The Nill Era began at UBC with new head coach Blake Nill facing two of his greatest rivals: A long-standing adversary in the Laval Rouge et Or and a fresher foe in the Calgary Dinos.
The Thunderbirds split the games and on Saturday, they look to go 2-1 on the season when they host the Regina Rams in their annual homecoming game.
The T-Birds opened big Aug. 29 in Quebec City with a 41-16 defeat of a team that has won seven of the past 12 Vanier Cups. Three of Laval’s championship came over the Calgary Dinos, a team coached by Nill until this season.
He said the T-Birds, and the defensive units in particular, played above their potential to beat a deep Laval opponent.
The next week on Sept. 4, Nill and the T-Birds were in Calgary to play the Dino team he led for nine years beginning in 2006. The 49-16 loss was humbling.
The Dinos, said Nill in a UBC release, “have worked hard over the last decade to get the culture the way it is. And now, we've got to apply the same type of formula to this B.C. crew. It isn't going to happen overnight but it will happen. We may not be at the level that Calgary is at, but this is the first game of the year. Where we want to peak at is the end of the season."
The Thunderbirds hired Nill in December last year. Now backed by the funding of a booster’s group led by alum David Sidoo, the T-Birds drew Nill away from the Dinos, which under his leadership had a record six straight Hardy Cup Championships from 2008 to ’13 as the top team in the Canada West conference. The T-Birds also enticed Canadian prospected and former NCAA quarterback Michael O’Connor to relocate from Penn State to Vancouver. In two games, the pivot threw 545 yards for three touchdowns and four interceptions.
Homecoming game begins 6 p.m. Sept. 12 at Thunderbird Stadium. Tickets are $10 at the door, $5 for alumni, faculty, staff, seniors, youth and visiting university students. $2 for UBC students.
By the numbers:
The yards in a catch-and-run touchdown between Thunderbirds quarterback Michael O’Connor and receiver Marcus Davis in the opening play from scrimmage against the Calgary Dinos. The reception set a UBC record.
Total yards for Marcus Davis on three catches in a 49-16 loss to the Dinos on Sept. 4 in Calgary.
The team-high number of tackles by Thunderbird defensive back Taylor Loffler in the loss to Calgary.
The number of sacs recorded by Mitch Barnett, a linebacker out of Handsworth secondary in North Vancouver, who had half of UBC’s total in the game and one shy of the school record for sacs in a game.
The number of times the UBC T-Birds have played and defeated the Rouge et Or.
UBC Thunderbird receiver Marcus Davis put up one major and 111 yards on three carries in a 49-16 loss to the Calgary Dinos Sept. 4, 2015.