Dinos, Mustangs clash in national semi

CALGARY – They’re both undefeated and ready to rekindle a classic rivalry that has been dormant for nearly 20 years.

For the first time in history, the No. 1 Western Mustangs (10-0) will play at McMahon Stadium as they take on the third-ranked Calgary Dinos (10-0) in the Centaur Mitchell Bowl Saturday, with a trip to the Vanier Cup on the line.

Tickets for the Centaur Mitchell Bowl are available now at www.godinos.com/tickets, or at the door on game day at McMahon Stadium.

The Mustangs and Dinos are both led by super sophomores crowned league MVPs as they get set to meet for the first time since the 1995 Vanier Cup, a 54-24 Dinos victory.

Quarterback Will Finch set single-season conference records for passing yards (3,047) and completion percentage (69.7) as Western became the highest-scoring team in OUA history with 458 points in eight contests, the third best tally in CIS annals.

Calgary counters with running back Mercer Timmis, who led CIS in rushing with 1,157 yards and established new Canada West season standards for most all-purpose touchdowns (19) and rushing majors (18), both tops in the nation this fall. He is fresh off a career-best 279 ground yards in the Dinos’ 43-28 defeat of Manitoba in Hardy Cup final.

Finch and Timmis are the faces of two programs that might have achieved success a little quicker than expected in 2013. The Dinos claimed their record sixth straight Hardy Trophy despite losing no less than 15 players to the CFL draft over the last three years, including defensive tackle Linden Gaydosh, the first player selected last spring.  The Mustangs, who hold the all-time record with 12 CIS Bowl wins and rank second behind Saint Mary’s in Final Four appearances (20 vs. 22), started nine second-year players on offence at one point this season.

“It’s a great matchup between two good teams that have a lot in common,” said Western head coach Greg Marshall, whose squad reached the 50-point plateau in seven of eight games in league play, a CIS record, and put on another impressive display in a 51-22 Yates Cup win over Queen’s. “We’re both fairly young teams that have gone through and had outstanding regular seasons and playoffs. Both teams have showed great consistency so it should be a great game.

“It’s been a long time since we last played. We’ve never played in Calgary, and the last time we played was in 1995, but we certainly have a lot of respect for their football program, their coaching staff, and what they do there. We’re looking forward to a great game and a great experience for our players.”

Blake Nill, the Dinos sideline boss, was also very complimentary of his next opponents.

“We are excited to be back in the Mitchell Bowl. Playing Western is a great opportunity for our program – they’re the best team in the country this year, Coach Marshall has done an outstanding job building that team, and we relish the opportunity to learn from this experience. We will prepare as well as we can, and I believe that the experience we will gain will be very beneficial to our program in the near future.

“Our defence has been completely rebuilt for the season based on our graduation and guys that have gone to the pros. We have had moments where we’ve played well and moments where we haven’t, and inconsistency is not uncommon with a team this young. Western will challenge us physically… it’s a unique offence unlike any other we’ve seen, and we will need to be ready for the physicality of that offence.”

Nill, whose troops dominated Manitoba 43-28 in the Canada West final, was quick to point out that Western excels at both ends of the field.

“Their defence is very good as well. Mixed with a lot of senior players and recognized athletes, and they have the best defensive line that we will have seen this year. Again, it’ll be a challenge for us, but one that we have to accept positively and look at this as an opportunity to build our program. That’s how we’re approaching it.”

Photo credit:  David Moll

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