There were two major storylines from the regular season that hung over the herd’s Hardy Cup semifinal game in balmy Vancouver Saturday afternoon.
The last time the two teams met, Maya Turner was not the starting kicker and the University of British Columbia (UBC) Thunderbirds walloped the Bisons 56-10 while starting quarterback Jackson Tachinski was out with an injury.
The penalty-filled semifinal was a tightly contested matchup, the opposite of the September domination. The first drive of the game ended with receiver Michael O’Shea Jr. running a missed T-Birds field goal attempt out of the endzone. The effort was rewarded by a long Bisons drive downfield capped off by a history-making Turner 13-yard field goal to open the scoring.
After exchanging the ball with both defences settling in, UBC tied the game with a field goal of its own early in the second quarter.
The herd responded with a grinding drive downfield, with running back Noah Anderson racking up six carries and 36 yards alone. The Bisons would punch the ball in for a major courtesy of offensive lineman Matteo Vaccaro.
After the Bisons got the ball back, running back Vaughan Lloyd rumbled down the field for a huge 41-yard touchdown run, putting the herd up by two possessions.
However, UBC would not go away and added another major of its own, the Bisons taking a 17-10 lead into halftime.
Starting with possession after the half, Manitoba quickly give the ball back to UBC, but the T-Birds kicker missed his third field goal attempt on the day, adding only a single.
After another grinding drive downfield, Turner’s sure foot would capitalize from 26 yards out, putting the Bisons up 20-11.
While the herd held UBC to a quick two-and-out, the T-Birds forced a fumble and would add a major onto their score before the fourth quarter.
The Bisons managed to add to their lead with a thundering punt by Nathan Udoh for a single, putting the herd up by a field goal over UBC.
After exchanging the ball again, a holding penalty on Manitoba aided UBC to another major before adding a single on the ensuing kickoff. Quickly stopping the herd’s next drive, the T-Birds tacked on another field goal.
Down by one possession in the dying minutes of the game, the Bisons needed a major and a two-point conversion to push overtime. However, the herd’s comeback was shut down and the team bowed out of the Hardy Cup playoffs with a 29-21 loss.
The Bisons’ valiant effort amassed 231 rushing yards alone on offence and two sacks courtesy of defensive linemen Tristan Francis and Kaleb Mackie-McLeod, as well as a breakup recorded by defensive back Stephen Adamopoulos on defence.
Turner made history once again, becoming the first woman to dress for and score points in a U Sports post-season football game. Perfect on the afternoon, Turner racked up eight points on her own, with two field goals and two one-point conversions.
While the final score will sting Bison players and fans alike, the game was an encapsulation of the team’s “never quit” attitude this season.