Evan Daum, Canada West Communications
VANCOUVER – For the third consecutive season, the Calgary Dinos and UBC Thunderbirds are headed to the Hardy Cup.
After watching the Dinos down the Alberta Golden Bears 39-22 earlier Saturday in the first Hardy Cup semifinal, UBC squeaked out a 28-21 win against the Regina Rams at Thunderbird Stadium.
With the Canada West semifinal weekend now in the books, the focus shifts to the 81st Hardy Cup, which is slated for Saturday, Nov. 4 at McMahon Stadium in Calgary (1 p.m. MST).
UBC and Calgary's meeting in the conference championship game marks the first time in Canada West history that the same two teams will met for the Hardy Cup in three consecutive seasons.
"Calgary deserves the respect that they've earned. They have our respect and we're going to prepare fully for them. We're going to prepare to win. The last two Hardy Cups between Calgary and UBC have been quite something," said UBC head coach Blake Nill, who will coach in his 10th consecutive Hardy Cup and third with UBC.
Sparked by a pair of majors from Alex Morrison in the first quarter, including his 66-yard touchdown pass from Michael O'Connor to open the scoring just 3:06 into the game, the T-Birds entered the half with a convincing 26-7 lead.
While there wasn't much in the way of positives for Regina in the first half, the second more than made up for it, as the Rams held the T-Birds to just 68 yards of offence in the final 30 minutes after trailing by 19 at the break.
The early deficit didn't deter Regina – who despite watching the Thunderbirds move the ball with ease out of the gate – stepped up in the final 30 minutes to make a game of it.
After posting 234 yards of offence in the opening half, including 220 through the air courtesy O'Connor, the T-Birds came out flat offensively in the second half, mustering just 22 yards of offence in the third quarter.
Regina countered in the third quarter with their first major of the day, as defensive back Frankie Gray came in at the 9:19 mark of the frame, plunging the ball into the end zone to cut the score to 28-14.
As the T-Birds continued to sputter in the second half, Regina made the most of their opportunities, with fourth-year running back Atlee Simon carrying the load.
Following a UBC punt fumble, the Rams earned their second major of the day when Simon showed his breakaway speed, sprinting 46 yards to the end zone to make it 28-21 just 5:17 into the fourth quarter.
The Rams continued to run the ball the rest of the way, as Simon finished the day with 222 yards – 157 of which came in the second half – to lead the way for Regina.
But despite Simon's monster day and a dominant second half overall, Regina couldn't muster enough points, as the T-Birds defence stepped up in the closing moments to end the Rams' season for a second consecutive year after UBC downed Regina 40-34 at Mosaic Stadium last November.
"As a coach you don't want to go through a half like we just did, but we survived it and we're going to be stronger for it," Nill said after the win.
"We deserve a lot of credit for beating them two times in a row, because that's a feat. We're going to remain positive with that and focus on a rematch at the Hardy Cup."
Kickoff for the 81st Hardy Cup is set for 1 p.m. MDT. The game will be the final Canada West Football Showcase game of the season, as fans can catch the game on SaskTel (48/348 HD), TELUS (998/9998 HD), and Bell MTS (1802 HD).
Viewers can also catch the game on Canada West TV – the official streaming home of the conference.