By Ryan Laverty
"We’re tired of fondling. It’s time to get it on."
Those were the words from one Dino football player prior to last Friday night’s season opener at McMahon Stadium. But like Jim from the movie American Pie, the climax was premature, and the hometown team was defeated by its northern rivals from the University of Alberta.
After a strong camp in late August, the boys looked able and ready to take on their northern neighbours. The first play of the season was a testament to all their hard work and determination, when quarterback Lincoln Blumell hit wide receiver Jamie Elliott for a 98-yard score. The crowd roared and a wave of confidence seemed to rise up from the Dinos’ bench.
"We definitely started with a bang," explained head coach Tony Fasano. "It was a highlight way to start the season."
The surf was quickly turfed. A surge of bad luck quickly washed away any feelings of this game being a blowout. The home team’s second series ended in an interception, stopped from becoming six points for the Bears, only by one player’s refusal to give up. The only problem being the tackle was made at the expense of Blumell’s thumb, and ultimately his place at the helm of the Dinos’ offence. Blumell would leave the game and be replaced by redshirt freshman Brent Hargreaves.
Having never taken a snap in a Canadian Interuniversity Sport contest, Hargreaves looked surprisingly poised.
"I wasn’t really nervous," he said. "I just tried not to make key mistakes and have fun."
With fresh blood at the pivot position, the Dinos’ coaching staff tried to establish the running game. It was a plan easily detected by former Dinos Defensive Coordinator and new Bears Head Coach, Jerry Friesen. The Dinos would eventually run the ball a total of 26 times for a paltry 84 yards.
The end of the first half should have breathed new life into the Dinos, who scored two majors within the last three minutes before the break to tie the game at 22-22. But the second half was all Alberta.
"They came out and executed. Plain and simple," said Fasano.
Edmonton’s flacid ground assault from a year ago was undetectable, as tailback Nathan Connor exploded through the enormous holes in the Dinos defensive line.
"We didn’t cancel our gaps," replied defensive coordinator Dave Johnson, who took complete responsibility for the defence’s ineptitude. "We need to get off our blocks and make the stop."
U of A scored early in the third quarter on Connor’s 33-yard run and then again at the 12:47 mark on a 19-yard strike from quarterback Blair Zahara to wide receiver Rob Rawcliffe.
Hargreaves capped a late fourth quarter charge with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Elliott. But, it would prove to be too little, too late. Rawcliffe solidified the visitors’ victory with a field goal in the dying seconds.
The loss was difficult to take, especially in their own house. But–like Jim–the Dinos will bounce back. They might just need a different partner to get the job done. Only time will tell. Their next game is this Friday night, Sept. 7, at 7 p.m. at McMahon Stadium, when the Dinos get it on with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.