EDMONTON — There will be a new Hardy Cup Champion this year after the Manitoba Bisons were dethroned at the hands of the UBC Thunderbirds.
The game, which was broadcast live on Global TV, was never in doubt as the T-Birds fired on all cylinders, beating the Bisons in the air, on the ground and defensively en route to a 52-10 victory.
Bisons quarterback Theo Deezar returned to the lineup after missing the final two games of the regular season with an upper body injury. His rust certainly showed as Deezar was picked off four times, including a 55-yard return for a touchdown by Mitch Barnett.
His struggles began early with two interceptions on the Bisons opening two drives. UBC was able to capitalize on the advantage, taking an early 7-0 lead. It’s a lead they would not relinquish.
Manitoba also struggled with ball control, unable to figure out a way to play through the pouring rain.
The metro Vancouver area was hit with a heavy rain warning, with upwards of 50 mm of rain falling throughout the day.
But while the Bisons struggled, the Thunderbirds found a way to hold onto the ball and, more importantly, find a way into the end zone.
The Thunderbirds were led by quarterback Michael O’Connor who threw for over 230 yards and added three touchdowns.
UBC’s win marks a remarkable turnaround for the program. Just last year, they finished last in the Canada West with a 2-6 record. Twelve months later, thanks to new Head Coach Blake Nill, the Thunderbirds are one win away from their first Hardy Cup Championship since 1997.
“He’s been great. He’s been a great leader, he motivates us and believes in us and that shows in how we play, we play for him,” said Thunderbirds QB O’Connor.
UBC will now fly to Calgary, where they will take on the undefeated Dinos in the 79th Hardy Cup Final (watch LIVE on Global on Saturday, Nov. 14 at 1 p.m. MST). The two teams have met three times in the Hardy Cup Final since 1992. Calgary won in both 92 and 2011, while UBC won in 1997.
As for the Calgary Dinos, they’re lucky to be in their record eighth straight Hardy Cup Final.
Down by three with 12 minutes to go in the game, Calgary’s offence kicked it up a notch, scoring 18-points en route to a 37-29 win over the Saskatchewan Huskies.
Mercer Timmis led the Dinos with 154 rushing yards and two touchdowns. It was Saskatchewan’s seventh straight playoff loss, their last win coming in 2009 in the Hardy Cup Semi Final.
So the Hardy Cup Final is set as Blake Nill returns to McMahon Stadium to face his former program, a team he built into a university football powerhouse (six straight Hardy Cup Championships from 2008-13).
Again, you can watch the 79th Hardy Cup Final from coast to coast on Global TV on Saturday, Nov. 14 at 1 p.m. MST.