Dinos one game away from fifth title

By Taylor McKee

The 2012 regular season was a memorable one for the University of Calgary football team. For the first time in the program’s history, the Dinos finished first in the Canada West standings for a second consecutive season. The Dinos also set single-season records in an astonishing 10 categories, including points, touchdowns, sacks, total offence and completion percentage. 

The U of C’s quest for a CW record, fifth-straight Hardy Cup championship began in earnest on Saturday Nov. 3 with a semifinal date against the University of Manitoba Bisons. Entering the game, the Dinos had a losing record in the playoffs against the Bisons, having lost two of their last three meetings in the postseason. The last playoff game between these two teams was in 2007, where the Bisons thrashed the Dinos 5–27 in Winnipeg. Since then, the Dinos have defeated the Bisons eight-straight times — the last time the Bisons defeated the Dinos at home was in 2005. However, the Dinos have had very few playoff games against the Bisons. In the 48-year history of Dinos football, the U of C and the U of M have only met three times in the postseason. 

One of the wildest games in CW history arose the last time that the Dinos and Bisons played in 2012. In their final regular season games, both teams combined for a CW record 132 points in a 78–54 victory for the Dinos. The game itself was played mostly by substitutes and meant nothing for either team as the CW standings were already cemented — both teams knew their positioning for the playoffs. 

The CW semifinal was a rematch of this game and started off in a similarly wild fashion. On their first possession, the Dinos faked a punt on third and over 20 to go but failed, turning the ball over on downs. However, the Bisons were unable to convert on a third- down gamble on the ensuing series, meaning that in the first three minutes of the game there were two turnovers. The Dinos were able to get out to a quick start offensively, taking a 17–0 lead after the first quarter thanks to rushing touchdowns from running backs Mercer Timmis and Steven Lumbala. 

The first half was entirely dominated by the Dinos: quarterback Eric Dzwilewski threw for 262 yards, backup QB Andrew Buckley threw a touchdown pass and the defence had two interceptions — one of them by Cyril Iwanegbe for a touchdown.

“I was backing up and I got lucky with a deflection. Once I got the ball, I had great blocking all around me and I just had to take it to the house,” said Iwanegbe. The second quarter pick-six was the first touchdown of Iwanegbe’s career. “I had a lot of emotions running through me in the end zone. I didn’t really know what to do with the ball or if I should celebrate.”

The Bisons managed only 64 yards offence in the first half, almost the same amount that receiver Taylor Nill had on a single reception in the second quarter. The score was 42–0 Dinos at the half and that would be more than enough for the Dinos to book a date in the 76th Hardy Cup.

The second half was cruise-control for the Dinos, focusing on the running game and allowing some of the backups to see first-team snaps. However, in the third quarter there was a 110 yard kickoff return touchdown by Jack Harty, the longest kickoff return touchdown in U of C and even CW history. 

Despite the enormous achievement, Harty was quick to spread the credit around to his teammates on special teams. 

“It’s very flattering but I owe all the credit to our kickoff return guys who were out there making their blocks and doing their assignments. If it wasn’t for those guys, I would not have been able to spring that,” said Harty. 

Dzwilewski finished the game passing 23–38 for 282 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The Bisons scored two touchdowns one minute and 22 seconds apart — one of which followed a successful onside kick — to make the game slightly closer, but the Dinos’s first-half lead proved to be insurmountable.

The defence played a spectacular first half which allowed the Dinos to jump out to their early lead. The Dinos defence were able to prevent five third-down conversions from the Bisons, who finished one for six on third-down situations. Third-year starting linebacker Mike Edem played almost the entire game despite the lead that the Dinos were able to gain. 

“I have to give credit to the three big guys we have up front, all our d-linemen, they take pride in stuffing those short yardage situations,” said Edem. After the final whistle, Edem finished the game with eight tackles and a sack. 

After the wild game against the Bisons in the final game of the regular season, head coach Blake Nill was looking for a more complete effort against the U of M now that the postseason had begun.

“We had an outstanding first 30 minutes. For two weeks in a row our boys were ready to play football right from the opening kickoff and I couldn’t be happier about that,” remarked Nill on the Dinos’s first half. “The second half, I challenged them to come out the same way we did on the opening kickoff but it just wasn’t going to be the case. Overall, it was a pretty solid performance for the program.” 

The final score read 57–18 for the Dinos. With the win, the Dinos advance to the CW championship — the Hardy Cup — for the fifth-straight season. This year is also the third-straight time that the Dinos will host the game. 

The Hardy Cup will give the Dinos a chance to avenge their only loss of the regular season. The University of Regina Rams are now the only team standing between the Dinos and a fifth-straight Hardy Cup title. In the other CW semifinal, the Rams defeated the University of Saskatchewan Huskies 31–9 at a snowy Mosaic Stadium in Regina. The Rams finished second in the CW standings and seventh in the final Canadian Interuniversity Sport rankings. 

Nill examined the challenges the Dinos will face against the Rams in the Hardy Cup. “First, the passing attack with Mark Mueller from a defensive perspective is a tough task and secondly their defence have done an outstanding job in the second half. Last time we played them, they shut our offence down,” said Nill.

“Last time we played [the Rams], we only put up nine points. They definitely held us up. We have to come out strong and stick it to them,” said Harty. “We want to go out there and prove to the nation that we are a great offence and we can put up 40 points every game.” 

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