For the second week in a row, the University of Manitoba Bisons football team travelled to UBC looking not only to defeat the Thunderbirds for the first time in 2015 but also defend their conference title.
The result couldn’t have been any worse for the visitors as their opposition blew them out 52-10, ensuring that the Hardy Cup didn’t remain in the ’Peg for a second consecutive year.
The Thunderbirds rushed out to a 16-0 lead after one quarter and didn’t look back. Their success early on and as the game progressed was due mainly to favourable field position.
The herd was pinned behind their 30-yard line virtually all game and were unable to move the ball offensively for the majority of the contest. Due to this, Manitoba was frequently forced to punt from the shadow of their own goalposts and the home side were often able to start their drives past midfield, needing to travel just 40-45 yards for a major.
The play that sealed the Bisons’ fate occurred with just under five minutes left in the first half.
Trailing 19-0, Manitoba’s defence had begun to find a rhythm – recovering a Thunderbirds fumble when it appeared the home side was about to score again, as well as stuffing UBC’s run game. Just two drives after forcing the turnover, the herd was able to move past their own 50-yard line for the first time on offence after Bryden Bone hauled in a 29-yard reception.
The following play, though, Bisons pivot Theo Deezar tossed his third interception of the half. Thunderbirds safety Taylor Loffler was able to rip the ball out of Manitoba slotback Alex Vitt’s hands near the goal line, and into the waiting arms of fellow defensive back Stavros Katsantonis.
The pick appeared to take the wind out of the Bisons’ sails, as UBC would go on to score 10 more points to end the half, effectively erasing any chance of a potential Manitoba comeback.
Rainy conditions were a factor during the game on Saturday afternoon and they took their toll on Deezar – returning to the lineup after missing the past two regular season games with a concussion.
He finished with just 158 yards passing and four interceptions – unable to get much gusto when throwing across the middle – while his counterpart Michael O’Connor amassed 231 yards to go with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Manitoba’s three-headed monster in the run game – which helped the squad gain confidence throughout the season when the aerial attack wasn’t operating on all cylinders, was shut down for a second consecutive week as well.
Canada West All-Star Jamel Lyles finished with just 28 yards on the ground, while Alex Christie and Cameron Fox combined for just 45.
On the other side, Thunderbirds tailback Brandon Deschamps was effective with 124 yards rushing and a touchdown, along with an average of 8.9 yards per carry.
With the win, UBC head coach Blake Nill advanced his career playoff record against Brian Dobie to 4-1 and his squad will now head to Calgary next weekend to take on the top-ranked team in the nation in the Hardy Cup.