The No. 6-ranked UBC Thunderbirds went into McMahon Stadium as the unquestioned underdog on Saturday afternoon, but rode a terrific first half and some timely defence to an upset 34-26 win over the No. 1-ranked Calgary Dinos to claim the 79th Hardy Cup.
UBC linebacker Warren Reece (New Westminster, B.C.) and defensive back Kevin Wiens (Mission, B.C.) forced two fumbles late in the fourth quarter to seal the win, as the 'Birds claimed their first Canada West title since 1997.
UBC quarterback Michael O'Connor (Orleans, Ont.) played his heart out on the conference's biggest stage, completing 27-of-40 passes for 374 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick. Marcus Davis (Victoria, B.C.) had a terrific game catching the ball out of the backfield, as the sophomore from Victoria reeled off eight receptions for 99 yards and two touchdowns. Will Watson (White Rock, B.C.) was also key in the aerial attack, as the receiver caught seven balls for 130 yards.
On the ground, Brandon Deschamps (Prince George, B.C.) racked up 77 yards and a score on 12 carries, while kicker Quinn van Gylswyk (Victoria, B.C.) nailed all four of his field goal attempts, including a 46-yarder at the tail end of the third quarter.
Head coach Blake Nill, in his first season with the T-Birds, was almost at a loss for words after the contest, especially when it came to describing the performance his side put forward.
"This group right here, I can't say enough about them," Nill said. "What a bunch – you know, for most of them, we've been practicing with less than 60 players most of the year, most of them have taken every rep in practice, every rep in the games, and I just can't explain how it works sometimes."
The Thunderbirds will now play St. Francis Xavier in the Uteck Bowl November 21 with the winner going to the Vanier Cup. The Mitchell Bowl will see Quebec champ Montreal play Guelph on a day where all four home teams lost their respective conference finals.