PREVIEW (Canada West – Hardy Cup): Bisons travel to Calgary for Final

This is the second consecutive season both teams meet in the conference final and this season, the season series is tied at 1-1

Coming off a 19 point second half deficit, the Manitoba Bisons rallied for a 47-39 playoff football road win against #8 Saskatchewan Huskies in the Canada West Semi-Final on Friday, November 7 and advanced to the conference final. 

For the second consecutive season, the Bisons (regular season: 4-4; playoffs: 1-0) will travel to play the #4 Calgary Dinos (regular season: 6-2; playoffs: 1-0) in the Canada West Final. Kickoff will be at 3 p.m. CT on Saturday, November 15. The game will be shown on live webcast at website plus on SHAW TV across Western Canada. 

This is the third meeting of this season between the teams as Manitoba lost a close 42-41 result at Calgary on Sept. 26 then snapped a ten game conference losing streak against the Dinos by clinching a playoff spot with a 50-31 home win on Nov. 1 in week eight.

It is also the third consecutive season they have played against each other in the post-season. Last season, the Dinos won 43-28 at Calgary in the Canada West Final and in 2012, Calgary won at home by a 57-18 score in the conference semi-final.

During Bison football head coach Brian Dobie 19 years at the helm at Manitoba, the Bisons have won two playoff game over the Dinos as they are 2-2 but have never won a playoff game at Calgary. In the previous 18 years, the four playoff meetings were split at Calgary (Canada West Semi-Final: 2012; Canada West Final: 2013) and at Manitoba (Canada West Semi-Final: 2001, 2007). Overall, the Bisons met Cgy. in one other post-season meetings in 1985 as Manitoba lost in the Hardy Cup at Calgary by a 52-13 score.

At stake in the playoff game is advancing to the CIS Semi-Final (Uteck Bowl) next weekend. The winner of the Hardy Cup game will travel to the Uteck Bowl in Quebec  versus the RSEQ champion (either #2 Montreal or #1 Laval) on Saturday, November 22 at 11:30 a.m. CT.

Bison Football Notes: Manitoba has won ten Hardy Cup titles – Canada West Championship (previous winners in: 1923, 1924, 1927, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1973, 2001, 2007).

Source: Chris Zuk, Manitoba Bisons Sports Information

Bisons vs Dinos 2014 Hardy Cup 1

CALGARY –  For the sixth time in seven years, the Canada West football season will come to a close at McMahon Stadium Saturday as the University of Calgary Dinos look for a seventh consecutive conference title when they host the Manitoba Bisons.

Kickoff of the 78th Hardy Cup goes at 2 p.m. MT, live on Shaw TV and

The winner will advance to the CIS Uteck Bowl, hosted by the RSEQ champion and be just a road win away from an appearance in the 50th TELUS Vanier Cup Nov. 29 at Percival Molson Stadium in Montreal. The Hardy Cup will be the last of the three conference championship games played across the nation Saturday, with Montreal heading to Laval in the Dunsmore Cup while McMaster hosts Guelph in the Yates Cup.

It’s a rematch of last year’s championship game, which the Dinos won 43-28 – and for the Dinos, a chance at redemption after the Bisons were the only team to beat them on the field in regular season play – a 50-31 loss on the final day of conference competition. And by all accounts, Manitoba should probably have won both games they played against the Dinos in 2014, with Calgary squeaking by with a 42-41 win at McMahon on Sept. 26 after the Bisons missed the game-winning field goal.

The two teams took vastly different paths to reach this game: Calgary had the luxury of playing at home and dispatched the Regina Rams with ease and a 56-0 score, while the Bisons had to mount an epic second-half comeback on the road to win their semi-final contest against Saskatchewan, 47-39.

It’s November in Calgary, and that means weather could be a factor – and the running game could take on added importance. It’s a strength of the Calgary offence, with the Dinos setting a team record for rushing yards this year, largely thanks to the emergence of Buckley as a run threat and the return of 2013 conference MVP Mercer Timmis – but the Bisons will counter with Kienan LaFrance, who finished just behind Timmis for the rushing lead in the conference this season.

For the Dinos, it’s a chance to extend their unprecedented run of success in the conference with a seventh straight banner, while the Bisons – the last non-Calgary team to capture the Hardy Cup – will look to reclaim it after last winning in 2007 on their way to a Vanier Cup title.

Here’s a look at the two teams:

No. 4 Calgary Dinos (7-2)

Last week: defeated Regina 56-0

After the Bisons brought them back to earth on Week 8 of the season, the Dinos regrouped and put forward one of their best end-to-end performances in years with a 56-0 shutout of the Regina Rams in last week. Conference MVP Andrew Buckley had a sparkling performance, earning offensive player-of-the-week honours with his 404 passing yards and 56 rushing yards in just over two quarters’ work. The offence clicked, as it had done all year – but it was the defence that really stepped up, keeping the Rams off the scoreboard even though Regina’s offence had moved the ball more than any team other than Calgary in the regular season.

Elie Bouka and Adam Laurensse, both named Canada West all-stars this week, had two interceptions each, while the defence held the Rams  under 300 yards. For Calgary to be successful, they’ll need to bring their ‘A’ game yet again in the Hardy Cup against a Manitoba team that has all kinds of veteran talent and can score in bunches – as the Saskatchewan Huskies found out last Friday night.

Protecting the ball will be key for the Dinos as well, as turnovers plagued them in Winnipeg two weeks ago.

Manitoba Bisons (5-4)

Last week: defeated Saskatchewan 47-39

Last Friday night in Saskatoon, the Bisons finally got over the hump and won a game on the road this season – and it couldn’t have come at a better time. With their 47-39 come-from-behind win over Saskatchewan, Manitoba qualified for the Hardy Cup for a second straight year and served notice that the road woes that plagued them throughout the season – the Bisons went 0-4 in conference play away from Winnipeg – might just be behind them.

With a veteran offence directed by fifth-year QB Jordan Yantz and featuring Nic Demski, maybe the most electric player in CIS, the Bisons have turned on the jets – and reached deep into the playbook – in the last two weeks. Against the Dinos, it was a first-play pass by Demski that set up a game-opening score for the Bisons to set the tone; in Saskatoon last week, it was Demski passing to Yantz in the end zone in a role-reversing touchdown that clinched victory for the Bisons.

In both games, the Bisons decisively won the turnover battle and brought all kinds of pressure on special teams. In the last two games, Jayden McCoy has blocked three punts, all of which have been returned for touchdowns and been key momentum switchers. Manitoba ended up with two fumble recoveries and four interceptions last week against Saskatchewan, including the win-sealing 98-yard return by Jordan Linnen that snuffed out the Huskies’ game-winning drive and set up the Demski-to-Yantz insurance TD.

All-time, the Bisons are 2-3 against the Dinos in the playoffs, with their last win coming in that 2007 Vanier Cup season in the semi-final. In the previous five postseason games between the two teams, the home team has won each time – including the 2012 semi-final and the 2013 Hardy Cup, both in Calgary.

Source:  Ben Matchett, Calgary Dinos Sports Information

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