Looking into the future

After the Bisons lost to the Regina Rams 31-22 to end their season, the Manitoban spoke with Bison head coach Brian Dobie for his perspective on the game. Dobie gave a disappointed but respectful summary of the game from the locker room, pointing out the Bisons’ weaknesses and the Rams’ strengths. This week, we caught up with Dobie and asked him about his final thoughts on the season, and the team’s plans for the future.

“It’s always so disappointing when it’s over,” said coach Dobie. “Then you look back at key events [and] situations that made or broke a season. In this case I really think it was lost opportunities; I’m not just referring to the last game of the season. We had opportunities to win in game one against Calgary at home with a 31-17 lead [late in the fourth quarter] and we lost that game.

“And then a couple weeks later in Vancouver against UBC we had a real close game. We had three shots from the nine-yard line to win the game. Three opportunities, you just need to make one of them and we didn’t.”
Dobie emphasized that he doesn’t blame the season-ending loss on Bison miscues and gave Rams credit for the win: “Good teams find ways to finish games and good teams find ways to move forward into the playoffs.”
“We are obviously just not there yet.”

The end of the football season leaves the coaching staff with some vacant positions that need to be addressed in the off-season. Jared Ralko, Stu Schollaardt and Tyson Takasaki made up the Bisons’ receiving core in 2011, and all have played their last game in Brown and Gold.

“I’ve been working since last January to try to replace them for September 2012,” Dobie explained. “There’re a number of receivers around the country and in Winnipeg that I’m talking to. We will bring in some guys; I can’t tell you at this point who they will be yet as we don’t have commitments.”

The new stadium, set to open in time for the 2012 CIS football season, might be one of the few positive thoughts at the end of such a disappointing season. Dobie agreed that after such an emotionally draining end to the season — not to mention the Bison football program’s time at the University Stadium — the reality of what’s in store for the team is finally sinking in.

“When the dust settles, the silver lining is we move forward into that new stadium. As much as I’ve recruited that new stadium for the last two years — in my recruiting calls, my recruiting visits, showing everyone the architecture plans — now it’s reality. We move into that 17,000 square feet of Bison football operations in a new palace of a stadium.”

Dobie was seemingly at a loss for words to describe how wonderful the new stadium is going to be for the program. He emphasized just how significant it will be working alongside a professional football team like the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and how special it will be for players to have the opportunity to play in the newest professional football stadium in the nation.

Dobie also gave his opinion on the Canada West teams still in contention for the Vanier Cup.

“I think Calgary is the team to beat. I think UBC has taken a tremendous leap forward, and in particular they might have the best and most effective QB in the nation, in Billy Greene.”

With the new Bomber stadium on schedule to be completed for the start of the 2012 CFL season, the Bison football program will now spend the off-season recuperating and preparing to play in a state-of-the-art stadium for arguably the first time in the program’s existence. The returning Bison players will be older, wiser and will have certainly built off of this season’s experience as the program enters its new era.