Ben Matchett, UCalgary Dinos
CALGARY – Third-year receiver Hunter Karl hauled in two touchdown passes and ran for another late as the third-ranked University of Calgary Dinos pulled away for a 46-26 win over the No. 5 University of Regina Rams Friday night at McMahon Stadium.
Karl's highlight-reel second TD of the night – a 54-yard pass-and-run from Adam Sinagra – proved to be the game-winning points, and then he ran out of field goal formation for a 17-yard score with two minutes to play to salt away the win for the Dinos, who improve to 2-0 on the young season. Regina falls to 1-1.
It was a back-and-forth affair through three quarters as two of the top quarterbacks in the nation matched each other stride for stride. Noah Picton, the reigning Hec Crighton Trophy winner, aired it out 37 times, completing 25 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns for the Rams. All three touchdown tosses came from at least 28 yards out on a night the Rams didn't enter the red zone. On the other side, Sinagra displayed the form that won him the weekly U SPORTS offensive honours a week ago with his 26-for-33, 350-yard, 3-TD performance.
"We've talked about committing to play a full game, and we want to make sure we match the intensity of our opponents," said Dinos Head Coach Wayne Harris. "We knew it would be tight. They have some great receivers and PIcton finds guys and takes advantage of breakdowns. We were able to clean that up a little, and it was a solid effort."
"We know Hunter will be one of our go-to guys this year – tonight he made some critical plays that really swung the momentum toward us."
With the Rams leading 10-6 early in the second quarter, Sinagra found Karl for a 19-yard score to give the Dinos the lead. The Rams responded with a Zack McEachern interception near midfield, and Picton capped off that drive with a 34-yard strike to cousin Mitchell Picton as the Rams went back on top at 17-14 with three minutes left in the half. Calgary responded with a touchdown on their very next drive, with Brendon Thera-Plamondon capping off a 10-play, 76-yard drive with a 5-yard catch as the Dinos took a lead into the half.
It was a lead the Dinos would not relinquish and, just 4:27 into the third quarter, Sinagra fired a dart over the middle to Hunter Karl. The lanky receiver high-stepped his way past several would-be tacklers for a 54-yard touchdown.
The Rams came storming back again, but a 12-yard Robert Stewart TD in the fourth quarter salted it away, and then Karl put the punctuation mark on the win by diving over the pylon after a 17-yard run out of field goal formation.
"I'm just doing what I'm told," laughed Karl. "We are maintaining the 'next man up' mentality from last year, and guys are needing to step up. We're happy, but the job is not done yet. We have a good match-up with Manitoba next week, and we'll have another big test in their barn."
Karl finished with 131 receiving yards to go with his three touchdowns, while Michael Klukas also had a 100-yard night on six catches, including a 44-yarder that set up Karl's first score. Niko DiFonte was perfect in the field goal department, splitting the uprights from 29, 15, and 37 yards, while Jeshrun Antwi picked up 114 rushing yards as the Dinos dominated the ground game.
"We're happy we're 2-0, but we can't be satisfied," said Harris. "There's no rest – we know everyone else will get better, and we need to get better ourselves."
The Dinos and Rams will meet once more this season, Oct. 21 at New Mosaic Stadium in Regina. Up first, the Rams will return home for a pair of contests against Alberta and Manitoba, while the Dinos will travel to Winnipeg next week to face the Bisons at Investors Group Field Saturday.
Photo by David Moll