On a sunny Saturday afternoon at Thunderbird Stadium, the UBC Thunderbirds (2–0) improved their position to the eighth ranked team in the country after defeating the University of Calgary Dinos 45–15.
In a dominant performance, both sides of the ball operated with precision for UBC. However, the ’Birds didn't play perfect football. Countless careless mistakes kept the Dinos in the game longer than they should have and the Thunderbirds learned the value of consistency — a quality they will need to improve upon as they take on tougher competition down the road.
That lesson was never clearer than in the first quarter, as UBC’s offense was sloppy in their first few drives. After watching the first Calgary drive march methodically down the field for the opening field goal, UBC still couldn’t match. Only a brilliant play on a blitz by defensive back Ben Sangmuah kept UBC from exiting the quarter down three, as Sangmuah forced a fumble that gave the T-Birds the ball, which they converted into a field goal.
After the game, head coach Blake Nill was critical of his team’s initial energy. “I felt we came out quiet, and it was obvious on the field. We just didn’t have the kind of urgency I would have liked to have seen in the first half,” he said.
While the T-Birds didn’t go full speed to start, coming into the second quarter, they clearly hit their stride. Three of their next four drives made it inside the Calgary five-yard line, with two of those drives ending in touchdowns for the Thunderbirds. With the offense finally clicking and the defense holding strong, momentum seemed in UBC’s favor.
However, after scoring with 17 seconds remaining in the first half, the T-Birds let their foot off the gas. In the last play before halftime, Dinos quarterback Dom Britton lofted up a pass into the arms of receiver Gob Deng, who sped past three Thunderbirds defenders for an 85-yard touchdown score.
Despite the eventual 30-point win, the end of the first half was clearly still on Nill’s mind. “That’s a play that non-contending teams make. That’s not a university football play.”
To the T-Birds’ credit, they didn't let the Dinos use their end-of-half miracle to propel themselves back into the game. In the second half, the Thunderbirds looked like a different team, forcing turnovers, leading methodical drives and most importantly, scoring points. Before Calgary added a touchdown in the dying seconds of the game, UBC had scored 28 unanswered points in the second half, with five different receivers catching touchdowns.
Even after the convincing win, Nill was clear that the T-Birds’ uneven play can’t be overlooked — that a precedent needs to be set for the rest of the season.
“We know we can make plays. It’s [about] the young men realizing that [they need to] go full speed [and] be emotionally invested.”
The Thunderbirds will be looking to take that mantra onwards, when they face the University of Manitoba Bison (0–2) on Saturday at Thunderbird Stadium.