In almost 50 seasons of competition, the University of Calgary Dinos and the University of Manitoba Bisons have managed to meet just three times in postseason competition. Saturday night at McMahon Stadium, they battle for a shot at the 76th Hardy Cup in the second of two Canada West semifinal games.
Kickoff goes at 5 p.m. (Shaw TV and CanadaWest.tv) with the winner facing the victor between Regina and Saskatchewan for the Hardy Cup on Nov. 10.
The home team has won all previous postseason meetings between the two squads – and in two of those cases (Calgary, 1985 and Manitoba, 2007) the winning team went on to capture the Vanier Cup. Since their last playoff meeting in 2007, the teams have been on very different trajectories. While the ’07 Bisons captured the Vanier Cup, this is Manitoba’s first postseason appearance since that national championship. Calgary, meanwhile, is playing its 10th home playoff game of the past five years Saturday night and is looking for an unprecedented fifth straight Hardy Cup title.
Far more relevant is their most recent meeting. It was one of the wildest football games played in Canada West history, and perhaps the entire history of Canadian football. Record upon record fell as the Dinos built up a massive 63-14 lead at halftime and finally emerged victorious with a 78-54 victory. The offensive explosion on both sides – Calgary racked up 776 yards of total offence while Manitoba’s 54 points nearly doubled the 63 Calgary had given up in the previous seven games combined – came in a contest with nothing on the line, as the standings and playoff matchups had already been decided. Calgary quarterback Eric Dzwilewski’s 25-for-27, 312-yard passing performance in the first half earned him CIS offensive player of the week honours, while Manitoba tailback/returner Anthony Coombs won the award on special teams on the strength of a 98-yard punt return touchdown – one of three majors for him on the night.
A second-straight first-place finish marks the first time in school history the Dinos have taken the regular-season pennant in back-to-back years. They broke or tied no fewer than 10 team single-season records: Points (380), touchdowns (42), first downs (272), passing yards (2997), completions (213), completion percentage (71.7), total offence (4720 yards), converts (42), field goals (22), and sacks (25).
A Calgary victory would guarantee the Hardy Cup will be played at McMahon Stadium next Saturday, Nov. 10.