The University of Calgary Dinos football team turned the ball over seven times in their third loss in a row, dropping to 1-3 on the season against the University of Alberta Golden Bears Sat., Sep. 29. The Dinos have lost five games in a row to the Bears in the regular season, dating back to 2004.
The Dinos, Canada West's leading rush offence, gained only 117 yards on the ground, much less than their 330-yards per game average coming in.
"You have to give credit to Alberta for coming in, defensively anyways, they were able to step up and stop the run," said Dinos head coach Blake Nill. "They put the game in the hands of Jordan [Flagel] and Jordan's still a first-year quarterback. We have to be able to maintain possession of the ball. To ask Jordan to come in and try to win the game by throwing the ball against a prevent defence is not fair."
Flagel threw 15 for 28 for 224 yards and three interceptions on the day.
"[The Bears defence] showed a little bit different thing than we were prepared for," said Flagel. "I didn't come out well and that's squarely on me. Once we got going, it was a little better, but it's hard to recover after that."
It wasn't just the Dinos offence who struggled. Both teams didn't move the ball well in the first half, with only seven points scored between them. The Dinos had nine drives in the half and only made it as close to a touchdown as the Alberta five-yard line on their first drive, turning the ball over on a Woodson fumble. The rest of their drives finished in five punts, one interception and one missed field goal.
The Bears didn't fair any better, punting the ball four times in the half, throwing one interception and missing a field goal, but they managed to pick up points off of a Dinos safety and a 34-yard Hugh O'Neill field goal to make the score a baseball-esque 5-2 at the half.
By comparison, the second half was lively. After 40 minutes of touchdown-less play, the Dinos picked up the first major of the game on a Jordan Flagel run from seven yards out, making the score 9-5 for the Dinos. After Alberta gained possession of the ball, the Dinos' defence stopped them only to lose the ball on the punt-return. Bear-kicker O'Neill blasted a 55-yard punt to the Dinos 21-yard line where first-year slot back Anthony Parker was set to receive the ball. The ball fell through his hands, Parker froze and the Bears recovered at the Dinos 20-yard line. Four plays later, the Bears were in the end zone and led 12-9.
"Their defence just outplayed our offence, flat out," said Nill. "That was it. They came on to win."
After another O'Neill field goal in the fourth and a Dinos safety, the Bears held a 17-9 lead with 8:46 left to play. The Dinos looked set to score as Flagel led the team down the field with a 58-yard pass to Nathan Coehoorn after recovering a Bear-fumble at their own 12-yard line, only to have the ball intercepted at the Bears' two-yard line.
The Dinos got another chance at a late-game comeback, after the Bears' punted the ball back to them with 25 seconds left, Flagel threw his third and final interception on the ensuing possession to effectively end the game.
"This is the poorest we've played since I've been at Calgary," said Nill. "The thing that concerned me the most was the emotion wasn't there. You can't play this game without emotion."
The Dinos now look ahead to two weekends in Saskatchewan against the surging 3-1 University of Regina Rams Sat., Oct. 6 and the 4-1 University of Saskatchewan Huskies, the fifth-ranked team in the nation, Sat., Oct. 13. The Rams have won three games in a row and the Huskies beat the Dinos earlier in the year in Calgary 27-13. The Dinos will need to win at least one of the games in order to keep any hopes of the playoffs alive. Last year, both the Rams and Bears finished with a 4-4 record, but only the Rams made the playoffs. The Dinos finish off the season with two home games against B.C. teams.
"We need a major gut check," said Nill. "Some guys are going to have to step up."