Celebrations in order for the Rams as season closes

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Bah, bah, black sheep, have you any Canada West recognitions? CIkker-Free-Vector-Images via Pixabay, manipulated by Lee Lim

Our football team sees much acclaim from Canada West as UBC ousts them from the playoffs

The Rams started pre-season with a loss to Alberta, 34-11. Although the Rams lost to Alberta, many on the team felt confident going into their first regular season game against Manitoba as the team got to see their rookies shine going into the season. Rams receiver Matt Rivers says that the team was “excited that a bunch of our rookies got the opportunity to do stuff and showcase.” When asked about the team’s mindset going into the season, Rivers said that “we were confident. We had the confidence that we had the players to make it to the Vanier [Cup].” The Rams would then go on to win their first regular season game against the Bisons 33-23.

The 2022-2023 season for the Rams was shaping up to be a strong one, as they would go onto win five out of eight games. The game that would give the Rams the highest confidence going into playoffs was their game against Calgary in week seven when they won 30-7. When asked about what win this season was the most memorable or impactful, Rivers said, “I’d say it was that game against Calgary because our offence started scoring and I remember some-30 points, and it felt like everything was starting to click.”

The Rams’ defence was playing extremely well all season, but the offence was having difficulties scoring points. The win against Calgary with a 23-point margin gave the Rams even more confidence going into the playoffs. It meant that they could count on their offence to get the job done just like the defence had been doing all season. However, their toughest competitor would end up being the University of Saskatchewan where the Rams would go on to lose two really close games against the Huskies.

However, after each loss the Rams would bounce back, winning their next game in great fashion. When asked what the biggest challenge for this season was for the Rams, Rivers expressed that their biggest challenge was themselves; that when practice was low energy, they knew that they needed to do better if they wanted to achieve their goals for the season. He also acknowledged that the Rams’ head coach Mark McConkey and assistant head coach Jeff Stusek played a big role in making sure that the team was locked in during practice, ensuring that the energy levels were high.

The ability for a team to remain confident while holding their teammates accountable on and off the field showcases the strong team culture that the Rams had throughout preseason and all the way through to the playoffs. Rivers felt that the Rams “were pretty tight as a team. Which, when you go on the field, it’s like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna fight for my brothers’ type of thing.” It meant that everyone took ownership of what was expected of them on and off of the field, whether that was in the weight room or learning the team playbook, contributing to their successful season this year.

Rams kicker Aldo Galvan also added that “we had been working with coach McConkey since 2020, during the pandemic, and it was all about culture.” He also cited that McConkey brings in a lot of guest speakers, such as former Rams players who tell stories about their time on the team and what that time in their life meant to them. The history of the Rams is vital to the Rams team culture, as it is important to highlight the past players who have donned the jersey for the Rams. Rams alumni hold a special place within the team culture as many Rams alumni continue to give back to the team in a multitude of ways, whether through donations or by attending Rams home games.

When asked about the support of the Rams alumni, Rivers said “It gives me a sense of pride. I’m also playing for those who did their time as a Ram. They don’t have to help out, but they do because they love the program.” The strong continued support of Rams alumni throughout the years has helped the team to remain focused and confident on winning the Vanier Cup. The support of Rams alumni should not go unnoticed. When asked about what being a Ram means to him, Galvan stated “I came all the way from Mexico, I didn’t have any idea about Regina. I got the offer here and they accepted me right away. They were the only university in Canada that trusted me and my abilities.”

This year, the Rams made the Canada West playoffs for the first time since 2017. The Rams hosted the UBC Thunderbirds at Mosaic Stadium on October 29, which saw a forecast of rain and snow during the game. During the regular season, the Rams beat UBC 21-13. However, the Rams knew that UBC could improve, as Rivers stated “UBC is typically a team that gets better throughout the season.”

The game was pretty even going into the second quarter. The Rams took the lead with two minutes left in the second quarter when Rams’ defensive back Donovin Small blocked a punt and recovered the ball for a 58-yard run to score a touchdown. The Rams would lead the game 14-12 going into halftime. However, after a safety in the third quarter and two UBC touchdowns in the fourth, the Thunderbirds would go on to beat the Rams 28-14.

Although the Rams couldn’t capitalize on their opportunities, the stats show a relatively even-matched game. The Rams had 237 total yards with 147 passing and 135 rushing yards, while the Thunderbirds had 292 total yards with 176 passing and 130 rushing yards. Both teams were pretty even in first down attempts, with the Thunderbirds having 17 and the Rams having 16. Although the loss to UBC is a devastating way to end a season, it is important that the Rams use this experience for growth and to get better for next season so they can take advantage when the next opportunity arises.

It is also important to highlight that five Rams players were chosen as Canada West Defensive All-Stars: Ryder Varga, Tanner Schmekel, Anthony Bennett, Jackson Sombach, and Jaxon Ford. Also, Canada West Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year went to Rams linebacker Ryder Varga, and Canada West Coach of the Year went to Rams head coach Mark McConkey. These awards showcase the hard work that the Rams put in this season and the payoff their dedication had in ensuring that their season was successful.

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