Kicking problems plague Thunderbirds in 15–12 loss to Alberta

On Saturday afternoon, UBC football fell 15–12 to the Alberta Golden Bears in a slow-moving matchup at Foote Field, Edmonton.

The T-Birds had clinched a playoff spot last week at the cost of their starting quarterback, Garrett Rooker, who had exited early with an injury. This game was a key opportunity for backup QB Derek Engel to gain confidence in the offense before facing the post-season.

Both offenses were quiet in the first half: the only points in the first quarter were from a voluntary safety taken by UBC.

Neither team made it to the red zone until late in the second quarter, when the Bears received a baffling 11-yard punt from UBC’s Kieran Flannery-Fleck, giving Alberta the ball at the T-Bird 46-yard-line. The Bears ultimately settled for a field goal, bringing the score to a lowly 5–0.

By the end of the first half, Engel was 5/13 for 63 yards and two sacks. He came back from halftime looking like a different player, leading the offense on a methodical, eight-minute drive to start the third quarter. However, the Thunderbirds still couldn’t find the endzone; Flannery-Fleck put the team on the board with a successful 29-yard field goal.

Later in the third, UBC had the chance to take the lead with a 32-yard field-goal attempt, but Flannery-Fleck’s kick soared wide-left of the uprights – his second missed kick of the game.

On the following drive, Alberta furthered their lead with the first touchdown of the game, bringing the score to 12–3 as the third quarter expired.

UBC’s kicking problem became apparent late in the fourth when, facing 3rd-and-17 on the Alberta 23, the T-Birds opted to go for it rather than trust their kicker. With so much riding on the play, Engel dropped back to pass and, amazingly, connected with Edgerrin Williams in the endzone. The Thunderbirds followed up the TD with a successful two-point conversion and a rouge, tying the game at 12–12 with less than three minutes to play.

Despite UBC’s efforts, Alberta triumphed, managing to kick a field goal in the last 45 seconds of the game.

The loss exposes some major kinks in this UBC team that need to be worked out before next week’s playoff game.

Next Saturday, UBC will face the Regina Rams on the road in the Hardy Cup Semifinal. If they win, they’ll play either the Huskies or Bisons in the Canada West Conference Finals.