With pressure to win the highest it has been in recent memory, the University of Calgary Dinos football team collapsed during their first game of the season, walking away wounded from a 25-0 romp against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies at Griffiths Stadium in Saskatoon on Aug. 29.
"It was very disappointing, there's a lot of pride on the team," said Blake Nill, who is entering his third season as Dinos head coach.
The Huskies made an early dent in the scoreboard racking up 14 points in three minutes, starting with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Scott McHenry. Minutes later Dinos quarterback Jordan Flagel threw an interception, giving Huskies quarterback Laurence Nixon the opportunity to connect with Cory Jones in the end zone.
Flagel's woes continued when he was hit hard at the tail end of the first half. He left the game with a minor injury to his non-throwing hand.
"It's obvious that's not how we expected to play, there are indications that we can compete with teams like Saskatchewan, we just had seven minutes there that just blew us away and we weren't able to respond to that," said Nill.
Down 24-0 heading into the third quarter, Deke Junior took over as quarterback. He completed 17 of 24 passes and threw one interception.
Because the Dinos showed hints that they can be competitive with a 4-4 record last year, and a playoff berth for the first time since 2004, Nill attributes part of Friday's loss to a team that was nervous and anxious to start the season.
"There is some sincerity to [those nerves]," he said. "There has been expectations placed on this team and I'm one of the guys that's doing that. We're trying to get over the hump to become a legitimate contender."
The Dinos won't have it any easier this Saturday when they welcome the University of Manitoba Bisons to town for the home opener. The Bisons defeated the Dinos in the playoffs last year on their way to becoming Vanier Cup champions.
Flagel's injury was minor and he is expected to start.