PREVIEW (Canada West SEMIS): Dinos, Rams to face off (VIDEO)

Dinos, Rams face off in conference semi-final

CALGARY – For the fifth time in seven years, the University of Calgary Dinos will take on the University of Regina Rams in a playoff contest at McMahon Stadium Saturday afternoon.

Kickoff of the second of two Canada West semi-finals goes at 3 p.m. Saturday, live on Shaw TV and CanadaWest.tv. Please note that playoff ticket prices will be in effect.

No two teams in Canada West have met as often in the postseason as the Dinos and Rams of late, with previous meetings coming in the semi-finals of 2008, 2010, and 2011, along with their most recent playoff meeting in the 2012 Hardy Cup. All four previous encounters were home wins by the Dinos, and they’ll look to make it five in a row and host the 78th Hardy Cup with a victory on Saturday.

Under retiring head coach Frank McCrystal, the Rams were the last – and, still, the only – Canada West team to have won a playoff game at McMahon Stadium. And they did it twice, back in 2000 and 2002. Other than those two, the Dinos are unbeaten at home in the Canada West playoffs in the remaining 17 games they’ve played. Overall, Calgary is 21-3 at home in the postseason and have lost just three of their last 44 games on home turf – one of which was the Week 1 forfeit loss to Alberta this year.

The Dinos come into this one fresh off their lone on-field loss of the season, a 50-31 setback at Manitoba last week, while Regina beat those same Bisons in Week 7, then knocked off Alberta last week to qualify for the playoffs with the fourth and final berth. Calgary and Regina met just once in the regular season, a 59-7 Dinos win on Oct. 4 at McMahon.

Should the Dinos win, they’ll host the 78th Hardy Cup for the sixth time in seven years next Saturday, while a Regina win would send the Rams on the road to the winner of Friday’s Saskatchewan-Manitoba game for the conference final.

Here’s a look at the two teams:

No. 4 Calgary Dinos (6-2)

Last week: lost 50-31 to Manitoba

A 50-31 loss at Manitoba last week was certainly not the Dinos’ best effort of the season, and as a result they dropped from the No. 2 position they’ve held all year in the national rankings down to No. 4. Despite the setback, however, the Dinos still remain the force of Canada West: they averaged 110 yards and 26 points per game more than anyone else in the league, and they’ll enjoy home field advantage through the Hardy Cup.

Though they were the better team statistically in Winnipeg last week, the Dinos lost thanks to some big plays by the Bisons. Twice Calgary gave up blocked punts that resulted in touchdowns, while 75 of Manitoba’s 280 offensive yards came on one over-the-top pass to Nic Demski. All three plays were big momentum shifts in the game, and the Dinos were unable to gain any sustained pressure of their own. All that said, it was a season to remember for the Dinos: they set new school single-season records in points (419), touchdowns (51), rushing yards (2,545), and total offence (5,082). They led the nation in scoring, finished second in yards per game, and outscored their opponents by an average of 30 points per game.

Defensively, the Dinos were solid as well, leading the conference in points allowed, rushing and passing yards allowed, and total yards – but that defence will face a stiff test in a potent Regina offence that finished second overall to Calgary in the regular season and averaged nearly 400 passing yards.

It’s win-or-go-home time – and the Dinos will be looking for a significantly better effort across the board against Regina as they look to defend their six consecutive Hardy Cup titles.

Regina Rams (3-5)

Last week: defeated Alberta 35-31

The Rams clinched their playoff spot with a four-point home win over Alberta last week, giving them the tiebreaker over the Golden Bears (both 3-5) by just two points in the for-and-against calculation. It vaulted Regina back into the playoffs after a one-year absence, sending them right back to the site of their last postseason contest: a 38-14 loss to the Dinos in the 2012 Hardy Cup at McMahon Stadium.

