Saturday, September 5, 2015
Canada West Football Week 1 Review
Mercer Timmis became the University of Calgary's all-time touchdown leader with two trips to the end zone as his fourth-ranked Dinos made a statement with a 49-16 win over No. 7 UBC Friday night at McMahon Stadium.
In front of 4,272 rain-soaked fans, the Dinos shrugged off a 102-yard opening-play touchdown from the upstart Thunderbirds, took the lead midway through the second quarter, and racked up 279 rushing yards to grab the season-opening win.
Timmis accounted for 150 of those on 19 carries, scoring his two TDs from 15 and two yards out in the second quarter to give him 36 for his career – one better than Matt Walter's previous record of 35.
"It's exciting for Mercer," said Dinos head coach Wayne Harris. "He's a guy that just comes to work every day, and we just need to get the ball in his hands – he'll make things happen for us."
It was emotional on both sides of the field, as the Dinos faced their former head coach, Blake Nill, for the first time. For his part, Harris was impressed with how his squad handled the situation.
"It's a good start to the season, for sure," said Harris. "The emotions were running high at first, but they settled down, got in their groove, and carried through the game. It was unique and exciting, and I even had to keep my emotions in check at times with the history I've had with Blake over many years.
"You never want to get off to a slow start, but we're a veteran team and have been in these sorts of situations and circumstances. Having to settle down is not something new for them."
The slow start he referred to was Michael O'Connor's first-ever pass attempt in CIS football. With the Thunderbirds on their own 8-yard line, O'Connor found 2014 Canada West rookie of the year Marcus Davis wide open at the 30 – and 80 yards later, Davis was in the end zone and UBC was up 7-0 just 40 seconds into the contest. The 102-yard strike was a school record for the Thunderbirds, breaking Jordan Grieve's old mark of 98 set in 2012.
The big play fired up the Thunderbirds and it did take some time for the Calgary offence to get going. Forced to punt on the final play of the opening quarter, the Dinos caught a break when Davis bobbled the return and Michael Schmidt fell on the loose ball at UBC's 15. On the next play, Timmis rumbled in from 15 yards out.
Another Davis fumble set up Timmis' second TD of the night in the late stages of the half, and the Dinos again made the T-Birds pay for their mistakes. The 2-yard score made it 25-14 for the Dinos heading into halftime, and they controlled the play from there.
The second-half highlight came midway through the third quarter when third-year Dinos receiver Michael Klukas stepped back to his own goal line to return a punt. After a shaky start, he found a hole and burst through it, up the sideline for a 110-yard punt return TD – the Dinos' longest in more than 40 years, and the second-longest in school history.
Jimmy Underdahl added a pair of one-yard TD plunges for the Dinos in the fourth quarter, while Johnny Mark was good on all four of his field goal attempts on the night from 42, 16, 13, and 25 yards. Quinn van Gylswyk's two field goals of 26 and 37 yards, a missed field goal single, and a conceded safety rounded out the scoring for UBC.
Andrew Buckley had a solid night for the Dinos, completing 14 of 21 passes for 205 yards and running four times for 75 yards – including a 63-yarder where he appeared to score but was called out at the one-yard line. On the other side, O'Connor's big first play made up the lion's share of his 253 passing yards on the night as he completed 17 of 36 passes with one interception.
Defensively, Doctor Cassama led the Dinos with 6.5 tackles, while Taylor Loffler had a busy night for the Thunderbirds, recording 13.5 tackles.
After the back-and-forth and the momentum shifts, Lerenzo Ihanza settled things Friday night with two freak bounces and a sure set of hands.
The Manitoba Bisons receiver collected a long pass that first bounced off a hand and a helmet before landing in his outstretched arms. The play wasn’t designed for him, but he ran it into the end zone for a fourth-quarter go-ahead 58-yard touchdown — which, in the end, sparked a 34-28 Bisons victory over the host University of Saskatchewan Huskies in the Canada West football season opener for both teams.
Two Huskies drives in the final two minutes ended with back-to-back Manitoba interceptions off the arm of Huskies starting quarterback Drew Burko, and cemented Saskatchewan’s 0-1 record.
The Huskies led 21-7 early in the second quarter, but trailed 24-22 at halftime after a couple of long Manitoba touchdowns and three red-zone turnovers. Two Sean Stenger field goals gave Saskatchewan a 28-24 lead before Ihanza’s neat game of rebound switched momentum for good.
Burko threw for 239 first-half yards, but managed just 79 over the final 30 minutes as the Huskies offence stalled. Saskatchewan started the night with a lightning burst. An opening-drive 30-yard pass to John Trumpy, three-yard run by Tyler Chow, 41-yard pass to Mitch Hillis, and a one-yard touchdown plunge by Kyle Siemens gave Saskatchewan a 7-0 lead before two minutes had elapsed.
Saskatchewan’s other Friday-night touchdown came from Tevin Godfrey on a 30-yard reception, and Stenger kicked field goals of 23, 17 and 28 yards.
Manitoba got majors from Cameron Fox on a three-yard run, Alex Vitt on a 27-yard catch and Jamel Lyles on a 58-yard run, along with Ryan Jones’ 29-yard field goal.
Tyler Chow ran 17 times for 107 yards for the Huskies, who also got seven catches for 91 yards from Hillis. Burko hit 24 of 46 passes for 318 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.
The University of Regina Rams had a nine-point lead at the half, but Alberta outscored them 22-6 in the second half en route to a 29-22 win in both teams' Canada West opener Friday night at Mosaic Stadium.
After the Golden Bears took their first lead of the game after a pair of Ed Ilnicki touchdown runs in the third quarter, a 10-yard catch for a major by Atlee Simon(pictured) gave the Rams a slim 22-21 lead midway through the fourth.
But Alberta capitalized following its defence's third interception of the game, taking advantage of a short field with a five-play, 43-yard drive that was completed by an 18-yard Ben Kopczynski pass to Tylor Henry and a successful two-point convert. The Rams took over the ball with 1:27 left and drove 44 yards downfield into Alberta territory, but Tak Landry's hit on Mitchell Picton forced an incomplete pass on third down and solidified the win for the visitors.
Making his first career start, the first-year Kopczynski was 22-for-36 with 278 passing yards for Alberta. Jimmy Ralph had eight catches for 91 yards, while Aundrey Webster finished with six receptions for an even 100 yards. Ilnicki had 16 rushes for 90 yards. Brandon Foster, Reid Knox, and Connor Ralph each had interceptions for the Golden Bears defence, while Samson Abbott and Jacob Narbonne each had a sack for a 13-yard loss. Landry and Tom Tsoumpas tied for the team lead in tackles, both ending up with seven solo and four assisted.
Simon had a career-high 189 yards on 28 carries for the Rams, while Noah Picton was 25-for-37 and finished with 321 yards and two touchdown passes. Andrew Bennett had eight catches for 115 yards, while Richard Sindani had five catches for 102 yards including a 15-yard touchdown reception midway through the second quarter.