Sunday, November 8, 2015

Hardy Cup Semi-Finals Recap

The Saskatchewan Huskies handed the top-ranked team in the nation all they could handle, but the University of Calgary Dinos found a way to hold them off and came back to win 37-29 Saturday afternoon in a Canada West football semi-final.

The No. 1 Dinos, now 9-0, will face the UBC Thunderbirds in the 79th Hardy Cup next Saturday, Nov. 14 at McMahon Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon MT, live nationwide on Global Television, with the winner advancing to the CIS Uteck Bowl against the champions of the Atlantic.

Calgary had to come back from an eight-point halftime deficit, which followed an uncharacteristically quiet first half by the explosive Dinos offence – but a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns were enough to stave off the tenacious Huskies.

"They shut down our run early in the game and came away with some points on offence," said Dinos head coach Wayne Harris of the Huskies' quick start. "They used their weapons effectively, and it was a good challenge for our team. You need those challenges if you want to go on in the playoffs."

The adversity, something the Dinos didn't have to face much this season as they averaged a 40-point margin of victory, was welcomed by Harris as critical to the team's prospects going forward.

"You can't expect the kinds of outcomes that we've had so much this season – it's just not realistic," said Harris. "We still had more than 500 yards offence, which is great production. But we had a few breakdowns, a couple of penalties that cost us – things that we need to clean up and ensure that we don't put ourselves in a bad position."

With Calgary's offense sputtering early, the Huskies wasted no time getting on the scoreboard as Kyle Siemens found Jarvis James on a shovel pass for a 27-yard touchdown just 5:29 into the contest. The Dinos responded with Mercer Timmis's five-yard TD early in the second, but couldn't manage much else in the opening half. Tevin Godfrey found the end zone on a 28-yard play with just 1:14 left in the second quarter, and Saskatchewan took a 16-8 lead into the break after holding Calgary to just 245 offensive yards and 42 on the ground.

Back from half time, however, the Dinos' run game began to assert itself as Timmis began to find his stride. The offence started to gain momentum and, after Johnny Mark had cut the lead with a field goal on the opening drive, the Dinos pulled even at 19-19 late in the third quarter after a 17-yard Brett Blaszko touchdown catch. Calgary took its first lead 4:50 into the fourth when Timmis burst through the line for a trademark 24-yard touchdown, and Jimmy Underdahl added a one-yard plunge with less than two minutes to play.

Down two scores with time ticking down, the Huskies went 75 yards down field for a six-yard Julan Lynch touchdown, but Brendon Thera-Plamondon hauled in the onside kick attempt for the Dinos to preserve the win.

(University of Calgary)


On to Calgary.

The No. 6-ranked UBC Thunderbirds were dominant from the opening kickoff to the final whistle on Saturday afternoon, as they dismantled the No. 8-ranked Manitoba Bisons 52-10 in the Canada West playoff semi-final.

With the win, the 'Birds earned the right to square off against the Calgary Dinos next week in the 2015 Hardy Cup for Canada West supremacy, as the Dinos topped the Saskatchewan Huskies 37-29 in the other semi-final.

As solid as the 'Birds offense was on the afternoon, it was the Blue and Gold defense that ruled the day. Linebacker Terrell Davis (Victoria, BC) was everywhere, as he racked up nine total tackles, a sack, and three tackles-for-loss. Fellow linebacker Mitchell Barnett (North Vancouver) was a game-changer, as he nabbed two interceptions, including one that he returned for a 55-yard score, to go along with four total tackles.

On offensive side of the ball, UBC quarterback Michael O'Connor (Orleans, Ont.) had a solid outing, completing 19-of-34 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns. Tailback Brandon Deschamps (Prince George, B.C.) was a constant two-way threat, picking up 124 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, adding two receptions for 39 yards. Receiver Trivel Pinto was O'Connor's go-to man in the air, as the Brampton, Ontario native finished with six catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns.

UBC Kicker Quin van Gylswyk was his usual efficient self, as he made 5-of-6 field goals on the afternoon, with his longest of the contest coming from 42 yards out.

After the contest, UBC head coach Blake Nill pointed to linebacker Mitchell Barnett's second interception, which turned into a pick six, as a shining example of the effort that his team will need heading into Calgary.

"What that showed it that we have to lay for 60 minutes," said Nill. "Barnett made an exceptional effort to make that play. At that point in the game, he could have just as easily allowed the reception or just knocked the ball down, but he made an incredible effort, and that's the kind of attitude we need on this team."

The 2015 edition of the Hardy Cup is set for an 11:00 a.m. (PT) start time next Saturday, November 14 at Calgary's McMahon. For anyone that can't make the trek to Cowtown, the game will be broadcast on Global.

"What we showed today – that's the kind of attitude we need for 60 minutes. When we do that, we're a pretty formidable group."

(UBC Athletics)

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