By Stephane Arnault, November 20 2014 —
The University of Calgary’s bid to capture their seventh consecutive Hardy Cup came to a crushing end on Nov. 15 at a frigid McMahon Stadium.
The Dinos football team fell 27–15 to the University of Manitoba Bisons.
Things looked good for the red machine early in the game. On their first play, Dinos runningback Mercer Timmis dashed 81 yards for a touchdown.
On the next play, Dinos defensive back Carson Stambene dished out a bone-crushing hit to Bisons slotback Nic Demski, which brought a roaring ovation from the crowd. The team was pumped up on the sidelines and the game appeared to be well in hand.
Unfortunately, things quickly turned in the Bisons’ favour. Ten turnovers, which included five interceptions, two fumbles and three on loss-of-downs played a huge role in Calgary’s downfall.
“We’ve had our ups and downs most of the year, but we’re always able to overcome mistakes,” said Dinos head coach Blake Nill. “We did not execute and when we had a little momentum we just shot ourselves in the foot.”
Three minutes after Timmis’ touchdown, Manitoba’s Jonathan Jones picked off quarterback Andrew Buckley’s pass and returned it 20 yards to the end zone. This was the defining moment in Manitoba’s first Hardy Cup victory since 2008.
Buckley, the Canada West MVP, failed to find his comfort zone. The Dinos’ QB threw four interceptions, doubling his total for the season.
“We rely on Andrew a lot. We rely on his composure in there, his leadership and for him to make plays. He just didn’t seem to be on today,” Nill said.
With 10 minutes left in the third quarter, the Dinos trailed 27–15. Buckley appeared to be returning to form, completing passes and marching his team into Bisons territory.
However, he then took a tumble while running out of bounds and suffered a hamstring injury. He was carried off the field and did not return to action.
Dinos backup QB Eric Dzwilewski came into the game after Buckley’s injury. He went 7-for-16 and threw for 105 yards and one interception.
“It’s pretty disappointing on my part for not getting the job done,” Dzwilewski said. “It’s always tough but it’s something that the back-up quarterback has to be ready to do.”
Dzwilewski’s game stats are somewhat misleading, considering the amount of dropped balls by Calgary’s receivers.
“Two deep balls hit the receivers right in the hands and it seemed to be typical of how the day went for us,” Nill said.
After his early 81-yard touchdown dash, Timmis ran the ball 11 more times for just 51 yards.
“It’s very disappointing,” said defensive back Doctor Kassama. “I told the guys to just keep their heads up. We’ve learned so much this year playing as a family. We’ve gone through a lot of adversity and I think this year made us not just better football players but better men.”
Bisons QB Jordan Yantz had a modest afternoon, going 17-for-26, throwing for one touchdown and 263 passing yards. The Manitoba run game was solid as runningback
Kienan Lafrance carried the ball 30 times for 155 yards, including a 40-yard rushing major.
“I’m out of words here. I’m just pumped up we won,” said Bisons linebacker DJ Lalama. “We just came to play and today everybody woke up with a good feeling.”
Not surprisingly, the Dinos’ dressing room was quiet after the game.
“It sucks when you come in with high expectations and lose when you feel like you’re the better team,” said linebacker Adam Konar. “It really hurts, but they came today and they played better than us.”
Calgary’s defence was the team’s lone bright spot, as the Dinos registered five sacks on Yantz.
The Manitoba Bisons will travel to Montreal to face the University of Montreal Carabins in the Uteck Bowl. The Carabins shocked the CIS football world by snapping Laval Rouge et Or’s 70-game home winning streak by defeating Laval 12–9 in overtime in the Quebec Conference Final.