2016 Hardy Cup in Dinos Hands
The Dinos take the 2016 Hardy Cup… finally.
By Maxwell Mawji, Capture Candy
After two years of losing to the underdogs in the final game, The U of C Dinos finally snagged
The Canada West championship.
Saturday’s Hardy Cup match saw the Dinos narrowly edge out the UBC Thunderbirds 46-43. The win avenges last year’s final, where UBC smudged the Dinos perfect season with an upset victory 34-26. With the Dinos out, UBC went on to win the Vanier Cup championship.
This year saw the dominant Dinos finishing the first half with a lead of 36-10. This challenge, however, was met by UBC prized quarterback Michael O’Connor, who had a 33 point second half.
O’Connor’s standout performance was mirrored by Dinos quarterback Adam Sinagra, who threw 366 yards and three touchdowns. He was voted MVP for his game performance. Other highlights were second-year running back Jeshrun Antwi who ran 96 yards with the ball and two majors on the ground.
The climax of the game was in the last quarter. With only two minutes left the T-birds found ground in the end zone, bringing them within one touchdown from stealing the lead.
Tension mounted as the final seconds ticked down, which was only relieved when the T-birds gave up possession of the ball with 15 seconds on the clock.
The action on the field was mirrored by the drama on the sidelines. Blake Nill, head coach of the Thunderbirds, and former coach of the Dinos had his work cut out in turning the game around.
On the other side of the field, Dinos bench boss and 2015 U Sport coach of the year Wayne Harris Jr. was busy making sure his team didn’t fail completely in the fourth quarter.
"We have talked about that right from day one, before we started training camp, that nothing was going to come easy this year and we would have to fight for every point and every win that we get,” said Harris Jr. after the game.
The Dinos game plan, according to Harris Jr., was to see the game through from beginning to end. The team has had a history of getting behind in later quarters. He did comment on the team’s “ability to stick it out.”
Resilience has become a way of life for the Dinos. They lost star players before the 2016 season: Andrew Buckley, a two-time winning Hec Crighton quarterback that went on to play for the Calgary Stampeders, record setting kicker Johnny Mark and gifted running back Mercer Timmis. Furthermore, the team was weakened in the last few weeks by a severely diminished roster.
The Dinos have injuries taking away prospects like receiving leader Austen Hartley, tailbacks Bryce Harper and Quentin Chown. The team was also missing starting quarterback Jimmy Underdahl, who was out for the past four games with an injury.
Silver lining to the Dinos depleted team is that it gave way for other players to step up. After all, now champion quarterback Sinagra was the Dinos second choice. He has seen the team through to four games, with two of them being playoff matches.
"We've faced adversity all year. How you handle that measures your character. I know the character of these guys – they're a hard-working group of guys that never, ever quits," affirmed Harris.
To match their shiny new Hardy Cup, the Dinos have finished top of their Canada West league with an average of 36.8 points per game, 20.9 points against, 195.9 offensive yards, 107.4 defensive yards. Both points per game and offensive yards were top of their league.
With the Hardy Cup finally in the bag, the Dinos move onto The Mitchell Bowl.
Kickoff will be in McMahon Stadium on Saturday Nov.19 at 2 p.m. and the Dinos will be against the Atlantic champion St. Francis Xavier X-Men (StFX).
This will be the first time StFX meet the Dinos. It will be televised nationally live on sportsnet 360.
"We're going to go through and break down film, try to get the best idea of who their guys are and their style of play - where we can create mismatches and what we can take advantage of," says Harris of his team's preparation for StFX.
Dominate would be one way to describe StFX team, powerhouse would be another.
The Atlantic team went a perfect 7-0 season. Six of those games were led by about 15 points. They took the Loney Bowl, the Atlantic league's counterpart to the Hardy Cup, by crushing their opponents 29-8.
Statistically, they meet the Dinos on every front: 37.4 points per game, 16.1 points allowed, 484.5 offensive yards and 336 defensive yards.
If the Dinos can squeak a win out on Nov. 19 they will be sent onto the Vanier Cup, which is the first time since 2013.
"I'm extremely proud of this group – they've worked hard all season long to achieve this goal, and we still have goals in front of us we are trying to achieve."