Freshman quarterback Noah Picton has been a revelation for the Rams, who come into Saturday’s game on a two-game win streak after knocking off both Manitoba and Alberta at Mosaic Stadium to capture the final playoff spot. Picton, the reigning offensive player of the week in Canada West, started just five of Regina’s eight games, yet still finished atop the leaderboard in passing yards per game. In games he started, the Regina native tossed for more than 400 yards twice and averaged 316 yards through the air. Unsurprisingly, his Rams teammates Addison Richards and Jared Janotta finished 1-2 in receiving in Canada West this year.

Defensively, linebacker Michael Stefanovic led Regina with 39.5 tackles on the year, with secondary teammate Patrick MacDonald just behind him with 38 tackles. Both cracked the Canada West top 10 in their respective categories.

 

Photo credit: David Moll

Source: Ben Matchett, Calgary Dinos Sports Information

DInos versus Rams 2014 Canada West Semis 2
Rams, No.4 Dinos to clash in conference semi-finals
KICKOFF: Saturday, Nov. 8 (3:00 p.m. MST)
SITE: McMahon Stadium (Calgary, Alta.)
CAPACITY: 37,317
RANKINGS: Regina NR, Calgary #4
TELEVISION: Canada West Football on Shaw (Jim Mullin/PxP, Jesse Lumsden/CC) – broadcast in Regina on Access7
REGINA RADIO: RM2 (Mitchell Blair/PxP, Marco Ricci/CC) – 620CKRM.com
LIVE VIDEO: www.canadawest.tv
QUICK NOTES
• The Rams made a late push to qualify for the playoffs, winning back-to-back games over Alberta and Manitoba to lock down fourth place in Canada West
• It’s a familiar postseason opponent for the Rams, who will face the Dinos in the playoffs for the fourth time in the past five seasons
• The winner of this game will advance to the Hardy Cup (Nov. 8) against the winner of the Manitoba/Saskatchewan semi
• The road to the Vanier Cup will have the Canada West champion travel to face the RSEQ champion in the Uteck bowl
BACK-TO-BACK: QB Noah Picton was named the CIS Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday, marking the second consecutive week that the award has gone to a Rams rookie after RB Atlee Simon was the recipient after the Week 7 win. Picton was brilliant in the U of R’s 35-31 win over Alberta, as his 467 passing yards are the fourth-highest single-game total in the Rams’ history at the CIS level.
PICTON BREAKS CANADA WEST ROOKIE RECORD: Picton’s huge game on Saturday also gave him an impressive distinction – he finishes the Canada West schedule with 2029 passing yards to become the first rookie quarterback in conference history ever to throw for more than 2000. The previous record was held by former Calgary QB Dalin Tollestrup, who had 1941 passing yards back during the 2006 season.
SIMON BREAKS THROUGH: Since becoming the Rams’ starter following the bye week, rookie RB Atlee Simon has accumulated 380 rushing yards and seven touchdown runs in three games. He’s had three touchdown rushes in two consecutive weeks, both times equalling the school single-game record of three originally set by Cory Olynick back during the 2002 season. Despite not becoming the Rams’ feature back until Week 6, Simon still finished the conference schedule ranked fourth in Canada West in both rushing yards (524) and touchdown runs (7).
ONE-TWO PUNCH: Addison Richards and Jared Janotta finished as Canada West’s top two receivers, as Richards led the conference in receptions (55) and the entire CIS in receiving yards (916) while Janotta was second in the conference in both categories with 52 catches for 826 yards. Both receivers have numbers that place them among the best in school history, as Richards broke Chad Goldie’s single-season receptions record (54 in 2007) and finished just seven yards shy of Chris Bauman’s receiving yards record (923 in 2006). Janotta’s 52 receptions and 826 receiving yards both rank third in University of Regina single-season history.
STEADY ON THE LINE: After a 2013 season which at one point had three starters out due to injuries, the offensive line has been rock steady this year. Saskatoon Hilltops product Tristain Hoath missed much of training camp after being involved in a car accident along with teammate Keenan Carrier, but Hoath returned to the lineup in Week 2 and it’s been the same five starters ever since. LT Jeremy Zver, LG Kyle Paterson, C Aaron Picton, Hoath at RG, and RT Matt Degelman are expected to start for the Rams again in the semifinal at Calgary.
