Dinos Clip T-Birds – Win Hardy Cup

The University of Calgary Dinos are the 2016 Hardy Cup champions after a classic 46-43 victory over the UBC Thunderbirds Saturday, erasing the gridiron ghosts of 2015 and returning to the national playoffs after a two-year absence.

A year after losing 34-26 in the 79th Hardy Cup on home turf to the underdog UBC Thunderbirds, the Dinos jumped out to a big lead early – taking a 36-10 advantage into halftime –  but the Thunderbirds almost pulled off an epic comeback, and in the end it turned out to be the highest-scoring game in Hardy Cup history.

Calgary (8-2) will host the U Sports Mitchell Bowl – a national semifinal – next Saturday as they welcome Atlantic champion St. Francis Xavier to McMahon Stadium. The game will kick off at 2 p.m. local, live nationwide on Sportsnet 360.

“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.

Turnovers were a story all afternoon, with the teams combining for six lost fumbles and a trio of interceptions on the day.

“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.

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.

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.”

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.

SCORING SUMMARY

1st Quarter

CGY – Jeshrun Antwi 8-yard TD run (Niko DiFonte convert), 1:50, 7-0 CGY

CGY – Niko DiFonte 70-yard kickoff single, 1:53, 8-0 CGY

CGY – Dallas Boath 39-yard TD pass from Adam Sinagra (Niko DiFonte convert), 12:51, 15-0 CGY

 

2nd Quarter

UBC – Michael O’Connor 22-yard TD run (Greg Hutchins convert), 1:02, 15-7 CGY

CGY – Jakub Jakoubek 20-yard fumble recovery TD (Niko DiFonte convert), 5:04, 22-7 CGY

UBC – Greg Hutchins 23-yard FG, 8:08, 22-10 CGY

CGY – Whitman Tomusiak 3-yard TD pass from Adam Sinagra (Niko DiFonte convert), 10:13, 29-10 CGY

CGY – Brendon Thera-Plamondon 14-yard TD pass from Adam Sinagra (Niko DiFonte convert), 12:42, 36-10 CGY

 

3rd Quarter

UBC – Team safety, 4:23, 36-12 CGY

UBC – Kory Nagata 1-yard TD run (Greg Hutchins convert), 11:31, 36-19 CGY

UBC – Riley Jones 53-yard interception return TD (Greg Hutchins convert), 13:08, 36-26 CGY

 

4th Quarter

CGY – Niko DiFonte 25-yard FG, 2:13, 39-26 CGY

UBC – Greg Hutchins 13-yard FG, 3:56, 39-29 CGY

UBC – Ben Cummings 1-yard TD run (Greg Hutchins convert), 7:59, 39-36 CGY

CGY – Jeshrun Antwi 4-yard TD run (Niko DiFonte convert), 11:43, 46-36 CGY

UBC – Ben Cummints 2-yard TD run (Greg Hutchins convert), 12:51, 46-43 CGY