The 10th-ranked Manitoba Bisons were inches away from ending their seven-year drought against the second-ranked Calgary Dinos on Friday night, but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. A 40-yard field goal attempt by Ryan Jones, with no time on the clock, went wide right, as the Dinos were able to stumble out of McMahon Stadium with a 42-41 victory.
The back and forth battle was an all-out offensive affair, with the two teams combining for over 1,000 total yards. Manitoba fought back from deficits of 14 and 12 points, but unfortunately couldn’t hold on for the win.
First half summary
Manitoba got off to yet another hot start, putting seven points on the board on their first offensive series of the game. Kienan LaFrance capped off an 86-yard drive, of which he had 64 of those yards, with a 31-yard touchdown on a shovel pass.
Calgary wasted very little time answering back. They needed just four plays to tie the game, as quarterback Andrew Buckley found receiver Brendon Thera-Plamondon from 49 yards out, at 10:27 of the first quarter.
After a Johnny Mark single on the ensuing kickoff made the score 8-7 for Calgary, Manitoba was able to respond just two drives later. Alex Vitt made a tremendous sideline catch to get the momentum going, and ended things off with a 27-yard touchdown reception at 4:47, making the score 14-8 for the Bisons.
The Dinos would seize the momentum right back, scoring 23 unanswered points. After their defence forced Manitoba to concede a safety, the offence started to roll once again on the very next possession. Receiver Brett Blaszko capped off a 64-yard drive with his first of three touchdowns on the night. This one occurred from 21 yards out, giving Calgary the 17-14 lead, less than two minutes into the second quarter.
Calgary struck again at 6:38, as Buckley found the end zone on a three yard rush. The Dinos would complete their first half scoring at 2:55, as Blaszko recorded his second touchdown reception of the evening, this one from 48 yards.
Manitoba ended the half with a key touchdown to salvage some form of momentum heading into the third quarter. LaFrance would find the end zone for the second time, this one on a 50-yard pass, with less than two minutes left. After two quarters, Calgary led 31-21.
Second half summary
Manitoba capitalized on their first drive of the second half, after a failed Calgary fake punt set them up at the Dinos’ 29-yard line. Quarterback Jordan Yantz needed just three plays to cash in, finding receiver Matt Sawyer from 30 yards out to bring the score to 31-27. Unfortunately, the extra point was no-good.
Calgary would increase the lead back to 11, at 4:04 of the third. Blaszko would cap off the longest touchdown drive of the game (96 yards) for either team, with a seven-yard reception.
Manitoba would get a little bit of luck at the end of the third. After a kickoff single from Sawyer made the score 39-27, the Bisons would punt the ball away on the ensuing drive. Fortunately for Manitoba, returner William Maxwell was unable to corral the ball, and Zack Sandulescu recovered for the Bisons, at the Calgary seven-yard line.
Yantz would complete the ensuing drive himself, waltzing in from five yards out, dropping the Calgary lead back down to four, with less than a minute until the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter was a back and forth defensive battle, with only 10 total points scored.
Manitoba would put up the only major, as Yantz connected with Sawyer from 19 yards out, for his second score of the night. The shifty wide out made a brilliant diving grab, with a defensive back blanketed all over him. The touchdown occurred at 7:55, and gave the Bisons their first lead since the opening quarter.
Just when it looked like Manitoba was going to pull off the upset, the Dinos woke up. Buckley would lead his troops 36 yards downfield, and Mark connected on a 25-yard field-goal, with only 53 seconds remaining.
Manitoba would stay composed, as Yantz effectively drove the Bisons to the Calgary 33-yard line, on a six-play, 42-yard drive. That would set the stage for rookie kicker Ryan Jones to end things from 40 yards out.
Something went wrong, however, as Jones wasn’t completely prepared when the ball was placed on the tee. The ball sailed short and wide to the right, ending the game, and Manitoba’s chance at snapping their winless streak against the Dinos.
Game notes for the Bisons
Despite the loss, there were a ton of positives for Manitoba on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, Yantz had his best game of the season, throwing for 426 yards and four touchdowns, with no interceptions. LaFrance was a frequent presence yet again, racking up 144 all-purpose yards (77 rushing, 67 receiving), and two touchdowns. Vitt continued his torrential pace, with 123 receiving yards, and Dustin Pedersen had a career-high 103 yards.
Defensively, Lauren Kroeker had seven tackles (all solo) for his best statistic performance of the season, and the starting 12 for Manitoba prevented standout running back Mercer Timmis from reaching the end zone.
Manitoba (2-2) will stay on the road this weekend, taking on the Alberta Golden Bears (1-3). Game time is 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 4