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Converted slotback Zach Olyenik throws four touchdown passes as Rams beat Alberta 38-14

Autumn McDowell
Sports Editor

It is hard to believe how much can change in a matter of weeks. After being ranked first in a Canada West pre-season coaches poll and earning their first exhibition win of the season, four weeks later the University of Regina Rams had yet to earn a single point in the standings.

Coming into the season, no one thought that the Rams would be sitting 0-3 after their first three games of the season, but even though they were highly-touted coming into the season, nothing is certain in football.

The Rams were in action on Sept. 24, as they made the trip to take on the Alberta Golden Bears, the only other team in Canada West without a win on their resume. The Rams were expected to start true-rookie Frankie Gray for the second-consecutive game, but the team decided to keep their trend going of starting a different quarterback in every game.

Zach Olyenik was awarded the start for the clash against Alberta. Although Olyenik played quarterback in high school, the second-year Ram has been listed as a slotback during his university career. Olyenik played all eight games as a rookie for the Rams last season, catching three passes for 27 yards during the regular season and adding another three catches for 13 yards in the playoffs.

As it turns out, he didn’t look so bad as the one throwing the ball. Olyenik completed 14 of his 23 pass attempts for 254 yards and four touchdowns as Regina earned a convincing 38-14 victory in the battle of winless teams.

Right from the opening quarter, it appeared Olyenik was the right choice to be in the pocket. The Rams took the lead for the first time in a long time after Olyenik was able to find Mark McConkey for a four-yard strike in the end zone, capping a 95-yard drive.

The Golden Bears and Rams traded interceptions midway through the second quarter as Jamir “Mr. Interception” Walker went to work.

Olyenik seemed to have instant chemistry with both McConkey and Jared Janotta. After connecting with McConkey in the first, Olyenik got another touchdown on the board after connecting with Janotta on a 27-yard pass, thus giving the Rams some breathing room for the first time this season as they lead 14-0.     

“Mr. Interception” registered his second pick of the game at the trail end of the second. The Rams took advantage of the pick, as Olyenik was able to hit Janotta in the end zone once again off a 17-yard pass, putting the Rams up by three touchdowns. The 21 points that Regina posted in the first half matched its point total on the season thus far.

Alberta was able to put its first points on the board as talented running back K.K. Sonuga was able to scamper 14 yards.

Although the Golden Bears would score one more major after quarterback Julian Marchand connected with Brad Quartel on a 17-yard pass, the rest of the game was filled with Rams highlights.

Rams running back Adrian Charles, who had 22 rushes for 165 yards, capped off an incredible performance with 10-yard run for his first touchdown of the season after the Rams took advantage of an Alberta turnover in the third.

On route to the Rams first win of the season, Walker became the U of R career leader in interceptions with 11, taking the spot from Steve Ryan, and thus solidifying his nickname of “Mr. Interception”.

Olyenik registered his fourth touchdown pass of the game when he lobbed a 25-yard pass up for Brendan Owens, who was able to add six more points to the Rams ever-growing lead.

Chris Bodnar capped off a stellar game personally when he put a 33-yard field goal through the uprights late in the game, making the final score 38-14 in favour of the Rams.

It is hard to say what caused the Rams to turn it around for this game. It could be because they knew that Alberta was an opponent not up to par and, if they were going to get at least one win this season, this would be the game.

Gray and Olyenik shared duties at quarterback, with Olyenik getting most of the playing time. The duo compliments each other extremely well – Oleynik is not afraid to air it out and Gray is an incredibly mobile quarterback. Together, they make up a devastating quarterback.

Regina didn’t live up to its reputation as being the most penalized team in the conference and second-most in the country. In fact, it remained quite composed throughout the game, registering 11 penalties for 97 yards.

However, another reason could be that this week the team finally learned the fate of starting quarterback Marc Mueller. He announced on Sept. 20 that he would not be returning to action this season. At least the team knew either way, as being in limbo with the health of the star quarterback seemed to be slowly killing the morale on the team.

The Rams, who currently sit fifth in Canada West with a 1-3 record, are scheduled to play Friday at 7 p.m. when they take on the third-place Manitoba Bisons (2-2) at Mosaic Stadium.

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