EDMONTON — It’s been nearly 20 years in the making, but for the first time since 1997 the UBC Thunderbirds are Hardy Cup Champions. In a game broadcast across the country on Global, UBC captured the Hardy Cup Championship after a hard fought 34-26 win over the previously undefeated Calgary Dinos.
The win was even sweeter for Thunderbirds Head Coach Blake Nill who made his return to Calgary after leading the Dinos to six straight Hardy Cup Championships from 2008-2013. T-Birds quarterback Michael O’Connor said Nill did a great job in instilling confidence in the team.
“We did this one for Coach Nill.”
With the win, Nill has now won 13 Conference Championships in his head coaching career (1998-2005 SMU, 2006-2014 Calgary, 2015-present UBC). But he’d rather focus on the players and how they’ve come together despite an off-season full of change.
“This group of young men have done just an outstanding job all year. We’ve not only battled a new coach coming in, coaches getting used to new players, new players getting used to coaches.”
UBC was led by rookie quarterback Michael O’Connor who completed 27 of 40 passes for 374 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. They were also pretty dominant in the air, with Marcus Davis leading the way with a pair of touchdowns.
As for Calgary, their first loss of the season was the costliest. They struggled all game long with uncharacteristic dropped passes and misplays. In fact, in the final 69 seconds of the game, the Dinos turned the ball over twice. Robert Woodson dropped the ball off a punt at the Dinos 10-yard line, leading to a UBC field goal. In their final possession of the game, Brett Blaszko was stripped of the ball by Kevin Wiens, handing the Dinos their first loss of the year.
Nill and the UBC Thunderbirds now head to Atlantic Canada where they will take on St. FX in the Uteck Bowl (National Semi Final). The winner will advance to the Vanier Cup against either Montreal or Guelph.