Bisons falter in Calgary

After a strong win on Oct. 15 against the Alberta Golden Bears, the Bisons looked to improve their hopes for securing a Canada West playoff position this past weekend as they took on the Calgary Dinos.

Anthony Coombs was the standout player in the game against Alberta, rushing 226 yards on 20 carries during the Saturday game. Coombs’s performance was recognized across the nation as he was selected as both the Canada West and CIS Offence Football Athlete of the Week for week six of the 2011 season. On Oct. 22, the Bisons travelled to Calgary to take on the No. 2-ranked team in the nation — the Calgary Dinos.

Bison head coach Brian Dobie discussed whether Coombs’s outstanding performance would force Calgary to specifically prepare their game plan to shut down such an obvious offensive threat.

“[As a coach] you definitely have to attack or defend a team’s particular systems, as much as you do have to attack or defend a team’s personnel,” said Dobie. “If we mix and match, and we take Anthony Coombs out of the game and put in Nic Demski, Nic is going to offer up something a little bit different but I think just as threatening [as Coombs].”

“It’s hard to defend those guys; they’re just really talented. I do expect Calgary to pay attention to our running game because of those two, especially with what Anthony just accomplished.”

The Bisons played a close game against the Dinos at home earlier this season on Sept. 3. During the game the Dinos fought back from a 16-point deficit, scoring 18 straight points in the last six minutes to down the Bisons 31-35.

Speaking about the last time the two teams met, Coach Dobie had no idea how the Bisons lost.

“I would say — for whatever reason — the football gods threw up on us that day,” said Dobie with a laugh. “With all due respect to Calgary, who won the football game, we really feel that we lost the football game. We had a 31-17 lead, with six and a half minutes to go, and we proceeded to fumble the ball, untouched by Calgary players. It wasn’t even a contact situation where the ball was fumbled; it was on exchanges.

Unfortunately, the first quarter of the rematch seemed to mirror the final quarter of their last game; the Dinos capitalized on some early Bison mistakes as they jumped out to a commanding lead. The Bisons had their first punt of the game blocked, and on their next drive Coombs coughed up the ball. The turnovers provided Calgary with wonderful field position as they scored 21 unanswered points in the span of five minutes.

The Bisons would continue to fight through adversity, putting together two impressive scoring drives late in the second quarter. Bison QB Khaleal Williams capped an 84-yard drive with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Jared Ralko, and then finished off their next drive with a one-yard quarterback keeper that cut the Dinos lead to seven heading into halftime.

In the third, Calgary regained their double-digit lead as they completed a six-play, 100-yard drive with a touchdown. After Calgary kicked a field goal late into the third, Coombs got an opportunity to make up for his earlier fumble, as he scampered for a 63-yard touchdown run that kept the Bisons in the game at 21-31. Unfortunately, the Bisons could only muster a field goal in the fourth quarter, as Calgary scored an additional 10 points to hold on for a 41-24 win.
Despite the loss and the early errors, the Bisons pivot put in a great effort; Williams threw for 332 yards and a touchdown with no interception, on top of his rushing touchdown. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bisons simply had no answer for the Calgary run game; Dino rushers combined for over 300 yards and three touchdowns on the day.

Heading into the final week of the regular season, there remains a tight three-way race for the final two Canada West playoff spots. Saskatchewan currently sits in third place, with a 4-3 record after beating Regina 16-15 this past weekend. Manitoba sits in fourth with a 3-4 record, with Regina sitting just outside of playoff contentions at 2-5. Manitoba and Regina will play in their final game of the season, which will now be a must-win for the herd.
Before the weekend, Brian Dobie said that he hoped Regina would beat Saskatchewan, since “we hold a tie breaker against the University of Saskatchewan and Regina holds a tie breaker against us.“

As if there needed to be any more dramatics attached to such a crucial contest, the game is also the last regular season game to ever be played at the current University Stadium. Kick off is at 1 p.m. Oct. 29, so if you’ve been putting off going to a Bison’s football game this would be the one to attend.