Herd suffers thrill-a-minute loss
Bisons, T-birds combine for 99-point barnburner
SOMEHOW, when it was over, the University of Manitoba Bisons had at least injected some thrill into a football game that never seemed like it should end in their favour.
They lost, to be clear. On a balmy night at Investors Group Field, the Bisons fell 51- 48 to UBC, leaving them 1-2 on the season and winless at home.
Still, it was a night in which Bisons pivot Theo Deezar broke the team’s passing record, and dragged the whole team up the scoreboard with him. A night in which the air game ruled, some hot guns scored, and just a single lucky break in the dying minute would have stolen the Bisons the game.
On the other hand, there was the slew of ill-timed penalties that had head coach Brian Dobie breathing fire in the locker-room at the break. There were the two missed field goals, the blocked extra point, and the back-breaking kickoff return UBC’s Trivel Pinto delivered 103 yards to Manitoba’s door. Above all else, there was the well-managed opposition, led by a savvy young UBC pivot freshly transferred from the NCAA, that the Bisons had their hands full trying to contain.
It was a night, in short, in which the home side hung with the Thunderbirds as much through will as by precision. A night in which they scored first, slumped to a 41-20 deficit midway through the third quarter, then somehow closed the gap to “almost, so close.” That’s young teams for you though; at least they want it.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Dobie said. “We are not there yet. We have a lot of fight, but we’re not there yet. We need to work to get better, and what they have to take away is this: they can’t look at the record. Nobody’s made the playoffs yet... and every quarter is so important in every game.”
The Herd did squelch the visitors early, pushing the Thunderbirds’ first drive flat and snuffing the second with a sack. In between, Deezar had gone to work: in just his second play from scrimmage, Deezar threw an elegant pass to rookie receiver Jesse Walker, a 45-yard touchdown snag to open the scoring.
That would set the tone for a game that would be fought largely through the air. Not that Deezar knew it would turn out that way, at the time.
In fact, the Bisons planned to lean on the run game, where they have a stockpile of explosive talent. But it never really caught on fire. So they switched it up.
By the time the game was done, Deezar had thrown for four majors, and his 519 yards soared high over the Bisons record of 450 set by Jordan Yantz two years ago. He didn’t know, until after.
“I’d take the win over that any day,” Deezar said. “It’s just the way we were calling the game. It’s fortunate we were able to put up that many points on the board, but unfortunate it wasn’t enough.”
That’s because after the first quarter — one in which UBC managed just 37 yards, to Manitoba’s 104 — Thunderbirds pivot Michael O’Connor lived up to his hype.
The first-year quarterback, a recent Penn State transfer, started dicing up the Bisons’ defence in the second quarter. He connected with eight strikes over that span, and two ended up in Manitoba’s end zone. It was just the beginning: he wound up going 26-for-38 for 398 yards and four touchdowns.
No matter what the Bisons did, it looked as if the Thunderbirds would just keep on taking flight. For instance, after Ryan Jones hoofed a 31-yard field goal late in the second, UBC returner Pinto snagged the ensuing kickoff and busted it 103 yards downfield for that spectacular scoring return, and a 20-10 UBC lead.
The Thunderbirds opened the second half with a clever onside kick, one which they recovered. (Dobie later called the play “aggressive, confident and gutsy on (UBC) coach Blake Nill’s part, and it was extremely well executed.”)
On the first drive of the second half, O’Connor threaded two quick passes to help bring his team to the Bisons’ 21-yard line. On the third play in that drive, running back Brandon Deschamps slipped into open space and sprinted unharried into the end zone.
In the end, the difference was just a couple of field goals. UBC’s Quin van Gylswyk put away three; the Bisons’ Jones notched two, and missed two from 42 yards.
The Bisons go on the road to Edmonton Friday, where they’ll face the Alberta Golden Bears.
Manitoba’s Jamel Lyles (28) is brought down by UBC defender Dante Vigini during first-half action Saturday night.