Bo Levi Mitchell handed the game ball to fellow quarterback Tommy Stevens after the Calgary Stampeders capped their 2022 regular season with a 36-10 win over the visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday.
It was a poignant move because Mitchell, Calgary's all-time leading passer and twice the CFL's Most Outstanding Player, had walked off McMahon Stadium's turf for likely the last time as a Stampeder.
In the final year of his contract, and with starter Jake Maier recently signing a two-year extension, Mitchell's next appearance at McMahon will likely be in opposition colours.
The 32-year-old Texan stepped onto the field with 2:28 remaining in Saturday's game. Mitchell didn't throw a pass in a short drive that ended in a field goal.
The future Hall of Famer was given a standing ovation when he headed for the sideline, and again in the final seconds when his teammates lined up beside him in victory formation.
"It was awesome to have that moment with the fans and my teammates," Mitchell said. "Bittersweet."
"I've loved every second I've been here and hopefully we can bring a Grey Cup back to the city before I leave."
Calgary (12-6) finished third in the CFL's West Division and will head to Vancouver to meet the B.C. Lions in the division semifinal Nov. 6.
The victor advances to the West Final in Winnipeg on Nov. 13 against the two-time defending Grey Cup champion Blue Bombers.
Saskatchewan (6-12) finished fourth in the West and outside the playoffs for the first time since 2016. The Grey Cup will be held at Regina's Mosaic Stadium on Nov. 20.
Stevens, Calgary's third-string pivot this season behind Maier and Mitchell, posted a monster game.
He rushed for 163 yards, which was 17 short of the single-game CFL quarterback rushing record set by Nealon Greene in 1999.
Stevens scored an 85-yard rushing touchdown — the longest in the CFL this season — and threw a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Jalen Philpot.
"Bo's been great to me since the day I got in Calgary," the six-foot-five, 254-pound Stevens said.
"He's special. You can tell what he means to this community, what he means to this league. I'm glad I've been able to spend some time with him, learn from him."
Calgary amassed 310 rushing yards in the game to Saskatchewan's 80. Stevens' teammate Dedrick Mills also had a big night with 125 yards on the ground and a touchdown.
Reggie Begelton had a touchdown catch in front of an announced 25,179 at McMahon Stadium.
Maier completed 13 of 16 pass attempts for 105 yards, one touchdown pass and no interceptions in the first half.
Stevens was 4-of-5 in passing in the second quarter before making way for Mitchell's moment.
Rene Paredes kicked field goals from 14, 13 and 33 yards.
Jamal Morrow scored a rushing touchdown and Brett Lauther kicked a 33-yard field goal for Saskatchewan.
Quarterback Mason Fine was 21-of-32 in passing for 168 yards and no interceptions in his second career CFL start.
Cody Fajardo, Saskatchewan's starter the past three seasons, didn't play.
"We feel like we should be playing still," Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson said.
"We're six and 12. We weren't good enough near the end. We needed to play a lot better, we needed to coach a lot better and we needed to do a lot of things better."
Stevens scored his ninth rushing touchdown this season. Lined up for short-yardage gain in the first quarter, he took off toward the sideline and galloped to the end zone.
"He's kind of big," Stampeder linebacker Jameer Thurman observed. "When he gets rolling, he's hard to stop."
Another pivotal moment in the first quarter was Cody Grace recovering his own towering punt at Saskatchewan's 15-yard line.
He dislocated his pinky finger on the play, but the Stampeders made the most of his effort with Maier's touchdown throw to Begelton.
"I thought it was really a good job of our guys not touching the ball," said Stampeder head coach Dave Dickenson, who is Craig's younger brother.
"We went over that scenario and for them to execute that in a live game and for Cody to get there was impressive. We needed that. We were kind of treading water there."
Stampeder running back Ka'Deem Carey didn't play Saturday, but took the league rushing title with 1,088 yards this season. B.C.'s James Butler was a close second with 1,060.
Paredes led the CFL in points for a second straight season with 211 off his boot. He's the sixth player in league history with three career seasons of 200-plus points. Mark McLoughlin (six) holds the record followed by David Ridgway (four).
Saskatchewan linebacker Darnell Sankey's five tackles for 120 set a single-season franchise record and beat the previous mark of 118 set by David Albright in 1987.
Sankey's teammate Larry Dean recorded four tackles to reach 101, and make the Roughriders just the second team to have two 100-plus tacklers in a single season.
The 2016 B.C. Lions were the other with Solomon Elimimian (129) and Adam Bighill (108).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 29, 2022.