Saturday, September 1, 2012

Rams Open Canwest Season In Calgary

For the University of Regina Rams, the 2012 season begins on Saturday exactly where the 2011 campaign ended – at McMahon Field in Calgary. After being knocked out by the Dinos last year in a frigid Canada West semifinal game, the Rams will be looking for revenge against a Calgary team that is ranked No. 3 in the nation entering the season.

Kickoff is 5:00 p.m. on Saturday night. The game will be available live in Regina on radio at 620 CKRM and via webcast at It'll also be broadcast with a two-hour tape delay on Access7.

• Saturday's opener features the top two teams in the Canada West preseason coaches' poll, as Calgary was unanimously picked to finish first in the conference and the Rams were picked to finish second
• Calgary (No. 3) is one of three Canada West teams to hold a spot in the first CIS Top Ten of the season, while the Rams received votes but finished just outside of the ranking
• The Rams will be looking to put the brakes to a nine-game slide against the Dinos, as Calgary has won six Canada West games and three postseason games over Regina in a streak that dates back to the 2008 season
• Saturday's game marks the first of two conference meetings between the two teams this season, as they'll also play on Friday, Oct. 19 in Regina
• This is only the second time that Calgary and Regina have opened the conference schedule against each other – the Rams took a 31-25 home win over the Dinos back in 2000, and would go on to a Canada West championship and a Vanier Cup appearance later that season

Coming off a 29-13 non-conference setback to Manitoba on Friday, the Rams received votes in the first CIS Top Ten of the season but finished just outside of the rankings. Two other Canada West teams (UBC and Saskatchewan) were ranked in the national poll, but the Rams were selected to finish second in the conference's preseason coaches' poll behind only Calgary.

Regina's offence is controlled by fifth-year quarterback Marc Mueller, who returns after suffering a shoulder injury last season on the team's first offensive drive of the season. Mueller's receiving corps includes Canada West all-star Mark McConkey, while the line features first-team All-Canadian guard Brett Jones. The Rams lose running back Adrian Charles and will likely use a combination of Mark Coons, Dillon Dawson, and Michael Kiapway to replace Charles' contributions by committee.

On defence, the Rams return nine starters including defensive tackle Stefan Charles, who was a first-team All-Canadian in 2011 and will be relied upon to step up with Akiem Hicks now sporting a New Orleans Saints jersey. Alex Meldrum, who returns to the fold after attending medical school at the University of Saskatchewan, steps right in at middle linebacker.

The Rams have the luxury of having arguably the top punter in the nation, as Chris Bodnar was a first-team All-Canadian last year and is the school's career leader in yards per punt.

After this weekend, the Rams will prepare for their home opener on Friday, Sept. 7 against UBC.

Winners of four consecutive Canada West championships, Calgary enters the 2012 campaign ranked No. 3 in the first CIS Top Ten and was unanimously selected to finish first in the Canada West standings in the conference's preseason coaches' poll.

Calgary's offence loses just one starter from last season and has four returning All-Canadians, including running back Steven Lumbala and offensive linemen Kirby Fabien, Quinn McCaughan, and Reed Alexander. Quarterback Eric Dzwilewski enters his third year as the Dinos' starter.

Defensively, the Dinos need to compensate for the departure of two-time Canada West defensive MVP Sam Hurl, who's in his first CFL campaign with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Redshirt sophomore Cory Roboch takes over Hurl's middle linebacker position, while All-Canadians Linden Gaydosh and Jordan Verdone will both return.

The Dinos remain at home next week to host the Alberta Golden Bears on Friday, Sept. 7.

Since the Rams ascended to the CIS prior to the 1999 season, Regina and Calgary have played a total of 21 games against each other – 16 in conference play and five more in the postseason. Calgary, which has an 11-5 advantage in Canada West games and a 3-2 edge in playoff contests, is riding a nine-game winning streak over the Rams which dates back to the 2008 season and includes victories in three postseason contests. The Rams are searching for their first win over Calgary since Oct. 6, 2007 (42-17) and their first road win over the Dinos since winning a 37-35 thriller back on Oct. 4, 2003.

• QB Marc Mueller has a good shot at a pair of milestones this week, as he needs 17 completions to pass Mark Anderson for No. 2 on the U of R's all-time list and 173 passing yards to become the third player in school history to hit 5000 for his career
• WR Mark McConkey needs 60 receiving yards to pass Chris Bauman for sixth on the U of R's all-time list and 114 to pass Michael Thomas for fifth
• McConkey also has a shot at former teammate Chad Goldie's Canada West record of 173 career receptions this season, as he enters this week needing 29 to overtake Goldie
• DL Logan Brooks needs two sacks to overtake Sean Brimacombe for No. 2 on the U of R's all-time list and four to pass Stan Van Sichem as the school's career leader
• Already the school's career leader with 13 interceptions, CB Jamir Walker needs just two more to break into the conference's all-time top ten

Call this a homecoming for a pair of fifth-year Rams, as wide receiver Mark McConkey is from Calgary and centre Brenden Bennett hails from nearby Okotoks. McConkey graduated from Lord Beaverbrook HS, while Bennett attended Foothills Composite HS.

(From U of R Athletics)

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