In years past, the Dinos may have looked at the schedule and cringed after seeing their upcoming game against the University of Manitoba Bisons. The Bisons won the Vanier Cup in 2007 and compiled back-to-back 8–0 regular seasons in 2006 and 2007. They also amassed an 18-game regular season winning streak during that time.
"My first ever CIS game was against Manitoba," says fifth-year defensive back Matt Grohn, referring to a week one tilt in Winnipeg in 2005. "We went out there and they laid it on us 51–10 and it was a pretty bad game and I remember it, so hopefully we can return the favour this week."
Since the Bisons hoisted the Vanier Cup, the Dinos have turned the tide. First the Dinos ended the aforementioned 18-game winning streak last season at home with a 37–17 victory. Then they walked into Winnipeg and broke a streak of their own- 10 years without a win at the U of M- with a 25–18 victory on Oct. 18 last year.
Now the Dinos are looking downwards from the top with a 4–1 record at a 2–2 Bisons squad floating in the middle-of-the-pack of the conference standings.
"It definitely feels good," says Grohn. "I think a lot of the guys that were with the team when the score was on the other end, we don't forget those scores."
Recent success or not, Dinos head coach Blake Nill knows that the Bisons are not to be taken lightly. As he points out, they are only two seasons removed from a national championship and they still boast players who have won it all before.
"I look at them still as one of the top programs in the conference, if not the country," Nill says. "They have the potential and the ability to turn it up to a notch that most programs can't and we're going to have to be ready to play perhaps our toughest football game of the year on Saturday."
Though the Dinos have been racking up impressive victory margins- 24 points over the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in Vancouver last week, 27 points over the Simon Fraser University Clan at home the week before, 26 points over the University of Regina Rams in Regina the week before that- they have also been guilty of taking their foot off the gas pedal and letting opponents pick up scores in the second half.
In their first home game of the year, back-to-back touchdowns for the University of Alberta Golden Bears brought them within a field goal in the final minute of the fourth quarter. Two touchdowns for the Clan in the fourth made the score closer than it should have been in the Dinos second home game of the year. Then last week, the Dinos allowed a 10-play, 108-yard touchdown drive from the T-Birds in the fourth. Those kinds of efforts won't be acceptable against the Bisons.
"We're going to have to be in a position where we are executing for 60 minutes," says Nill.
So far this year, the Dinos have the second best defence in the conference, with a stingy rush defence (which has allowed only 85 yards per game, the least amount in Canada West), but a generous pass defence (which has allowed 277.6 yards per game, the most in Canada West).
"Teams always want to focus in and develop the run, but our front seven is doing such a great job this year, that they're not getting yards," explains Grohn.
He adds that though the secondary has to step up, as long as the team keeps winning that's all that matters.
It hasn't been a problem for a while for the Dinos to win at home. They are currently on a 10-game winning streak at McMahon and besides, no one wants to be in Manitoba in the fall.
"We usually go to B.C. or we go out east to Winnipeg, so it's nice to go out into B.C. this year instead of going out there," says fifth-year linebacker Chase Moore. "It's not a fun trip, it's nice to get them at home for sure."