author: brady lang | sports writer
Team continues winning streak, moves to 4-1
After 27 months of construction, the newest shine in Saskatchewan football is finally completed.
Lucky enough for the University of Regina, the first game was played by the Rams against the Saskatchewan Huskies this past Sunday, with the number four ranked Rams knocking off the unranked Huskies 37-29.
Led by Noah Picton’s four touchdown passes, the Rams were in the driver’s seat from the initial kickoff at new Mosaic Stadium, only trailing the Huskies at one point in the first quarter for a total of seven and a half minutes.
The entire game felt different for both teams. The surroundings of new Mosaic made the 2016 SaskTel Fall Classic all that much more special for every player involved.
The game had a real college atmosphere for guys on the field and fans in the stands. The whole lower bowl was packed at the stadium and the final count was around 16,500 people coming out to the new stadium.
While standing on the sidelines, looking up at the thousands of screaming fans definitely played a factor in the game. The aforementioned Noah Picton commented on the atmosphere following the game.
“[New Mosaic] had a real college atmosphere. It felt like we were playing on a Saturday college football game by what we saw in the stands and in the atmosphere. Growing up here in Saskatchewan and being able to be the first ones out here is really special, and the win made it all that much more special.”
The fans were all wearing green, yet the green and gold outnumbered the Huskies faithful in about a 70-30 split around the stadium. Picton also commented that the fans didn’t really play a huge factor, but they were able to work around it.
“The noise of the fans wasn’t a real factor in the game,” Picton commented, “We were able to work around it. Both [fanbases] are pretty savvy, which made the noise on both sides of the ball manageable, but we still found a way to work it in our favour.”
In talking to fans at the game, there was a definite excitement in the air around new Mosaic Stadium. The open air made the stadium feel a lot more modern and it felt a lot more interesting in the concept of the stadium. Many local venders ran the food around the concourse, with Regina businesses such as Rock Creek, Beer Brothers, and Coney Island Poutine supplying the food and liquor available around the new stadium.
The most interesting part that I saw inside New Mosaic was the addition of “The Terrace.” The Terrace is set in the south endzone and can hold 1500 fans with standing room only, yet it seemed to be a great place for a rowdier crowd moving into games in the upcoming years at Mosaic Stadium. There are six levels on the Terrace, and it looks to be the go-to spot to replace the famed “Section 28,” the University Section.
Prior to the game, fans were treated to the coin toss by Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, followed by a flyover by the Snowbirds of 15 Wing in Moose Jaw. The game was decided by the defensive units of both clubs, even though the score did not reflect the play on the field.
The focus for the Rams now turns to the bye week, and Rams fifth-year linebacker Joey Dwyer says they need to now focus on getting their injured players back on the field.
“Hopefully, we can get healthy and use the bye week to get there,” says Dwyer. “We have a lot of injured guys out for us right now, and after that our focus is onto a home playoff game, if now a home game for the Hardy Cup.”
After a rough 0-8 season in 2015 season, the playoffs looked like a long shot for a team coming in with their third head coach in just four years here at the U of R. Now, the team is moving into their one bye week in a pretty comfortable situation.
Tied for top spot in the Canada West Conference, only the top four teams are able to get a shot at the post season. With four wins already posted on the year, the Rams – barring a momentous collapse – are all but set moving into November football.
The Rams will finish off the 2016 season with a trip to Alberta (0-5) to take on the Golden Bears, back at home against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds (3-2), and finally back out to Winnipeg to take on the Manitoba Bisons (2-3) in the final week of the CIS season.
Rams QB Noah Picton went 29-42 with 370 yards passing, with four touchdowns and two interceptions in the win. Picton was also sacked twice…RB Atlee Simon ran for 114 yards on 23 carries with no touchdowns, while catching another 39 yards in the air on two receptions…Leading the way in receiving was second-year slotback Ryan Schienbein. Schienbein caught the first touchdown at the new Mosaic Stadium and followed up with another TD catch to go along with his 189 yards receiving in the win. Mitch Picton caught the other two touchdowns for the Rams to go along with 85 yards receiving on the day with seven catches.
On defense, third-year LB Danny Nesbitt led the way with two key interceptions, while Jeff Propp also intercepted Saskatchewan Huskies QB Kyle Siemens…Rams first year defensive lineman Nicholas Dheilly registered Regina’s only sack on the day and lead the team with ten total tackles, fourth-year linebacker Michael Stefanovic also registered seven total tackles for the day for the green and gold.
The Rams are back at home on Oct. 21 when they take on the UBC Thunderbirds at 7 p.m. at Old Mosaic Stadium. They play in Edmonton on Oct. 15 at 1 p.m., following this week’s bye.