They trailed for almost the entire game, but a late touchdown drive gave the University of Regina Rams a thrilling 35-31 victory over Alberta on Saturday afternoon at Mosaic Stadium.
The four-point victory gave the Rams the season tiebreaker over Alberta after the Golden Bears won by two earlier in the year. Combine that with an upset victory by Manitoba over No. 2 Calgary and Saskatchewan's win over UBC, and the Rams finish in fourth place in the Canada West standings and will meet Calgary in the Canada West semifinals next weekend.
Though Alberta led for most of the contest, the Golden Bears never had more than an eight-point advantage over the Rams. The U of R hung around long enough and finally broke through late in the fourth quarter as Noah Picton engineered a six-play, 85-yard drive that was capped by an 11-yard touchdown run by Atlee Simon.
That gave the Rams a four-point lead, and on the ensuing drive a 3rd-and-1 situation near midfield was stuffed by lineman Dean Viena to seal the victory.
Picton finished 27-for-40 and his 467 passing yards rank fourth in U of R history. Three Rams receivers hit triple digits, including Jared Janotta (8 catches, 148 yards), Addison Richards (6 catches, 113 yards), and Mitchell Picton (4 catches, 101 yards).
Simon ended up with three touchdown runs for the second straight game and finished with 18 carries for 105 yards.
Alberta's Curtis Dell was 17-for-30 for 306 yards, while receiver Jimmy Ralph had the only touchdown pass of the game after finding Aundrey Webster out of a wildcat formation. Ralph finished with six catches for 136 yards, while Ed Ilnicki had a strong game on the ground for the Golden Bears with 13 rushes for 130 yards and a touchdown. Dell had Alberta's other major, scrambling for a three-yard touchdown on the first drive of the game.
Alberta's defence forced two turnovers during the game, with Tak Landry recording an interception and Codie Abrams forcing a fumble that was recovered by Connor Ralph.
Regina and Calgary will meet at McMahon Stadium in Calgary on Saturday for a 2 p.m. (MST) start. The other Canada West semifinal will feature Saskatchewan hosting Manitoba for a 7 p.m. start on Friday.