It was a long time coming for the University of Manitoba Bison football program, as they delivered a beat down to the second-nationally-ranked Calgary Dinos, 50-31 on Saturday afternoon, effectively ending a six-year winless drought against their rivals at the University of Calgary. The regular season loss was just the second in three seasons for Calgary (excluding a forfeit for an ineligible player earlier this year).
The win also served as redemption for a one-point loss earlier in the year, and guaranteed Manitoba a trip to the playoffs for the third consecutive season. It was a complete performance all the way around for the Bisons, whose 50 points included three touchdowns from Nic Demski, and two from special teams.
Manitoba would never trail in the game. They put up seven points on their first offensive series, effectively setting the tempo. Quarterback Theo Deezar engineered a quick three-play drive, capped by a Demski grab in double coverage from 26 yards out.
After Calgary pulled the score to 7-5, the Bisons special teams took over. With just under three minutes left in the first quarter, Alex Christie broke through the wall, and blocked a Johnny Mark punt. A mad scramble for the ball quickly ensued, resulting in Mark partially kicking it away, right into the hands of sophomore standout Jayden McKoy, who dashed 60 yards to the house.
The rest, as they say, is history. Calgary would get as close as nine points away, but were never able to gather consistent momentum. Their potent offence was held to just three touchdowns all game long. Manitoba also recorded two interceptions defensively, both by McKoy, and DJ Lalama was a rock at linebacker yet again, with 11 tackles.
Along with McKoy and Demski, the Bisons got majors from Kienan LaFrance and Christie on run plays, along with Jordan Linnen on special teams, who scooped up the second blocked punt of the day – yet again from Christie.
Deezar, playing in place of an injured Jordan Yantz for a second consecutive game, was effective, going 10-of-18 for 210 yards, and three touchdowns. He was pleased with the way the team responded after a tough loss in Regina last week.
“It was just fun to go out there and reach our potential as a team,” Deezar said. “We have what it takes to do it, and all facets of the game—offence, defence, and special teams—we all played well, and that’s really all I wanted from our team.”
Zach Regert had his best game of the season at slotback, hauling in four receptions for 77 yards, while Demski led the team with 126 yards on four catches and a whopping 31.5 yards per catch average, which included a 75-yard touchdown in the dying seconds of the first.
Head coach Brian Dobie emphasized the importance of the team’s win post-game, especially against a team like Calgary.
“For sure, it feels great that Calgary was the opponent that we had to win against,” said Dobie.
“I think it made a statement, not about them, but about us. We faced the best, we beat the best, with our backs against the wall to do it. That unto itself has a great deal of importance to it.”
Manitoba (4-4) finishes the season as the third seed in the playoffs, and will travel to Saskatchewan this weekend to take on the second-seeded Saskatchewan Huskies (6-2). Game time is 7 p.m.