First impressions

On Saturday, Sept. 25, the number four ranked University of Calgary Dinos were in town to play the University of Manitoba Bisons at University Stadium for the 2010 homecoming game.
Like so many U of M students, I have always talked about going to check out a Bisons football game at the stadium. Unfortunately, going into my third year of studies, I had still yet to go to a single Bison sporting event, let alone a football game. So when I checked my schedule and found that I would be able to go to the homecoming game this year, I jumped at the opportunity.

The pre-game festivities around the stadium were both entertaining and family friendly. There was a car-smash fundraiser set up, clowns and a magician, along with other distractions for the younger kids. UMSU also had the tunes pumping beside the stands. I was ready for a solid afternoon of football action!

One of the best parts about the game day experience was the cheerleading team. They’re not a dance team, like the Blue Bombers’ Blue Lightning dance team, but rather a real life cheer team with high-flying skills. Their stunts and enthusiasm really pumped up the crowd before and during the game.

As I found myself a seat and waited for the stadium to fill, the clock ticked closer and closer to game time and I began to worry. Sitting amongst mostly Dino fans, the stadium was nowhere near full and I started to wonder why there was so much hype over the homecoming game if no one bothered to show up?

But then they started to arrive.

Past the fences along the south end of the grounds I saw the parade of residence students coming, most painted head to toe in their respective dorm colours. They had been taking part in the Residence Spirit Cup and filled up the stands nicely. Proudly supporting their residence halls and their school, they brought that spark of enthusiasm that I was expecting to see. Also in attendance were members of the U of M Symonized Engineering Marching Band, who were very entertaining throughout the game, taunting the Dinos on the bench and getting the fans to cheer and clap in unison between plays.

Once the game finally kicked off, everyone was treated to what turned out to be quite a thrilling match. The weather for the week leading up to the game was wet, which meant that the grass field at game time was soft and made for a very messy, muddy football game.

The Dinos struck first, with a 22-yard field goal on their first possession of the game. The rest of the first quarter would be a back and forth battle for field position. Calgary QB Eric Dzwilewski put together two touchdown drives in a row to start the second quarter, putting the Dinos up 17-0. The Bisons were unable to respond until late in the half, when they were finally able to move the ball down field and placekicker Nick Naylor hit a 28-yard field goal to give the Bisons their first points of the game. The Dinos would add one more field goal before leaving for the locker room with the score 20-3 for the visiting team.

The Bisons needed to get something going to start the second half, and that’s exactly what they did. Receiving the second half kickoff, the Bisons marched down the field with an impressive six play, 92-yard drive and scored on a five-yard pass from QB Khaleal Williams to WR Brendon Bowman. Building on the momentum, the Bison defence came out and forced a Dinos two-and-out. The Bisons offence was able to capitalize, with Khaleal Williams calling his own number at Calgary’s one-yard line and scoring to bring the Bison within a field goal of tying the game.

From that point on, however, Calgary’s defence really cracked down, forcing a safety and intercepting Williams twice in the fourth quarter. As the Bison offence struggled late in the game, the Dinos were able to score four points with their kickers. Down nine points with only 1:30 left in the game, Bison tailback Matt Henry was able to find the end zone on a 16-yard pass play with only 25 seconds left in the game and the Bisons secured a two-point convert to bring the home team within a point of tying the game. Unfortunately, the ensuing onside kick was recovered by Winnipeg-born Dino defensive halfback Tye Noble, which wrapped up the game for the Dinos.

Considering the lopsided score going into halftime, the 2010 homecoming game turned into an awesome contest. The team never gave up and Bison fans have reason to be optimistic that the team will continue to grow and improve throughout this year and in future seasons.