JANOTTA WATCH: Besides his exploits from this season detailed above, Janotta is wrapping up a sparkling career for the Rams. He passed former teammate Mark McConkey as Canada West’s all-time leader in receptions during the Manitoba win, then overtook Goldie as the school’s career leader in receiving yards last week against Alberta. Janotta finishes sixth in CIS history with 191 career receptions and fourth in Canada West history with 2579 career receiving yards.
RICHARDS REPORT: Addison Richards finishes his fourth season with the Rams ranked ninth in University of Regina history in both career receptions (108) and receiving yards (1663), but may not be back next season to climb even further up the list. The 6-5, 205 lb. WR ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds earlier this year at the East West Bowl and was ranked No. 11 in the CFL Scouting Bureau’s 2015 draft rankings released in September. The next rankings will come out in January.
MacDONALD MAGIC: Fifth-year DB Patrick MacDonald played primarily at safety in 2013, but switched to halfback this season and ended up tying UBC’s Bryan Rideout for the conference lead with 11 passes defended (two interceptions, nine pass breakups). MacDonald is the only Rams player with multiple picks on the season, with his top game coming against Manitoba in Week 7 when he registered four pass breakups along with an interception.
PERKINS ON THE SPOT: Fourth-year DT Tyler Perkins has a knack for making the big play. Perkins finishes the conference schedule tied for first in the conference with three fumble recoveries and tied for second in Canada West with a pair of forced fumbles. A big part of those numbers was his Week 7 blocked punt against Manitoba, which helped solidify the Rams’ victory and gave him credit for both a force and a recovery. Perkins is also tied with former Rams linebacker Craig Zimmer for the school’s all-time lead with three career blocked kicks.
THE LONGEST YARD: Noah Picton found Mitch Thompson for a 104-yard touchdown reception back in the team’s Week 7 win over Manitoba. Not only was it the third-longest play from scrimmage in Rams history – the record is an unbreakable 109-yard pass from Mark Anderson to Jon Ryan – but it was the longest play in Canada West this season and the second longest in the CIS. The longest play in the CIS this season was only a yard longer than the Picton/Thompson connection, as Montreal’s Gabriel Cousineau found Mikhail Davidson for a 105-yard completion in a Week 2 win over Bishop’s.
RAMS IN THE PROS: The Rams currently boast three former players in the NFL, including P Jon Ryan (Seattle), DL Akiem Hicks (New Orleans), and DL Stefan Charles (Buffalo). Four University of Regina products are currently on CFL active rosters, including OL Brett Jones with Calgary and SB Chris Getzlaf and OL Brendon LaBatte with Saskatchewan. FB Neal Hughes remains on Saskatchewan’s six-game injured list, while SB Chris Bauman (Calgary), DL Micheal Dadzie (Ottawa), OL Chris Mercer (Edmonton), and DL Ryan Wellman (Saskatchewan) are all on practice rosters.
FAMILY TIES: OL Aaron Picton and SB Mitchell Picton are brothers, and their cousins QB Noah Picton and RB Blake Anaka are both in their first seasons of CIS eligibility with the U of R. There’s also a pair of Wilsons, as Riley is a third-year slotback with the Rams and his younger brother Luke is a rookie defensive back. Defensive coordinator Paul Dawson has a son (RB Dillon Dawson) and a nephew (LB Danny Nesbitt) on the team, while head coach Frank McCrystal‘s son Charlie McCrystal is on the staff as a defensive backs coach. If that isn’t enough, QB Cayman Shutter is a first cousin of starting WR Mitch Thompson.
QUARTERBACKS
• First-year QB Noah Picton is expected to get his second consecutive start under centre and his fourth start of the season
