Connor Hood - Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON - Fifth-year Golden Bears running back Ed Ilnicki had one of the best games of his varsity career, breaking out for 196 yards on 22 carries with three touchdowns, but it wasn't enough to top the No. 7 ranked UBC Thunderbirds, who took out the Golden Bears 41-21 Saturday afternoon at Foote Field.
Despite a staggering 266 yards rushing for Alberta, they netted just 360 yards of total offence in the loss. UBC, meanwhile, took advantage of their 36 minutes of possession, churning up 454 yards of offence and 41 points. Michael O'Connor threw for 260 of those yards, hitting Lliam Wishart for his only TD of the afternoon, while completing 22 of his 34 attempts. Alberta's Brad Baker, by comparison, threw for just 98 yards on 6/17 passing, throwing a pair of costly interceptions in the loss.
"We don't have a magic bullet that is going to make things better. We all need to do better than we're doing right now, and it's very disappointing," said Bears head coach Chris Morris. "We had every opportunity to win that game, and we were awful. We can't just be good in a couple of elements in the game and expect to be good in this conference.
"It's a shame, because I thought we had momentum, and we gave it all back to them."
Missing their top running back, backup Kory Nagata put together a solid performance, running for 120 yards and a score for UBC.
Alberta's opening drive may have been their best all season, as a pair of long runs from Baker, along with a 37-yard pass to Tylor Henry set up a 15-yard TD run by Ilnicki.
The Bears, however, couldn't follow the drive up with any sort of momentum, as they were unable to score another point in the first quarter. UBC took advantage of the Bears lapsing offence, capitalizing on a Baker interception and a pair of punts to tie the game with a rouge and a pair of field goals.
Looking to answer back, Ilnicki would find the end-zone for the second time midway through the second quarter, racing through the hole created by his offensive line.
The Golden Bears lead was short-lived, however, as UBC's Will Maxwell took the ensuing kick-off back 96 yards for for a game-tying touchdown. UBC would add a safety and the O'Connor to Wishart TD before the end of the second, taking a 23-14 lead into the locker room.
The Thunderbirds, who had taken complete control of the game at the end of the second, never relinquished it, scoring on their opening drive of the second half, a Nagata one-yard plunge, to take a commanding 30-14 lead. Despite the continued success of Ilnicki on the ground, the Alberta passing game held them back from making a true comeback on Saturday, with numerous drives stalled with incompletions or redzone interceptions.
"There are opportunities to take momentum and take leads and opportunities to start putting doubt in your oppositions mind. Not once this year have we taken advantage of momentum so we can make our opposition doubt that they can beat us," said Morris. "We're letting the pressure off and we let them off the hook. We need to put pressure on them so they start to crumble and every single time we have that chance we short circuit right now."
Ilnicki added his third TD of the game near the end of the third, but his score was quickly answered by a Liam Mahara UBC TD, followed by another Greg Hutchins field goal to seal the win.
Alberta, now 0-4, face a must-win game next week, as they travel to Winnipeg to take on the 1-3 Manitoba Bisons. The 3-1 T-Birds, meanwhile, will head home for a battle against the currently undefeated Calgary Dinos