The University of Calgary spent thousands of dollars taking the Dinos football team to Quebec City when they simply could have gone to a bull ring in Olds to experience the same sort of punishment. The Dinos were destroyed 59-10 by the Universite de Laval Rouge et Or in the Uteck Bowl on Sunday. The Rouge et Or were simply the better team on the day, despite a valiant effort by the young Dinos. Laval used its experience to build up an insurmountable halftime lead and cruised to victory in the final quarters with mostly second-string players.
"No question that experience is part of the reason we lost," said Calgary defensive co-ordinator John Stevens. "It was the first bowl game for many of our players."
Fifth-year defensive back Jon Waldie said the game was a stepping stone for future success with the club and also cited a 13-year playoff win drought as reason for the defeat.
"It's the first time that Calgary's team has been in that situation in over a decade so you have to get into those games, to realize what it takes to win those games, it's not something that's just going to come," he said. "For us, winning those two playoff games was a big step."
Laval took care of business early as they scored on their first three possessions of the game, burying the Dinos. At the end of the first quarter, the Dinos were down 29-0 and the second quarter was just as deflating.
Laval continued to score and went into halftime with a 49-0 lead. Laval looked hungry after losing in the semi-final last year and proved this by scoring 33 seconds into the game.
Laval quarterback Benoit Groulx scored on a five-yard run which was preceded by an 80-yard catch by receiver Mathieu Bouvette.
The next two drives by Laval saw Groulx connect with Bouvette and Julian Feoli-Gudino for the second and third majors of the game. Bouvette then hauled in a 16-yard pass for his second touchdown of the day, putting Laval up by 29.,
In the second quarter, Laval backup quarterback Cesar Sanchez Hernandez and running back Guillaume Allard-Cameus scored on a short run adding to the Calgary's woes.
"The thing we learned is what it takes to execute against a team like Laval," said Stevens. "We had never seen execution like that in the season so far."
The Dinos found a little spark in the second half as a locker room speech by Nill reinforced the team's objectives.
"Coach gave his speech and said we're playing for pride now," said Waldie. "[We're] playing for pride, playing for each other, playing for experience."
The only scoring in the fourth quarter came off a Laval safety, bringing Calgary's total up to 10 points.
Calgary did not lie down and die in the second half. They played with tremendous heart and courage, despite the odds. In the third quarter, Anthony Woodson scored Calgary's lone major of the day on a six-yard pass from quarterback Deke Junior and kicker Aaron Ifield added a single point to give Calgary their first points.
Dinos star running back Matt Walter had a hard time running the ball as he was only able to gain 46 yards on the ground.
Junior also found throwing the ball tough as he went 16-28 for 159 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. The top Calgary receiver on the day was Nathan Coehoorn who caught five passes for 48 yards.
On the defensive side Andrea Bonaventura led the Dinos with seven tackles, followed closely by Andrew Obrecht who had five tackles and one forced fumble.
With the Uteck Bowl loss, the Dinos season is done until next fall when they will look to improve upon their best season since 1995.
The Dinos won one trophy this season (the Hardy Cup) and will be looking to add more in 2009.
The Dinos will use the lessons learned against Laval to get better next year and work towards making the Desjardins Vanier Cup.
As for fifth-year players Patrick Callan, Josh MacDonald, David Gruninger and Jon Waldie, their legacy rests in the future of the club.
"I got to see the end of the [Tony] Fasano era, the beginning of the Nill era and then the beginning of the good part of the Nill era," said Waldie. "To see what we did and accomplish what we did . . . Wouldn't have it any other way.
"There are amazing players that played [in the last] 13 years that never got to win a playoff game. I'm pretty lucky."