December 8, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
The University of Manitoba football squad has a ticket to the Canada West post-season already, after the guts of the team turned to steel when needed.
Now, the Bisons have a chance to bring that playoff game back home, back to the Investors Group Field that has put so much spark into their room, and in front of the local fans that turned out this year in robust numbers. It's not certain that they'll host a playoff game yet, but there's a chance, and they're hungry to see it through.
"That'd be huge," pivot Jordan Yantz said. "It'd be a very good accomplishment for us, and for momentum."
The playoff-placement scenario got much clearer Friday night when the Calgary Dinosaurs completed a perfect 8-0 regular season by trouncing UBC 34-17, giving the Thunderbirds a 4-4 record.
Now all the Bisons have to do is beat Alberta today to clinch second place and a home playoff game.
It would be easy, understandable even, if the Bisons went into Alberta feeling a little cocky. The Golden Bears are 0-7, they have the worst defence in the league and the worst offence, too. The Bisons ran ragged over the Alberta squad in their home opener at IGF back in August, blazing to a wild 65-41 win. But bad things happen in sports when a team takes another one for granted, even one of the worst in the league.
"Just because they're an 0-and-7 team, doesn't mean they're not physical, not strong," Yantz said. "They're not going to want to fold their bags up and go home to end the season. We still got to play our game, as a quarterback I gotta still manage the football and put the ball in the end zone to win."
Speaking of which, Yantz has been awfully good at that this season. He drove last weekend's thrilling come-from-behind win against the Saskatchewan Huskies, connecting with four touchdown strikes, including two when the Bisons were down in the fourth quarter to win the game. What is more, his 2,104 passing yards are only 24 yards away from setting a school record.
Even Bisons coach Brian Dobie, who worked overtime to recruit Yantz from the junior Vancouver Island Raiders, is a little stunned by his success.
"As high as expectations that we had, he has absolutely exceeded them," Dobie said. "He's still got upside ahead of him, this is just his first year within the system. And he has the locker-room. These guys just believe that Jordan Yantz will find a way to get it done, and I think that intangible is gigantic."
So he has the quarterback, the offence and the hunger to host at home. Now, all Dobie has to do is keep his own team on a level.
"The last game of the season is always a critical game, if you're a playoff team. You do not want to limp into the playoffs."
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 26, 2013 C8