Len Catling, UBC Athletics
KAMLOOPS, B.C. – The UBC Thunderbirds showed might on offense and defense in the first half a Canada West non-conference game on Wednesday night, jumping out to a 30-0 halftime lead over the Alberta Golden Bears and hanging on to win 33-30. The UBC starters dominated the first stanza of the affair, played at Hillside Stadium in Kamloops, B.C., before giving way to the T-Bird reserves in the second half.
UBC quarterback Michael O'Connor and his potent receiving core were unstoppable in the first half. O'Connor completed 23 of 25 passes for 280 yards and three majors, to go along with one interception.
"My job is simple," explained O'Connor. "I just have to get the ball to my playmakers."
Receivers Trivel Pinto and Will Watson did the bulk of the damage for UBC. Pinto grabbed eight passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns, while Watson caught five balls for 72 yards and one major. Shane Noel scored his first touchdown as a Thunderbird, scampering to the end zone from four yards out.
The UBC defense was also making plays in the first half, led by defensive back Malcom Lee and his two interceptions of Alberta starting quarterback Brad Baker.
"The first one was kind of a gift," admitted Lee. "The second one we had a really good pass rush and forced the quarterback to make a bad mistake."
It was 30-0 UBC by halftime and all the starters were pulled from the game.
The Alberta reserves outgunned their UBC counterparts in the second half, outscoring them 30-3. The quarterbacking of Ben Kopczynski, who threw a 109-yard touchdown to receiver Nathan Rowe, and running back Brad Oyama, who rushed for 60 yards on five carries, propelled the Golden Bears.
The lopsided second half didn't deter UBC head coach Blake Nill, who reasoned the game went exactly as planned.
"We said no matter what the situation is, we're going to take them (starters) out after the first half and that our young kids would cut their teeth," said Nill. "This was the perfect exhibition game from a UBC standpoint."
This was the only non-conference game for both teams in 2017. UBC opens their regular season September 1 on the road in Regina, while Alberta hosts the Calgary Dinos at Foote Field in Edmonton also on September 1.