It wasn’t exactly what the Manitoba Bisons had planned for their annual Homecoming Game, and having the Calgary Dinos come into their backyard and exit with a win wasn’t how the script was to unfold.
But even in defeat there can be silver linings, and for three quarters in Saturday’s 33-12 loss the upstart Bisons were able to trade blows with the powerhouse Dinos.
The second-ranked Dinos improve to 3-0 while the Bisons, the only team in the country to face a Top 10 ranked squad in each of their three games, fall to 2-1.
"It was a wake-up call for us," said Bison head coach Brian Dobie. "Our guys played very emotionally in the first half and it was an ugly first half for both teams. But then we saw what a team like Calgary was capable of doing. They’re very polished, they’re athletically mature and extremely well-coached. And in order to match that, as we did in the first half, you’ve got to rise to that level. We made mistake after mistake in the second half and Calgary minimized their mistakes.
"All credit to the University of Calgary."
The Bisons rallied from a 9-zip first quarter with eight unanswered in the second, the key play an 80-yard Cam Clark-to-Xavier Johnson strike that brought a solid crowd of 2,750 at University Stadium to its feet.
But in the second half the Dinos precision passing game, led by quarterback Eric Dzwilewski, was dynamite. Dzwilewski finished the day completing 23 of 32 passes for 329 yards, with two TD strikes to Chris Dobko and a third to Jake Harty while also rushing for 55 more yards on just eight carries. The Dinos also racked up 489 net yards on offence and held a five-minute advantage in time of possession.
Not to be overlooked was the work of Calgary’s defence, which threw a lot of blitzes at Bison QB Cam Clark, sacking him five times, while containing Manitoba’s vaunted running game.
"We’ll get back at it," said Dobie. "We’ll prepare for the University of Alberta. We’re 2-1 and we’re in second place. We move forward. A loss is a loss, you put it behind you just like you put a win behind you."