Even after last week's running game debacle, Dinos Head Coach Tony Fasano was confident his team had the tools to mount a solid ground assault.
So, when the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds came to town last Friday, the Dinos ran the ball early and often. And, Fasano's confidence in his young backfield translated to a 34-28 victory.
After spending last year as a backup wide receiver, second-year man Jeff Williams got his first start at the running back position. With number one tailback Scott Wenz out with a separated shoulder, it was imperative someone stepped up to fill the void. And Williams showed early on that he could shoulder the responsibility when he broke loose for a 37-yard touchdown four minutes into the game.
"We had a lot of faith in Jeff's ability," said Fasano. "He had a great camp and was definitely ready to play."
Despite Williams' 89 yards rushing in the opening 30 minutes, the ball was handed to another sophomore for the second half. Luke Mayer all but replaced Williams after the break, but the results were at least as impressive if not more so.
Shelved by a concussion last season, Mayer returned to the Dinos this year raring to go. And his enthusiasm was evident in his performance, rushing for 105 yards on 20 carries including the game winning overtime touchdown.
"Luke was coming off a hamstring injury, so we wanted to use both he and Jeff," explained an elated Fasano. "They both did a great job. They hit the holes provided by our blockers which is a complement to our offensive line."
According to Mayer his play was a testament to his teammates.
"There were holes all over the place out there," he said. "The o-line and (fullback) Jeff Almon just kept pushing and it made it easy. Our defence really fired it up this game. They were tough all game and offence picked up in the second half."
In contrast to last week, the defence was the Dinos' saving grace. Faced with the vicious offensive combinations held by the T-Birds, the defence held strong and limited speedsters like wide receiver Dan Lazzari and running back Sean Dovre to a combined 70 yards in the first half.
"The big difference was we took away the run. We played defence the way it is supposed to be played," said Dinos Defensive Coordinator Dave Johnson. "Our game plan was very small. We focused on being very physical all week as compared to out-tricking anybody."
The solid play from the defence was nearly constant throughout the game but as Johnson conceded, there were mental lapses from time to time, and UBC took advantage of many of them.
"We gave up too many big plays, and it almost came back to haunt us," admitted Johnson. "But, I'm encouraged, we have a lot of young guys and they're going to make mistakes, but unlike last week I don't think it was the system."
The Dinos travel east this week for a Sept. 15 matchup with the University of Manitoba Bisons.
Mayer summed up the team consensus going into the game. "We're just climbing the ladder, we're only going to get better from here."