Members of the Manitoba Bisons football team are feeling pretty good after Friday night's 24-10 road loss to the Calgary Dinos.
Yes, you read that right.
The Bisons are winless against the Dinos in their last eight meetings and it gets even uglier when the Herd have to travel to Calgary. The last time the Bisons prevailed in Calgary was a 28-27 victory on Oct. 21, 2005. Throw in the fact this year's edition of the Dinos features fifth-year quarterback and defending Hec Crighton winner Adam Sinagra and it makes sense why the Bisons weren't exactly the favourites.
The Herd are 1-1 on the year after they opened the season at home by stomping the Saskatchewan Huskies 43-19. But there was an encouraging sign for the Bisons in the defeat in Alberta.
The Dinos did most of their damage in the second quarter, when Sinagra threw two touchdown passes. In the final two quarters, Sinagra and the Calgary offence were held off the scoreboard. The last time the Dinos were held in check for an entire half was a 53-3 loss to the Alberta Golden Bears on Oct. 28, 2017 in the last game of the regular season. It was a meaningless contest for the Dinos, who already had the top spot in the Canada West conference clinched with a 7-0 record heading into the season finale. Before that, you'd have to go back to their 25-14 loss to the Laval Rouge et Or in the 2013 Vanier Cup to see Calgary go two straight quarters without scoring a point.
Bisons head coach Brian Dobie said his team falling in Calgary wasn't a letdown at all. He described it as a "classic Canada West game" and said his players played "tough football."
"If you're shutting out arguably the top offence in the nation, and the Hec Crighton quarterback winner, the MVP of the entire country for an entire half, you played a good football game," Dobie said.
"We just couldn't contain them well enough and it was the second quarter, cause he's that good and their offence is that good. They deserve credit. There's two teams playing the game and Calgary played a great game. They're going to score points on you, that's inevitable."
The biggest difference from the win in Week 1 to the loss in Week 2 was turnovers. The Bisons took the ball away from Saskatchewan seven times, whereas in Calgary, the Herd coughed it up four times, including three interceptions from fourth-year quarterback Des Catellier.
The Bisons will try to avoid turnovers and get back into the win column on Friday in Edmonton against Alberta. The Herd began last year 0-3 before winning back-to-back games against the Golden Bears.
Fourth-year Bisons wide receiver Macho Bockru said last year's success against Alberta doesn't mean a thing.
"I think the biggest thing is to avoid that mentality of we beat them twice last year and it should be a cakewalk this week, because it won't be," said Bockru, who had three touchdown catches and six receptions for 99 yards in Week 1. "I think it's going to be a full game right down till the end. They have a different team this year than last year and they've had success early on. They're 1-1 and that's the same record we have, so we're in no position to hold last year over their heads. We have to go in with a fresh mentality this week."
Alberta finished last year 2-6 and have been one of the bottom feeders in Canada West for the past decade. The Bisons head into the game as the No. 8-ranked team in the nation, but Dobie said his squad will have their work cut out for them against their unranked opponent. Alberta started the year with a 41-31 loss at home to the Dinos before bouncing back last week with an 18-17 road win against the Regina Rams.
"All bets are off. They aren't even the same team," Dobie said. "Their quarterback has taken a big step forward. Their offensive line is one of the better offensive lines in the country. I mean, (Carter) O'Donnell at tackle is going to be a very early CFL draft pick. (Jonathan) Rosery at running back is scary. He's scary fast. If he gets into open space, yikes. But the biggest change is their defence. They've added some really good players."
Dobie said Alberta head coach Chris Morris, who's been leading the program for seven years, has persevered and done an excellent job at recruiting to turn the team around. He also gave credit to first-year defensive co-ordinator Greg Knox for transforming their defence. Knox was a linebackers coach for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2015.
If Dobie's high praise is warranted, you can likely throw out the window the fact the Bisons are 8-2 against Alberta in their last 10 meetings and haven't lost in Edmonton since 2014.
"I think they're there now. They are where (Morris) wants them to be," said Dobie. "And this isn't some jargon. I'm being transparent and open. Nobody believes it yet or trusts it yet, but I think I'm right. I think Alberta is literally a contender."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
Updated on Tuesday, September 10, 2019 at 7:47 PM CDT: Adds photo.