author: brady lang | sports writer
Squad look to break into CIS Top Ten
BREAKING: The Rams are for real again, and they’re good.
After winning their first game in 21 months, the Rams beat UBC again this week to start the season 2-1. This is also the first time that the Rams have had a two-game winning streak since Nov. 2014.
This week was different, though. Instead of winning by leaning on the offense, the Rams defense came up extremely strong to win this game. This was the second straight week that the Rams downed a top-ten opponent, so expect the Rams to be ranked among the best this next week. [UPDATE: they are now ranked 9th]
They’re very close to actually being 3-0, but an overtime loss to the Saskatchewan Huskies deterred their record to 2-1. Regardless of this, the Rams are back to respectability. After a dismal 2015 season, we missed the signs that the players have been showing since day one of training camp this season.
If you’ve noticed, my last few articles have been leaning on the Rams return back to respectability.
Earlier this year, third-year running back Atlee Simon categorized the team’s chances.
“Feeling optimistic. I think we have a lot of potential and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish.”
Well, they’re proving every doubter wrong this season. Coach Bryce has instilled a winning mentality that has shown to be true from day one.
Instilling the brotherhood and the winning attitude is exactly what the doctor ordered for this Rams squad. Last season, the team seemed distant and we saw players and coaches breaking down on each other, but this season has been different. So the entire team has changed in that respect.
Instead of working against one another, the squad now seems to be ready to win, and win a lot. A top-ten ranking this week, that is bound to happen, is what the Rams need. After becoming the team in the past that seemed to roll over at every chance, the Rams have come full circle and are now respectable around CanWest, and, in turn, also the CIS.
The team now will switch their focus to the Calgary Dinos, who are coming off a 20-19 thrilling win over the Saskatchewan Huskies. This shouldn’t faze the group, considering they’ve downed an eighth- and sixth-ranked team, respectively, in the past two weeks.
In all honesty, the most credit should be given to the man on the sidelines. The coaching staff has been superb, to say the least, so far this season. When I was able to sit down with Noah Picton last week, there was so much praise for coach Bryce and offensive coordinator Mark McConkey, that you could tell that there was a culture shift here with the Rams.
The Rams stars also haven’t had to shine as brightly as they have in in the past. Noah Picton has been a workhorse for the club, but at the same time, you can see a cohesive shift in the way the team runs. For example, a couple of weeks ago, the Rams knocked off Manitoba at home without their offensive horse in Atlee Simon. Blake Anaka stepped in in a huge way, putting 79 yards down on the ground in a huge win.
Noah Picton’s offense has also been something to tip your hat to. Picton has now put up 1248 yards passing through the first three games of the season. In eight games last season, Picton put up 2134 yards through the air. He is on pace to shatter Teale Orban’s record of 2616 yards (2006) with 3328. Picton’s 10 touchdowns so far on the season is also on pace to set a school record, 27, one more than Orban’s record.
So as we continue on with the season, what should we expect from the group? A 7-1 record? Or a record sitting at or around 5 wins? I think the latter of the two would be more attainable, but they’ve shocked the CanWest, so really anything is attainable for this squad.
When asking Atlee Simon on his thoughts on the start, the motivation to continue to win is what’s fueling their fire moving forward.
“I think the biggest difference is just being excited to get to work every day,” Simon said. “When you’re losing, it is harder to get motivated, but when we’re winning it’s easier to look forward to the next opponent. It was a big confidence boost going into Calgary week. We’re trying to look at every team the same, just taking one game at a time.”
So, here we go, the Rams are finally back and football – at least for one team – looks promising in Saskatchewan again. The Rams are back in action this week against Calgary at 7 p.m. on Friday at Mosaic. Come on out and cheer this team on, U of R. Get ready for the Rams to impress; they’re back!