After taking their lumps against the U of Calgary Dinos in week three, the Bisons came back strong against the U of Alberta Golden Bears – a team still desperately trying to win their first game of the season.
Quarterback Cam Clark had his best game as starting quarterback for the herd. He completed 23 of 27 passes for 442 yards and four touchdowns, as Manitoba won a wild one 51-38.
Clark’s performance was certainly crucial for the Bison victory, but it was a series of clutch special team plays that flipped the game on its head in the third quarter.
The first play came when Nic Demski returned a missed field goal out of the end zone and 98-yards downfield to the Alberta 30-yard line. At the time of the field goal attempt, Alberta was looking to extend their lead to ten points.
On the very next play, Clark hooked up with Andrew Smith on a 30-yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 24-24. The Bears tried to respond, but could not get anything going. The Bison defence stood strong, and Alberta—backed up deep in their own end—was forced to punt. On the ensuing punt, Bison fullback Andrew Barry broke through the blocking and stuffed the punt attempt. The ball bounced back into Alberta’s end zone, where Barry recovered it for the touchdown.
The score put the Bisons on top 31-24 and officially swung all the momentum back in Manitoba’s favour.
Anthony Coombs scampering for 81 yards on 14 carries and was the top rusher for the Bisons, although Demski was just as impressive scoring two touchdowns on the day (one passing and one rushing) and totaling 208 all-purpose yards on the day.
Despite Clark’s outstanding numbers, and the Bisons dominance in the second half, the game certainly appeared to be up for grabs in the first half.
The Bisons opened the scoring quick on their first drive of the game, as WR Danny Turek scored on an 80-yard catch-and-run play, only the second play of the game. Alberta responded right away, running at will against a Bison defence that had no answer for the run game in the first quarter. Tyler Lewis scored a 34-yard rushing touchdown to tie it up. The teams exchanged touchdowns on the next two possessions as both defences struggles to stop much of anything.
The teams exchanged field goals (Manitoba’s Nick Boyd hit a 33-yarder, while Alberta’s Stephan Fabian kicked a 35-yarder) and the game remained tied throughout the majority of the first half. That is, until Alberta QB Curtis Dell called his own number and ran in for a 13-yard touchdown with just over four minutes until halftime.
Alberta would remain in front until that fateful missed field goal in the third quarter set off the collapse.
Alberta drops to 0-4, while the Bisons are now 3-1. They travel to Regina to play the Rams on Sept. 28, in a game that will likely determine the pecking order in the Canada West. Regina and Manitoba are currently tied for second in the conference standings behind Calgary – who remain undefeated after four games. A win in Regina would greatly improve the Bisons’ playoff outlook.