Evan Daum, Canada West Communications
- Calgary downs UBC 46-43 in 80th Hardy Cup to claim their 16th conference title in program history
- The game was the highest scoring in Hardy Cup history, with 89 combined points
- The Dinos avenged last season's 34-26 loss to UBC in the 79th Hardy Cup
- With the win, Calgary earns the right to host the St.FX X-Men in the U Sports Mitchell Bowl Saturday, November 19th
CALGARY – The gridiron ghosts of 2015 are officially gone for the Calgary Dinos.
A year after losing 34-26 in the 79th Hardy Cup on home turf to the underdog UBC Thunderbirds, the Dinos put to rest any lingering memories of their crushing setback with an epic 46-43 win over UBC in the 80th Hardy Cup Saturday at McMahon Stadium.
After Calgary raced out to a 36-10 lead at the half courtesy majors from five different Dinos, the Canada West championship game was shaping up to be a one-sided affair. That, however, would not be the story as UBC showed resiliency in the highest scoring game in Hardy Cup history.
"I wasn't really too focused on what happened last year other than we tried to learn from the mistakes of the last two seasons. I think for the most part we were able to do that today," said Calgary head coach Wayne Harris when asked about closing the chapter on last year's loss.
"We still had a couple of critical mistakes, but the guys just continued to battle and did a great job, so I'm very proud of them."
Leading the way for Calgary was quarterback Adam Sinagra, who was named the game's offensive MVP after throwing 366 yards and a trio of touchdowns.
Sinagra, who is in his first season with the Dinos, has led the way offensively in the Stampede City over the last several weeks, after opening day starter Jimmy Underdahl went down Week 6 of the season against Manitoba.
"He had to come in after Jimmy went down and even when you're learning the system, it's nothing like game reps, so as much as you practice things until you get on the field and do it against an opponent, it won't really pay dividends," Harris said.
"Those games (earlier) have produced what he's doing now, which is throwing the ball very, very well."
On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Jakub Jakoubek was named the game's defensive MVP after recording an interception and a 20-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown, early in the second quarter.
Collectively, it was a gutsy win by a Calgary team that avoided joining the 2003 to 2005 Alberta Golden Bears as the only teams in conference history to lose three consecutive Hardy Cups.
"We've faced adversity all year and how you handle that measures your character," Harris pointed out. "I know their character and we talked about it this week."
"They're just a hard working group of guys that never, ever quit."
Speaking of never quitting, UBC proved they wouldn't be an easy out, storming back in the final 30 minutes to make it a game thanks in large part to second-year QB Michael O'Connor, who threw for 450 yards on the day, but no majors.
The Thunderbirds opened the second half with 16 consecutive points, cutting the lead to 36-26 prior to the fourth quarter.
Touchdowns from running back Kory Nagata and a thrilling 53-yard pick-six courtesy Riley Jones after halftime put life in UBC's hopes of continuing their Vanier Cup championship defence.
The fourth quarter was one for the ages, as the teams combined for 27 points, including UBC running back Ben Cummings major at the 2:09 mark, which made it 46-43 with plenty of time for some final magic.
Cumming's score though would be the last points on the day, as Calgary managed to kill the rest of the clock, and punch their ticket to next week's U Sports Mitchell Bowl (2 p.m. / McMahon Stadium) against the Atlantic champion St. FX X-Men, who defeated Mount Allison 29-8 earlier Saturday in the Loney Bowl.
Now, Calgary will look to improve on their 8-6 record all-time in national semifinal games.
"It's always advantageous to not have to travel," Harris pointed out. "I've been on the road for some of these games, and those are tough. But they're going to be a touch opponent and we're going to have to be well-prepared."
GAME NOTES: The game surpassed the 52nd Hardy Cup as the highest scoring game in Hardy Cup history. Calgary downed Saskatchewan 46-33 in that contest back in 1988…The win was Calgary's 16th conference title, tying them with Alberta for the second most behind Saskatchewan's 18…Canada West teams have lost just twice at home in national semifinals. The 1968 Manitoba Bisons fell 29-6 in the Western Bowl to Queen's, while Calgary lost the 2011 Mitchell Bowl to Laval 41-10 at McMahon.