Vanier Cup vantage point: Calgary crushed to lose, but not broken

It would have perfect from if Adam Sinagra had finished the job for Jimmy Underdahl, as well as Andrew Buckley and Erik Glavic.

Instead, the Calgary Dinos were once again the chins-up runners-up after a 31-26 defeat against the Laval Rouge et Or at Tim Hortons Field on Saturday. No sense in pointing out that a five-point final margin was as close as Calgary has come against Laval in five tries since 2008. Would you rather have lost 59-10 like in the 2008 Uteck?! Or that these Dinos, after losing stars such as NFL wide receiver prospect Rashaun Simonise, probably got more from the sum of their parts than any of their teams over the past decade that have accumulated seven Canada West titles, four Vanier trips and three Hec Crightons. It was still crushing.

"This year we didn't have the big stars, we lost a lot of guys to the CFL and the NFL and all of a sudden we didn't have that big name player," Calgary coach Wayne Harris Jr. said. "They relied on each other. This is the ultimate team game and that's what they were able to become. Play together and united. They did everything that we asked of him.

"You don't always get what you deserve at the end but that's not what it's all about. It's about the friendships that they've built with each other and the trust they've built between themselves."

Canadian football stands apart from the more followed four-down bastardization with its capacity to stick a shiv right under the ribcage just once for good measure. Following Laval's go-ahead touchdown, the Dinos turned the ball over on downs at their 44-yard line. One first down likely would have iced the game, but on third-and-one, DT Jack McEwen helped stack up Rouge et Or QB Hugo Richard for no gain. That gave Calgary one final shot, 87 seconds to traverse 75 yards.

They reached the 23-yard line with 39 seconds on the clock. Ultimately, Laval's defence, which had been porous to the count of allowing 553 yards, hung on and induced three incompletions in a row.

"It's an ode to our character that we had the kind of year we had," Sinagra said. "We battled hard, we worked for everything we got. That's what brought us here.

"There was plenty of time at the end. A minute-30 at the end, it's a dream. We should have scored."

Calgary was clearly well-drilled on facing Laval and it showed up all over the stat sheet except for the day's smoking gun, the Rouge et Or getting 21 points off of turnovers in the Dinos' zone. Chances are, if you had told someone Laval would have such a huge benefit, you wouldn't have expected a five-point final scoreline.

Calgary has a distinguished coaching staff, with former CFL head coach Tom Higgins serving as defensive coordinator. Omen-seekers no doubt were aware that Dinos offensive coordinator Ryan Sheahan and receivers coach Justin Chapdelaine were part of the 2009 Queen's team that defeated Laval in the Mitchell Bowl.

The Dinos reached Richard from all angles while racking up seven sacks, with Nick Statz -- a defensive back -- being the only defender with two. On the first offensive play of the day, Underdahl delivered an 86-yard touchdown to Michael Klukas behind coverage.

Underdahl led another touchdown drive the second time the Dinos got the ball. The third and fourth possessions were more ominous.

Underdahl was intercepted in his zone by Laval halfback Adam Auclair, creating a short field for a Rouge et Or touchdown that cut the margin to 14-7. Then came an early turning point: an illegal procedure penalty negated a 50-yard reception by Hunter Karl. On the do-over, Underdahl re-injured his knee after being spun down for a sack by Laval DT Vincent Desjardins.

Day and Dinos career over.

Underdahl was injured in October and there was initially speculation his season might be over, but he came in to stimulate the Dinos offence during the Mitchell Bowl win against St. Francis Xavier.

"Jimmy has been an emotional leader for us," Harris said. "He did so much on the bench to help Adam while he was hurt," Harris said. "He was playing on one leg. We knew he was going to have surgery; we had three guys playing today who are going to have surgery. Unfortunately it just took a twist and it flared up too much for him to play."

Sinagra was 21-of-38 for 276 yards with one interception, commendable numbers, but the Dinos never reached the end zone again, kicking four field goals. Second-year running back Jeshrun Antwi also had 25 rushes for a career-best 177 yards as Calgary's offensive line, in the last game of a season where its positional depth chart has been a moving target, largely controlled the line of scrimmage.

Sinagra is also the Dinos punter. The true turning point might have come in that phase. Calgary was punting from its 49-yard line with 4:30 left when Laval backup cornerback Raphael Robidoux blocked Sinagra's punt. Christian Dallaire got a clean recovery and a return to Calgary's 15-yard line. Three plays later, Richard scored the decisive touchdown.

"I could see it coming," Harris said. "The mesh point for Adam was a little high and the backs (the personal protectors between the line of scrimmage and punter) were a little too deep. Their guy got a great vertical and blocked it.

"Another six inches and it's not a problem."

That's football. The margins are razor-thin and one never knows where they might come. One November, they will come Calgary's way.
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1 comment:

  1. I doubt that the Dinos will ever bring a title to the Town of Bedrock. They blew this Vanier. All they had to do was not F-up.