As each CIS football team is officially eliminated from playoff contention, we'll reflect on what they did this year and compare their results to our expectations.
Next up: Manitoba, eliminated after losing the season series to Regina.
RPI: 19th (out of 26)
Points for: 26.8
Points against: 27.2
Passing yards: 248.4
Rushing yards: 175.1
Passing yards against: 212.9
Rushing yards against: 177.4
Looking back at our preview questions:
1) WHAT kind of leap can the Bisons freshmen running back trio of Nic Demski, Kienan LaFrance and Anthony Coombs make?
The run game of the Bisons was actually very effective this season, finishing second in Canada West in per-game rush yards with 175.1 (Calgary took first position averaging 265 per game) as well as in yards per attempt (5.9 to Calgary's 7.1). They finished third in the conference for rushing touchdowns with 11.
Coombs had an outstanding season this year, finishing third in the conference in rushing (640 yards), and first in the conference for touchdowns scored (9) and all-purpose yards (171.9 per game as he handled a lot of the return duties for the team). He was actually fourth overall in scoring in the conference with 7.7 points per game. It was a very impressive showing by Anthony Coombs in 2011.
2) HOW quickly can a team with 61 players in their first or second years of eligibility hit the ground running?
They actually started pretty fast out of the gate, losing only by four to the conference-leading Calgary Dinos in the home opener (35-31) and following that up with wins over Alberta and then perennial powerhouse Saskatchewan. From week 4 onwards, however, it would only be another win over the Golden Bears and then a string of losses.
3) HOW much will NT Adam Hindley’s presence boost the defensive line?
Hindley did not play much of a factor statistically this season, with 23.5 tackles and one sack over six games. The Bisons did fare well on secondary defence this season, however finishing first against the pass. Their run defence was still respectable, finishing fourth overall in the conference.
If you look at some impressive in-conference stats that Manitoba put up this year (second in both run and pass offence, first against the pass on defence, almost always leading or close to it at halftime), you may find it hard to figure out why they failed to reach the playoffs. However, the Bisons did finish last in penalties with 117.6 per game — 26 per cent more than the average of the other five teams — and second-last in lost turnovers at 26 (only Alberta was worse with 30). For all the good that Manitoba did this season, it seems they turned out to be their own worst enemy in the end.