• Picton was second in Canada West with a 64.1% completion rate this year and finished the season 123-for-192 with 2029 passing yards and 11 TDs – he also finished the season with 140 rushing yards on 20 attempts, including a 20-yard scramble last week for his first career rushing TD
Cayman Shutter will back up Picton – he hasn’t played since being injured in the Manitoba win, but completed 60.1% of his passes for 1127 yards and four TDs in conference play
Frankie Gray will dress as the third QB and will probably go under centre for the Rams in most short-yardage situations – Gray hasn’t thrown a pass since the 2012 season
RUNNING BACKS
• Rookie RB Atlee Simon has been brilliant since moving into a featured role for the Rams, running for 100+ yards in all three of his starts
• Simon finishes the conference schedule fourth in Canada West in both rushing yards (524) and rushing touchdowns (7) and has a streak of two consecutive games with three touchdown runs
• The Rams will also have Dillon Dawson and Jens Johnson dressed for the Calgary game, though neither player has had a rushing attempt since Simon got his first start at UBC
• Dawson had 29 rushes for 155 yards during the conference schedule, while Johnson had 22 rushes for 127 yards and a TD
WIDE RECEIVERS
• Fourth-year WR Addison Richards capped off a brilliant season with six catches for 113 yards in the Alberta win – he finishes as Canada West’s leader in receptions (55) and leads the entire CIS with 916 receiving yards
• Second-year WR Mitch Thompson had five catches for 55 yards against Alberta to finish third on the Rams in both receptions (31) and receiving yards (363) over the eight-game conference schedule
Richard Sindani will also dress – the second-year WR’s last catch was at UBC and finished the Canada West schedule with five catches for 55 yards
• Fourth-year WR Catlin Schneider didn’t have a reception in Canada West play, but led the Rams in punt returns and was third on the team in kickoff returns this season
SLOTBACKS
• Fifth-year SB Jared Janotta had eight catches for 148 yards last week against Alberta – he’s had four games with 100+ receiving yards this season, 80+ receiving yards in each of the last six games, and a catch of at least 30 yards in five of those six
• Third-year SB Riley Wilson finished fourth on the Rams with 22 catches for 346 yards – like Janotta, Thompson, and Richards, he’s had at least one reception in all eight games
• Fifth-year SB Landon Buch has been battling injury over the past few weeks – he got the start last week, but was only targeted once
Mitchell Picton has seen a vastly increased role in the team’s offence as the season has gone on – the second-year SB had just two catches the first four games, but collected 13 receptions for 247 yards in the last half of the Canada West schedule
• Speaking of second-year SBs, Davin Johnston and Ben Lane are also expected to make the travel roster this weekend – as will third-year SB Andrew Bennett, though none of the three have registered a catch this season
OFFENSIVE LINE
• The Rams have gone with the same starting five on the line in each of the last seven games and that shouldn’t change this weekend, with Jeremy Zver (LT), Kyle Paterson (LG), Aaron Picton (C), Tristain Hoath (RG), and Matt Degelman (RT) expected to get the start
• Picton, who will be eligible for the 2015 CFL Draft, is the only lineman on the roster to have started a postseason game for the Rams – he started both of the team’s 2012 playoff games at RT and has 19 career Canada West starts
• Also a post on the U of R’s basketball team, Zver has started 16 consecutive Canada West games for the Rams at LT
• Paterson was a 2014 draft pick by the Saskatchewan Roughriders and has 14 Canada West starts over his four CIS seasons
• Degelman, who started for the Rams last season as a rookie, now has 15 career Canada West starts under his belt
• Hoath, a product of the Saskatoon Hilltops program, stepped in as a starter in Week 2 and has been a mainstay at right guard
Keenan Carrier, Nathan Cugnet, and Brandon Williams will also dress on Saturday – all three will be making their postseason debuts
DEFENSIVE LINE
