All three games this week featured fourth quarter comebacks in another hotly contested weekend of action.
#2 (CUSN #1) Calgary Dinos 36 — 27 Manitoba Bisons
The Manitoba Bisons had the second-ranked Calgary Dinos on the ropes entering the fourth quarter, but were unable to deliver the knockout punch in the final 15 minutes, as the hosts scored 16-straight points to remain undefeated.
Manitoba went into the break trailing 20-14, but came out with a fury in the third quarter, led by Theo Deezar, who replaced starting pivot Des Catellier near the end of the second quarter. Deezar proceeded to lead his squad downfield on the Herd’s first three drives, registering a touchdown and two field goals to give the Bisons a 27-20 lead.
Calgary responded in the fourth quarter though, led by their defence, which held Manitoba to a whopping -11 net yards. The Dinos were able to capitalize on their optimal field position, with a Niko DiFonte 83-yard rouge ultimately being the game-winning score at 6:32. The Calgary kicker was tremendous in the final 15 minutes, contributing seven of his team’s 16 points, thanks in large part to a steady wind that helped propel the ball forward.
The biggest head-scratcher in this contest was Manitoba’s decision to put Catellier back into the game in the final eight minutes of play. Deezar had the hot hand and looked to be okay on the sidelines. His removal from the game did nothing to improve the Bison’s chances as Catellier continued to have trouble moving the ball, finishing with just 108 yards passing and two interceptions, along with one touchdown. Deezar in comparison, had 170 yards in just a quarter-and-a-bit of work.
Calgary was led yet again by the dangerous receiving duo of Hunter Karl and Michael Klukas, who finished with a combined 234 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively, fifth-year defensive back Adam Laurensse stood out, with 7.5 tackles and a forced fumble — the latter of which was recovered by the Dinos in the final minute of play to seal the victory.
#7 UBC Thunderbirds 29 — 25 Saskatchewan Huskies
An illegal block penalty cost Saskatchewan a victory on Saturday night at home, as the Green Dogs narrowly came back from 21 points down in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 29-25 with just 13 seconds left to play, Huskies quarterback Kyle Siemens found Chad Braun, who took a reception 33 yards to the house, however the major was called back due to a Yol Piok penalty. The ensuing pass was picked off to end the contest.
The game was a tale of resiliency for the Huskies, who scored just two points through the first three quarters, before finding their groove in the final 15 minutes, as Siemens orchestrated three straight touchdown drives. It was too little too late for Saskatchewan though, as the UBC defence came up with a huge stop to end the contest.
The turning point in the matchup arguably came in the final minute-and-a-half of the second quarter, with the T-Birds leading just 7-2. UBC pivot Michael O’Connor was intercepted by Huskies defensive back Payton Hall, and the hosts took the ball deep into UBC territory. On the ensuing play, however, Siemens was picked off by defensive back Malcolm Lee. The visitors would go on to score a touchdown that gave them valuable momentum entering the second half.
O’Connor finished the game with 466 yards through the air, to accompany three touchdowns and three interceptions. Alex Morrison was the beneficiary of two of the pivot’s touchdown strikes, while fellow receiver Trivel Pinto had a game high 156 yards on 13 receptions.
Siemens ended with 310 yards and three touchdowns — all of which came in the fourth quarter — but was unable to keep pace with O’Connor in the long run. Defensively, Hall stood out with two interceptions and six tackles.
#8 Regina Rams 58 — 55 Alberta Golden Bears
The Rams and Golden Bears put up over 1100 yards of total offence in a back-and-forth slugfest in Edmonton. Ultimately, it was Regina that would come out on top in an instant classic.
Rams running back Atlee Simon and Alberta ball carrier Ed Ilnicki went toe-to-toe, with both men finishing the game with over 200 yards rushing. However, it was Simon’s play out of the backfield that made a huge difference. On top of 206 yards and a major on the ground, he also added 59 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions. Simon also became the school’s all-time leader in touchdowns, with 29, eclipsing the mark of 26 that was held since 2001, by receiver and CFL alumnus Jason Clermont.
The turning point in the game came with 7:50 left in the first half. Alberta was leading 18-7 and had just forced a Rams punt. The ensuing return was fumbled by Golden Bears returner Nathan Rowe, however, and Regina scored a touchdown just two plays later. On the very next Alberta drive, quarterback Brad Baker was picked off by defensive back Polis Koko, and the Rams yet again needed just two plays offensively to hit pay dirt and a 21-18 lead — one that they would not relinquish the rest of the way.
Alberta mounted a spirited comeback in the final three minutes of play though, coming back from a 48-36 deficit to force overtime. Rowe and Ilnicki were instrumental in tying up the contest, both making big plays at critical times.
After both clubs scored a major in the first overtime session, the Rams defence was able to stuff Alberta, and Golden Bears kicker Brent Arthur had his 41-yard field goal go off the upright and out. Regina kicker Daniel Scraper would make no mistake from 26 yards out on the following drive to give his team the win.
Despite a costly fumble, Rowe was still his team’s best player, finishing with 230 yards and two long touchdown receptions. The Rams countered with the deadly trio of Ryan Schienbein, Mitchell Picton, and Kyle Moortgat, who finished with a combined 304 yards and two scores.