HAMILTON — Blue Bombers running back Brady Oliveira had found the gap and was about to break out for a lengthy run, the kind that gave him the most rushing yards in the CFL this season, when defensive end Lwal Uguak slid off his blocker and drove the speedster into the ground.
Uguak's big hit drew gasps from the 28,808 fans at Tim Hortons Field and shifted the game's momentum in the third quarter. It also helped the Montreal Alouettes rally to a 28-24 victory over Winnipeg on Sunday for their first Grey Cup championship in 13 years.
"There's some dogs on this defence and we showed that today," said Uguak with confetti still on his shoulder. "We didn't bend, we didn't break.
"We knew we were going to take care of business and now we're here as Grey Cup champs. Immortal. We're standing in history forever."
Oliveira's 1,534 rushing yards in the regular season were nearly 400 more than the next-best running back in the CFL this year. The Winnipeg native was named the league's most outstanding Canadian player earlier in the week and then he ran for 119 yards and a TD in the Blue Bombers' loss Sunday.
But Uguak said that Montreal had Oliveira well scouted and he knew that the Winnipeg running back would try to take advantage of the seam that had appeared in the Blue Bombers' offensive line.
"I'm just happy I did my job to help my team get here," said the 23-year-old Uguak. "I know I'm young but I know I can take advantage of the moment and seize the moment. I feel like I did that today."
Uguak finished with five tackles in the championship game, including the bone-crushing hit on Oliveira.
Montreal's victory was also a small measure of redemption after Uguak's Texas Christian University Horned Frogs were stunned 65-7 by the Georgia Bulldogs in the U.S. college football national championship on Jan. 9.
"I'm happy we're here. I don't have any other emotion right now," said Uguak. "God put me through every single situation throughout my life just to get to this moment and I'm here now.
"I'm just thankful for everything."
The Edmonton native was drafted by the Alouettes in the first round of the 2023 CFL draft, seventh overall, and his teammates expect he'll continue to improve.
"He's just scratching the surface on what he can be as a player," said veteran defensive end Shawn Lemon. "He's an amazing player and I fully expect him to be in the NFL next year. That's the type of player he is."
Alouettes receiver Tyson Philpot of Delta, B.C., was named the game's most outstanding Canadian after he caught six receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown. He and Uguak have played with and against each other for 10 years and made a pact on Saturday to be difference-makers in the CFL title game.
"We talked about this last night, we visualized this," said Philpot. "We said it's one of us winning the M.O.P.
"We knew we had to make an impact all game and we both had great impacts."
The championship win was Montreal's eighth consecutive victory and included a 38-17 upset of the Toronto Argonauts in the East Division final on Nov. 11. Uguak had a tackle in that game and said that he was motivated by everyone who doubted the Alouettes.
"It feels great because a lot of people wrote us off from the beginning of the season," said Uguak, who joined the team midway through the season after he was drafted. "We stayed the course, we took the coaching every single week, we got better and now we're champions."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2023.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press