• Though the Rams stuck with rookie Eric Wicijowski in the starting lineup at rush end with Bryce McKinnon at nose tackle and Tyler Perkins at defensive end, it was a four-man rotation last week against Alberta with Dean Viena also in the mix
• It was Viena that stepped up to make the game-clinching play last Saturday, stuffing Alberta RB Ed Ilnicki on a 3rd-and-1 situation for a two-yard loss to give the ball back to the Rams with just seconds left
• Viena led the team’s linemen with 19½ tackles this season, with four of those tackles for losses including a pair of sacks
• Perkins had 17½ tackles and tied for the team lead with five TFLs – see Page 3 for more on Perkins’ affinity for causing turnovers and blocking kicks
• In his first season on the defensive line for the Rams, McKinnon has 14½ tackles
• Wicijowski started both of the final two games of the season and finished the year with five solo tackles, six assisted tackles, and two TFLs including a sack
Thomas Lill returned to the lineup last weekend against Alberta after missing four games due to injury – he’s expected to make the travel roster this weekend
LINEBACKERS
• The Rams went with the same starting linebackers for the fourth consecutive game last week with Zack McEachern at SLB, Connor Ketchen at MLB, and Michael Stefanovic at WLB
• Stefanovic finishes the conference schedule as the team’s leading tackler with 27 solo and 25 assisted – he was also credited with three TFLs
• Ketchen was second among LBs with 28½ tackles (18 solo, 21 assisted) and also had three TFLs
• McEachern finished just behind Ketchen with 27 tackles (18 solo, 18 assisted)
Dylan Minshull hasn’t started since Week 4, but saw significant playing time last game and finished as the team’s sack leader with 2½ – he also had 31½ tackles and five TFLs this season
Cody Kezama (13 tackles), rookie Danny Nesbitt (7 tackles), and Julius Landry (2 tackles) should also be in the lineup
DEFENSIVE BACKS
• Injuries forced a pair of changes in the defensive backfield last week, both at the cornerback position where Jordy Kibamba started in place of Ryan Serbu and Kadeem Ellis started for Tevaughn Campbell
• The other four positions in the backfield stayed the same, with Patrick MacDonald and Jeff Propp at halfback, Justin Edralin at safety, and Joey Dwyer at dimeback
• MacDonald is the only Rams player with multiple interceptions this year and finished the conference schedule tied for first in Canada West with 11 passes defended (2 interceptions, 9 pass breakups) – he also was second on the team with 37½ tackles
• Propp finished third on the Rams in tackles (29 solo, 12 assisted) and had three pass breakups, while Dwyer had 33½ tackles, four pass breakups, 1½ sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble
• Edralin was sixth on the team with 29½ tackles and registered his fifth career interception in Week 1 against UBC
• The Rams are also likely to include Robbie Avram, Kahlen Branning, and Korey Greene in the lineup
PUNTERS/KICKERS
Andrew Fabian finished the season 11-for-15 on field goal attempts, with his longest coming from 41 yards out in Week 3 against Alberta – Fabian was also a perfect 26-for-26 on PATs and averaged 38.8 yards per punt during the Canada West schedule
• The Rams leaned on rookie Daniel Scraper to handle kickoff duties last week – he performed admirably with an average of 47.3 yards per kickoff, but the team will likely preserve Scraper’s redshirt season and use either Fabian or RB Atlee Simon on kickoffs
RETURNERS
• Kickoff returns and punt returns have been exclusively handled by WRs Catlin Schneider and Mitch Thompson over the past two weeks
• Schneider led the team with 19 punt returns and averaged 5.2 yards per return with a season longest of 17 yards – he also returned 10 kickoffs for an average of 19.8 yards with a longest of 36
• Thompson is averaging 8.5 yards per punt return and had a season-long 30-yard return in Week 7 against Manitoba – he’s also averaging 23.3 yards per kickoff return and had a season-long 56-yard return in the UBC win back in Week 1

Source: Braden Konshuch, Regina Rams Sports Information

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