The Rams season comes to a close
The U of R Rams made the trip to Calgary to battle for the Hardy Cup on Nov. 10 after disposing of their provincial rivals, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, one week earlier.
It would be their first trip to the Canada West final in five years, and for many on the team, their first trip ever.
Having won four straight Canada West titles, it was a different story for the Rams Hardy Cup opponents, the University of Calgary Dinos.
“They have more experience than us because they’ve been to the Vanier Cup, and they’ve come out of the west a couple years in a row now,” said fifth-year Rams defensive back Jamir Walker before the game. “We’re probably the underdogs because of their record, but we don’t care about that kind of stuff. Our coaches have prepared us well for this game, so we’ll be fine.”
In terms of what that preparation entailed, head coach Frank McCrystal said it didn’t differ much from any other game.
“It doesn’t matter whether this is the Hardy Cup or whether it’s the first game of the season,” he said. “You have to prepare and do what you can do based on what you know about your team and your opponent.”
And what they know about the Dinos is that they’re big, tough and experienced.
“You’ve just got to match their intensity,” said Rams quarterback, Marc Mueller. “Playoff games come down to who’s more physical and who makes the big plays.”
“That’s just the nature of sport and competition. When you choose to compete, that’s part of the deal. There’s only one guy who’s really happy at the end.” – Frank McCrystal
Unfortunately for the Rams, it was a few big plays from Dinos running back Steven Lumbala that would prove to be their undoing on a frigid Calgary evening in November.
The fourth-year Calgary RB netted 251 yards on 22 carries in a 38-14 Dinos win.
But the lopsided final score isn’t representative of a game that was very close for three-and-a-half quarters of football.
The Rams defence held strong against a relentless Calgary offense until Mueller and the Rams started to find a groove of their own.
A third-quarter Rams drive was punctuated by big catches from slotback, Landon Buch – who came up big for the Rams for the second game in a row.
Buch finished off the drive himself as short-yardage QB, giving the Rams a 14-11 lead with eight minutes left in the third quarter.
But losing the lead for the first time did not sit well with the Dinos.
A few possessions later, Lumbala shifted the momentum back in Calgary’s favour with a pair of huge runs resulting in a Dinos touchdown, and the reigning Canada West champions would not look back from there, scoring 27 unanswered points en route to their fifth straight Hardy Cup victory.
For the Rams, it’s a disappointing end to a season that showed a lot of promise, and a lot of success.
“We’ve done very well,” McCrystal said, citing a U of R record, 10 Canada West all-star nominations and a pair of prestigious individual nominations for offensive lineman, Brett Jones.
Jones was nominated for the J.P. Metras Trophy and the Russ Jackson Award, which recognize the top lineman and the top student athlete in the CIS, respectively.
The team also earned some well-deserved national exposure through the Hardy Cup game, which was broadcast nationwide on TSN.
In the end, the minor victories are little consolation for a team that feels it had what it takes to go the distance.
But as McCrystal pointed out, there’s only room for one team at the top.
“That’s just the nature of sport and competition,” he said. “When you choose to compete, that’s part of the deal. There’s only one guy who’s really happy at the end.”
Photo courtesy Tenielle Bogdan