It's not often that people get too close for comfort with bears and survive, but the Dinos football team managed to avoid a University of Alberta Golden Bear scare and walk away from Saturday's homecoming game with their picnic basket intact.
"We just kind of let our foot off the gas a little too early," says Dinos receiver Anthony Parker.
Aaron Ifield booted a field goal with 2:30 left in the fourth quarter to give the Dinos a 34-16 lead only to have the Bears score two touchdowns to make it a 34-31 final score.
"We were kind of like, 'You know, we've got this one,' " Parker says. "Unfortunately they said, 'Well, hey, no. You don't got it just yet.' They came back on us a little bit. Fortunately for us, we were able to hang on there."
"The first couple weeks are about survival," says Dinos head coach Blake Nill. "Because what happens is things like that happen, that you're not really prepared for. We were lucky to get through that. We'll learn from it and it won't happen again."
It is still early in the year, but Parker is happy with his season so far. After two games, he leads all Canada West receivers with 294 yards, averaging 19.6 yards per catch.
"I put a little more time in the off-season training this year, I'm starting to see that pay off," says Parker, who's entering his third year with the team. "I'm definitely in better shape than a lot of the other teams we're playing against. And that's as a whole, too, the whole team is in a lot better shape. That's putting us in a good situation to win ball games."
Parker started eight games as a first-year in 2007, picking up 146 yards receiving while shining as a punt and kick returner. He finished third in all-purpose yards with 1,041. In 2008, he led the Dinos with 500 receiving yards.
The stability at the quarterback position is helping Parker as well. After catching balls from no less than five quarterbacks in the past two years, Parker now is on the receiving end of former Canadian Interuniversity Sport MVP Erik Glavic's passes.
"It's nice to know who's going to be throwing you the ball continuously every week," says Parker.
"You gotta get used to where the quarterback's going to throw the ball, how he's going to throw it, when he's going to throw it," he continues. "For him, he's gotta get to know when you're going to break, when you're going to look for the ball, et cetera. You kind of build up a chemistry as the season goes on."
With Parker and Glavic, the Dinos sit second in passing yards behind the team they line up against next week, the University of Regina Rams. The Rams followed up a 28-10 defeat of the University of Manitoba Bisons in week one with a narrow 10-9 loss to their provincial rivals the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. After the game, the team was dealt an emotional blow upon hearing the news that red-shirt defensive lineman Spenser Borlase was killed in a car crash while driving to visit his girlfriend in Prince Albert.
The Dinos courted Borlase before he decided to go to the Rams and Nill described him as a "great young man."
"There's going to be a lot of emotion," says Nill. "We've got to make sure we are prepared to meet that emotion."
After the week one loss to the Huskies, Nill told his team in the practice huddle about building a culture of winning and how he coached teams that expected to win every game. He says it's still a work in progress with this Dinos team.
"I know that the coaching staff does [expect to win every game]," says Nill. "The players -- I'm not sure yet. I don't think so. I think we're still developing that kind of personality here on the team, that kind of culture."