The drive for five ended in Hamilton for the University of Calgary Dinos football team after losing to the McMaster University Marauders on Nov. 17 by a score of 6–45. The game was the first ever meeting between the U of C and McMaster in Canadian Interuniversity Sport football history and it did not go as planned for the Dinos.
By any estimation, the Marauders entered the 2012 Mitchell Bowl as the overwhelming favourites to return to the Vanier Cup. McMaster was the number-one ranked school in the nation, had an unbeaten regular season with 20-straight wins overall and had the best defence in their conference. However, the Dinos were coming off of their fifth-straight Canada West championship and had the highest scoring offence in the CIS. The Dinos would have needed to play a near-perfect game to beat McMaster, a mark wholly missed by the U of C in this game. The Dinos were not able to get any offensive traction and took far too many penalties against a team that outclassed them in every facet of the game.
As was the case in the Hardy Cup on Nov. 10, the Dinos looked nervous on their first possessions — they were unable to start effectively on offence, including an early turnover on downs. McMaster was able to score their first points of the game on the last play of the first quarter. The first touchdown was scored on a drive aided by five penalties committed by the Dinos, including two major fouls and two offside penalties that allowed McMaster to punch in a touchdown from the one-yard line and take a 3–7 lead into the second quarter.
The second quarter was dominated by McMaster, scoring two touchdowns and only allowing one point — a missed field-goal — from the Dinos. The 4–24 lead that McMaster was able to gain in the second quarter was ultimately too much for the Dinos to recover from.
The offence was absolutely stymied in the first half, constantly being overrun by McMaster’s tenacious pass-rush. Quarterback Eric Dzwilewski was flushed out of the pocket on several occasions and sacked four times in the first-half alone.
Despite the offensive struggles, the story of the first-half for the Dinos was penalties. The Dinos were the most penalized team in the CW conference and this trend continued in the Mitchell Bowl. Thirteen penalties for 106 yards for the Dinos completely hamstrung both the offence and defence, including Jordan Verdone taking two unnecessary roughness penalties. The Dinos may have been able to get away with taking multiple penalties against less powerful schools but McMaster made the Dinos pay at every turn.
When interviewed at half-time on TSN, coach Blake Nill was unimpressed with the discipline of the Dinos in the first half. “Penalties are going to kill us. Some were poor decisions, some were aggression, but we can’t have that,” said Nill. The lack of offence was also addressed: “It is critical that we move the offence, we can’t leave the defence with a short field.”
McMaster scored another touchdown on their first possession of the second-half, extending the lead further. The offensive struggles continued throughout the half for the Dinos, who looked anemic throughout the whole game. Dzwilewski looked out of sync with his receivers and was unable to move the ball in the air, being forced to settle for short gains rather than big plays. The offence was unable to put any sustained drives together and this put too much stress on the defence, who were unable to keep McMaster from scoring at will.
It was a poor way to play the final game of a CIS career for Dinos fifth-year players like safety Wyatt Getty, offensive lineman Reed Alexander and receiver Richard Snyder. The Dinos will return a lot of their 2012 team into next season, but will undoubtedly feel the sting of this loss for many months to come. The Dinos have now lost five-consecutive times in either national finals or semifinals under Nill and, in nearly all of these games, the Dinos have been outmatched. While it was a successful season by many measurements, the Dinos will not be pleased with the finish. The Dinos were expected to win the big game and, when it mattered most, could not make enough plays to push them over the top.
With Université Laval routing Acadia University in the Uteck Bowl 31–7, the Vanier Cup will now be a rematch of last year’s game — a McMaster victory that is largely regarded as the one of the best football games in Canadian history.