intercepted a Tom Clements pass to set up a touchdown and middle linebacker Cleveland Vann covered the field with his excellent play. Unfortunately, the Green Riders were without their longtime star running back, George Reed, who had retired, and his talented replacement, Molly McGee, left the game with an injury. The halftime score was 17 to 10.
The teams traded field goals in the third quarter (20 – 13) but excitement was provided by Ottawa kicker Gerry Organ’s 52 yard fake punt run and the following interception by Cleveland Vann.
Ottawa got another field goal in the fourth quarter (20 – 16), but was later stopped on a last minute goal line stand by Saskatchewan. They got the ball back with little time remaining, and found themselves on the Green Rider 24 yard line with 20 seconds left.
Down by 4 points, Ottawa quarterback (and Notre Dame University grad) Tom Clements waved off the play from the bench. Canadian Football Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gabriel headed towards the end zone and faked a post pattern and turned to the corner. Unfortunately for Ted Provost, he fell for the fake. Gabriel’s big hands brought down Clement’s pass, with Provost and Ray Odums streaking to catch up. It was a spectacular play, both in its execution, game winning importance, and in the dramatic way Gabriel’s fake unfolded. The play is often simply referred to as “The Catch”.
Ottawa Rough Riders – 23
Touchdowns – Tony Gabriel and Bill Hatanaka
Field Goals – Gerry Organ (3)
Converts – Gerry Organ (2)
Saskatchewan Roughriders – 20
Touchdowns – Steve Mazurak and Bob Richardson
Field Goals – Bob Macoritti (2)
Converts – Bob Macoritti (2)