Chris Zuk, Bisons Sports
WINNIPEG – In a game that had a unique weekday afternoon kickoff start time, it seemed like the host Manitoba Bisons did not wake up in time as they let a fourth quarter lead slip away and lost 36-25 to the Alberta Golden Bears in Canada West football action on Friday, September 29 at Investors Group Field in front of 1,000 spectators.
With the road win, Alberta earns their first win of the 2017 campaign and improve to 1-4 record while Manitoba drops into a fifth place tie in CW with an identical 1-4 record after the loss.
After a back-and-forth affair through three quarters, it seemed the home side might have some momentum after a 33 yard run by Bison rookie Somto Anyadike which pushed the lead to 25-16 for the Herd, only just a minute into the fourth.
Instead, the Bears responded with a quick three minute drive that culminated with Ed Ilnicki rumbling in from two yards out to change the game to the visitors' favour.
"Credit to them…they destroyed our momentum after we scored in the fourth," stated Bison starting quarterback Des Catellier – in his second ever start for the Bisons – after the contest. "They out physical us and we weren't making a play when we needed to make one and didn't respond when they scored."
Alberta continued to score. The eventual winning touchdown occurred on the next possession as Brad Baker found Nathan Rowe for a 14 yard strike over a Bison defender halfway through fourth. The Bears salted away the game late with another Baker-Rowe connection from eight yards after Baker avoided the rush and the Golden Bears had scored 20 unanswered points to finish off the win.
"Shocked…hard for our chances in the playoff race," said a dejected Bison football head coach Brian Dobie. "I don't believe we had a constant effort overall with too many bad plays, drop balls, bad penalties. It felt like a steamroller ran over us."
The name of the steamroller was Ed Ilnicki. The elusive back churned up 278 rushing yards on a whopping 44 carries for a 6.3 average on the ground and was the difference maker. The fifth year veteran continues to be the conference rushing leader and it showed as he constantly broke through tackles and made several Bisons miss on numerous runs.
Alberta also had a strong game from Baker who went 24-37 for 288 passing yards and three TDs while Rowe had a game-high 11 catches for 162 receiving yards plus three touchdowns. Ilnicki also contributed 63 receiving yards on five catches for 341 all-purpose yards.
Manitoba was paced by Anyadike with his 68 rush yards on only eight carries while Catellier was 15-31 and 238 yards with 1 TD and 1 interception. Ross ended up with five catches for 51 yards and one touchdown and Dylan Schrot added three catches for 93 receiving yards.
On defence, Tak Landry was leading tackler for the Bears with seven total tackles and the team had three forced fumbles and five break-ups while Bison James Mau had a game-high 9.5 tackles and one break-up in the loss.
Manitoba led 15-13 after scoring twice in the first half when Theo Deezar plunged in from one yard and Shai Ross grabbed a 13 yard pass from Catellier. Alberta scored once in the first 30 minutes when Rowe secured his first score of the game.
For team stats, Alberta led 42-19 in first downs, 595-357 in total offence, forced turnovers 3-0 and time possession was 38:28 to 21:32.
Both teams are on the conference bye and resume action in two weeks as Alberta host Regina while Manitoba travels to #2 Calgary, both games on October 14.