They say defence is what wins championships.
Some 40-odd members of the Calgary Dinos’ football squad would heartily agree.
Up against the most dynamic offensive player in Canada West this season, the Calgary D did bend but ultimately did not break.
D, in this case, for dominant, giving up the second fewest points ever in a Hardy Cup.
Holding running back Adam Machart to 112 yards, well short of his seasonal average of 166.3, the Dinos came alive themselves offensively in the second half to post a 29-4 victory over the Saskatchewan Huskies for their 18th Hardy Cup trophy.
The Canada West champs now host the U SPORTS Mitchell Bowl next weekend (Saturday, Nov. 16 at 1 p.m. MST), with McMaster Mauaders coming west on the heels of their upset win over top-ranked Western. The Mitchell Bowl victor heads to Quebec City to battle for the Vanier Cup.
A chilly day at McMahon Stadium, thankfully the field wasn’t hampered by snow as light flurries began in the fourth quarter. Conditions notwithstanding, Calgary defenders allowed a total of 295 yards, all the while collecting three sacks, intercepting one throw by Mason Nyhus and stopping the Huskies on a third-down conversion.
The Dinos were not going to have happen this year what happened last: a Huskies’ running back (Tyler Chow) decimating them (222 yards).
“We feel great. We had a plan and we did that plan,” suggested second-year defensive lineman Tyrese Best, who notched one of those sacks. “We knew we were capable of it.
“Honestly, when we’re all healthy and we’re keeping the penalties limited, we’re the best defence in the country. This group, we work so well together and we have fun. You see that on the field.”
“Just trying to limit their rushing game to as little as possible and that was really the key,” pointed out Calgary head coach Wayne Harris Jr. “Keeping him on the sidelines and their offence on the sidelines was important.”
Machart carried the ball 16 times, his longest gain a 28-yarder. But when the Huskies fell behind, they had to move away from their bread-and-butter in order to get some points fast.
“It’s a story of missed opportunities by us in the first half,” sighed Huskies’ head coach Scott Flory. “We just couldn’t find any traction offensively in the second half. Those are two good football teams out there; they just made more plays than we did at the end of the day.
“Maybe we didn’t establish (the run) enough early on. We didn’t execute to the level that we normally did. Hey, man, that’s football.”
Heading into this game, number 20 was probably the focal point of much of the video work.
“Just be physical, just grind,” Best said of their plan on how to deal with Machart. “Just line-up and smash the guy in front of you. That was the game plan. Out-physical them.”
“We had to be hard-nosed,” threw in defensive back Deane Leonard, who had 5.5 tackles. “We had to be tough all game. We did a really good job of being behind each other. We knew we wouldn’t let them beat us with their best weapon so we took away the run game first and they had to beat us some other way.”
Linebacker Grant McDonald led the Dinos with nine tackles.
Nyhus was at times pressured into hurried passes by the Calgary D-line, though he did hook up nicely with Jesse Kuntz six times for 125 yards. But when it came to cashing in, the Saskatchewan offence was stymied time and time again.
The Huskies’ defence, too, was stout in the first half, but Calgary was able to use a multi-pronged attack to get into gear in the third. Robinson Rodrigues rushed for 92 yards, Adam Sinagra threw for 197 and Josiah Joseph – into the game in the third quarter for the injured Sinagra – was 9-for-10 for 95 yards and scored two touchdowns.
“This season we’ve battled the entire time, nothing’s come easy,” admitted Leonard. “So coming back on our home field and having a game like this, such high intensity, it’s a special moment for all of us.”
“I’ve never really won anything before,” claimed Subomi Oyesorro, a second-year linebacker, who pitched in with five tackles. “So coming to a winning team, I can’t even fathom it. I’m so excited.
“Just had to fill our gaps, stay disciplined. That’s all that mattered. After you make a big play, it just builds and builds. It heats up the whole defence. We have the mental state.”
They’ll need to retain that mental state next Saturday against the Marauders.
“I’m so excited to host these guys,” grinned Oyesorro. “Have to keep our mindset and … we got it.”
“It’s going to be my first Mitchell Bowl and I’m super excited,” added Best. “ This is our year.”