For 14 years Andy Bischoff held various positions at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, including a two-time stint as Dean of Students and the assistant football coach of one of most powerful programs in the state. In the spring of 2008 he took up Marc Trestman’s offer to join his coaching staff of the Montreal Alouettes. A native Minnesotan, Trestman had compiled an impressive career resume as an NFL assistant after starting his career with the Miami Hurricanes where he coached a Cretin-Derham Hall alum, quarterback Steve Walsh. “Always a bride’s maid never a bride” when it came to head coaching jobs, Trestman finally got his shot in the Canadian Football League in Montreal — and Bischoff took the leap of faith and headed to Canada.
In their first season, their team made it all the way to the Grey Cup Championship game, but lost. This year, their second season in Montreal, they prevailed in the Grey Cup last Sunday night (Nov. 29) by the most dramatic of means. Down 27-11 with 11 minutes to go in the game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, their team won on a last-second 33-yard field goal. Actually, it was their second try. The previous play their kicker missed a 43-yard field goal, but Saskatchewan was flagged for too many men on the field. With a second chance, kicker Damon Duval put it right through the uprights. Game over, Alouettes champs.
Here’s a little Q & A with Andy:
Describe what being a member of the Alouettes has been like since winning the Grey Cup?
It’s been unbelievable. Amazing. The city has been incredible. From what I understand, although I’m leaving in a few days, there will be a different organization that wants to throw us a party or have our organization over for something for the foreseeable future to celebrate. I’m very humbled by it; It almost didn’t happen for us.
Your team was down 27-11 with 11 minutes to go in the game. What was the mood of your team?
Our guys just kept playing. There was no visible display of panic. When we got down by 16 points, we knew we had to use our time well. We were able to move the ball down the field relatively quickly. The defense came up big. When we needed a stop, they made a stop. We got a touchdown which made the game an eight-point game. Then our defense got a turnover, we got another score and were able to cut it to 27-25. We just kept composed and our guys just kept playing until there was no time left on the clock.
Coaching had to play a part in that? You can’t just turn on your team’s composure in the fourth quarter of a championship game if it hasn’t been there before.
Marc (Trestman, the head coach) does a great job of practicing situational football. A lot of teams do it, but I don’t know if as many do it as diverse and thoroughly as we do. Overtime, down by two, two-minute drills — it runs the gamut. Our last drive in the Grey Cup started at our own 30 yard line, down by two with no timeouts remaining. We did that before during the season. We scored a ton of points in that same situation throughout the year. Those things don’t happen by being lucky. Players and coaches make that happen together.
I was in the box for the game. On the field goal that won the game, we were holding onto each other for dear life. I didn’t collapse emotionally on the first kick because I saw the flag right away. It came from the part of the field where the only possible call was going to be against the defense. Our kicker had a tough game. This guy set a CFL record for points this year, but had his toughest game of the year in the championship. In the end he got a chance at redemption — and he did it. I couldn’t have been happier for him.
I got on the elevator to the field as fast as I could. When I got there, the Saskatchewan fans were totally stunned, kind of like the Vikings fans were after Atlanta beat Minnesota in the ’98 NFC Championship at the Dome. They were in complete disbelief at what they had just seen. A championship was in their grasp and it got away.
This had to be a game where everyone on the team got a game ball. Your defense kept your team in the game the first half, but your offense came through in the second when you needed the points. Fair assessment?
Give our defense credit for the whole game. It could’ve easily got out of control in the first half because our offense wasn’t clicking. Our defense kept us in the game, kept us in the game long enough for our offense to get in gear and get some points. Definitely, both sides of the ball — and our kicking game — made plays when we absolutely needed it. It sounds kind of cliche-ish, but it really was a total team victory.
You sent me a text message from Molson Center when the Alouettes were introduced before the Canadiens game. I saw the video on YouTube and it sounded like you received an extremely loud ovation. What has been the biggest honor that stands out in your mind since winning the Grey Cup?
The Canadiens game was the first special moment. To be honored by the Canadiens was special because the Canadiens dominate the sports scene in hockey-crazy Montreal. After that, the parade in the city was unbelievable. The parade was down St. Catherines Street. St. Catherines Street is the Grand Avenue of Montreal. Imagine Grand Avenue as you know it, double the size of the crowd you’ve seen at a Grand Old Day celebration and then realize it’s only you they’ve come to see in the parade. We only had five floats in the parade. That’s it. It was just people as far as you could see. At the end of the parade route, there’s an arts/theater part of town where the stage was set up. I remember people running down there to fill up the grassy space at this park. It reminded me of a Who rock concert from the ’70s when they had festival seating and people would run into the stadium when the gates opened trying to get a spot for the show.
I’ve been playing or coaching football for 24 years and I’ve only finished on top twice — with Cretin-Derham Hall in ’99 and with he Alouettes this year. It’s very humbling to see those people want to spend the day with you because you are a champion.