Saskatchewan pulled off the surprise of the 2018 CFL season so far upending previously unbeaten Calgary 40-27 this past Sunday. Pretty much nobody was picking that one going in. Congratulations if you did by the way. I can only assume you are a CFL savant or see the world through Rider-green tinted spectacles if you managed to foresee it.
Hidden away in the hoopla of that surprising outcome was a little bit of history. Nick Marshall scored on Offense & Defense making him the first Roughrider to pull off that feat in the same game since August 23rd, 1963. The fact that it has taken 55 years to repeat the trick shows how big a moment this was for Marshall. Let’s hope he enjoyed it.
Whilst it was Marshall pulling off the double in 2018, back in 1963 it was Jack Gotta. Gotta scored touchdowns on a 21-yard reception and on a 34-yard interception return ironically enough against the Calgary Stampeders. Marshall will have been the happier man though as in 1968 the Riders lost despite Gotta’s efforts, falling 17-16 to the Stamps
Anytime someone matches a league, or as in this case team record like this is great. Not just because that player gets their moment in the spotlight but also because it allows us to remember figures from the past. Not a lot of people will have been thinking about Jack Gotta going into that game but Marshall’s performance has brought his name back to the fore.
Gotta, the ex Oregon player was a receiver and defensive back who played from 1956 to 1964, mainly with Calgary and Saskatchewan in the CFL. Gotta was named to both the West offensive and defensive All-Star teams in 1957 and had another strong season in 1958 winning West All-Star honours on defense.
It gives us some clue to how much the game has evolved over time when we consider that Gotta led the West Division in 1957 with 39 catches for 652 yards. Injuries limited Gotta in 1959, and he was traded to Saskatchewan for 1960. He played for the Riders from 1960 to partway through the 1964 season, including his 2 way success against his former team the Stamps in 1963.
After his retirement as a player, Gotta went into coaching. He returned to Saskatchewan and spent three years as an assistant (1965-67) with the Riders meaning that he was part of the Rider’s first ever Grey Cup winning team in 1966. He would win 2 more Grey Cups as an assistant in Ottawa before taking over and winning his first as a Head Coach.
After a brief interlude as GM and Head coach of the Birmingham Americans of the World Football League in 1974 where he helped win the only WFL championship he was back in the CFL in 1977 as both the GM and Head Coach of the Calgary Stampeders. He took what had been a struggling team to a 9-4-3 record in 1978 and picked up his third CFL coach of the year honours (the others being with Ottawa in 1972 and 1973).
As for Marshall, this is far from his first moment in the spotlight. The former Auburn QB was the one airing it out when the Tigers beat the Georgia Bulldogs with the so-called ‘Prayer at Jordan-Hare’ play when he threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to Ricardo Louis on a 4th-and-18 with 36 seconds left in 2013. That same season he threw the game-tying touchdown pass with 32 seconds remaining in a thrilling Iron Bowl clash to even the score 28–28. (Auburn won the game on a 109-yard touchdown return from an Alabama missed field goal).
Marshall recorded an interception for a touchdown for the game-winning points in a 27-19 victory over Toronto to open the season, but was subsequently placed on the six-game injured list following a broken finger. When he plays though, it seems like things happen.
It is always great watching the action unfold in a game. Seeing someone perform like Nick Marshall did against the Stamps is always fascinating too. Not just for their own performance, but to see who their play has brought back to the fore. I for one can’t wait to see which bit of the fabulous patchwork of CFL history we get to be reminded of next!
Image from riderville.com