It was a weird day in Edmonton this past weekend: dismal and rainy, not the type of day one would like to spend outside watching a football game. But somehow, by Saturday's 1:30 p.m. kickoff at Varsity Field at the University of Alberta, the clouds had succumbed to the power of the sun. The Dinos hoped their opponents would succumb in much the same way.
The Golden Bears won possession to start the first half, so the Dinos kicked off. U of C's defensive back Ian Schafer sprinted down field and stole the ball right out of the opposing kick returner's arms and ran it into the end zone for an uncommonly quick six points. It was obviously the start the Dinos were looking for.
The Dinos offence was in fine form, working its way down the field both through the air and along the ground. The defence was equally explosive as the offence, stopping all the Bears threats in the early going. In fact, the only points the Bears managed before the dying minutes of the first half came from the U of A's starting wide receiver/kicker Rob Rawcliffe. Rawcliffe, who is now seven for seven on the season in field goal attempts and is currently second in Canada West Conference scoring, closed the gap to four points. But the Dinos took it in stride and extended their lead to 11 points on running back Dean Fisher's touchdown from five yards out early in the second quarter. Minutes later, University of Calgary quarterback Lincoln Blumell increased the lead again to 21-3, when he took a one-yard jaunt across the goal line.
It seemed as though the Dinos had the game in hand and that they could put it in cruise control the rest of the way in. Unfortunately, the U of A stormed back with a couple touchdowns of their own. Despite a lacklustre performance by Bears quarterback Blair Zahara, the Edmonton squad managed to move the length of the field twice in the final five minutes of the half. Both drives were carried by the solid efforts of running backs Nathan Connor and Ryan Schula. Mike Munoz showed the way to the promised land both times to close
U of C's lead to 21-17 at the half. While the Dinos still had the lead at the break, it was evident the momentum of the game had swung in the U of A's direction.
Twelve-hundred eager fans filled the stands as the teams took to the field in the third quarter. But the expectations were met with disappointment for the hometown supporters. Rookie quarterback John Judge came into the game for the U of C when Blumell went out with a concussion early in the half. Considering his minimal experience, Judge played well, but it was clear to everyone that if the Dinos were going to win they were going to do it on the ground the rest of the way. So that is exactly what they did. Led by Fisher's career-high 234 yards, the Dinos pounded the ball through the U of A defence.
"The O-line played amazing for us today," said Fisher. "They made some great blocks downfield so it made it a lot easier."
The Dinos had chances to open up a real lead on a few occasions but poor kicking kept it tight until the dying minutes of the game. With 2:30 left in the game, Fisher took it in from six yards out to make the score 30-17 and all but out of reach for the Bears. Zahara's continued ineptitude and a great interception by Greg Hoover sealed the deal for the U of C. The exclamation point was added when Fisher scored his third major on the ensuing series.
"Today's game meant the difference between first and last and we knew that coming in," remarked a very tired Fisher after the game.
The Dinos move to a record of 3-2-0 while U of A falls to 1-3-1.
"I think our team played well today, but I think our major drawback was that we came out in the second thinking we had it won," commented the U of A's Rawcliffe. "We came out flat."
Obviously, you can never count the Dinos out. Come see for yourself Fri., Oct. 13, at 7:00 p.m. at McMahon as the Dinos look for revenge against the Regina Rams.