Tenacious D holds off Rams

Keeping it simple is the best policy for success. At least it was in the University of Calgary Dinos 24-17 victory over the University of Regina Rams in the Canada West semi-final at McMahon Stadium on Sunday.

By shutting down Regina’s passing game and running the ball right at the heart of their defence, the Dinos won their first playoff game since they won the Vanier Cup in 1995.

With the win Calgary will host the Canada West final (Hardy Cup) next Saturday as the Simon Fraser University Clan come to town.

For the Dinos, home field advantage is more than just a boisterous crowd.

“We’re on turf,” explained Calgary head coach Blake Nill. “We’re a fast team, we are a speed team, we play better on turf. I hope it is five below and frickin’ snowing [so that the run game will be the crucial factor].”

Calgary chewed up almost 200 yards of offence in the first half of the game and controlled the clock. Aaron Ifield kicked three field goals and running back Matt Walter had a four-yard touchdown run to put the Dinos up 16-7 at half time. The Dinos defence was able to keep Rams quarterback Teale Orban and the Regina offence from scoring a major all afternoon, playing bend-but-do-not-break football.

“You can’t stop their passing game, you have to control it,” said Calgary halfback Matt Grohn. “We gave them the dinky out passes, but nothing overtop. They can throw outs all day, but every once in a while they will miss and we will capitalize on them.”

Nill commented on how well his defence played especially against Rams fifth-year Orban, who can be so dangerous with the football.

“Teale Orban scares the death out of you, I’m glad he’s out of the league now,” exclaimed Nill.

Orban, who played his final game of his Canadian Interuniversity Sport career, was 28 for 51 for 336 yards.

In the third quarter, Regina was able to regain the lead thanks to explosive special teams play. Chris King of the Rams fielded a Calgary punt and returned it 68 yards for a major. Regina added a field goal soon after and assumed the 17-16 lead.

Whether it was nerves or inexperience, Calgary was unable to sustain any offence in the quarter and was forced to punt the ball numerous times.

“There were some nerves, but I thought where you saw our youth was in the start of the second half,” said Nill. “We came out as flat as a pancake and it almost cost us the game.”

Escaping the third quarter down by only a point, the Dinos responded in the fourth. Quarterback Deke Junior led Calgary down the field on a well-engineered drive, which was capped off with Walter’s second touchdown of the day.

The Dinos added a two-point conversion as left tackle Paul Swiston caught Junior’s pass in the end zone.

“We have been running that in practice and it has been going good,” said Swiston. “I was really excited.”

With Calgary now up by seven, the Rams started their final drive using short passes to slowly move the ball down the field. Regina was able to march the ball effectively and soon found themselves in a third and goal situation from the one-yard line.

With Regina looking to score the tying touchdown, the Dinos made their stand. Orban took the snap and lunged forward only to be met by the tenacious Dinos defensive line.

The Regina all-star was pushed back and denied the tying touchdown by the aggressive surge of the Dinos defence. In the huddle before the final play, Calgary linebacker and team leader Andrea Bonaventura inspired the team.

“Our season is on the line, it is gut check time,” he said. “Either we have it in us or we don’t. Everyone looked at me and replied, ‘We have it in us, we are going to do it.’ We came out and did it.”

The Dinos will be looking to use home field advantage in their favour once more in what is sure to be a physical, bruising game against the Clan.

“We are a tough team and coach Johnston’s team is a tough team,” said Nill. “It will be a great football game. It is nice to see two other teams in the final other than Regina, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.”

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