UBC quarterback Michael O'Connor has been outstanding on the field for the Thunderbirds this season and in the classroom, where he maintains an average above 80 per cent. Richard Lam/UBC Athletics / PNG
Take Michael O’Connor’s completion percentage and his grade point average and add them together, and here’s betting there’s not another U Sports quarterback in the country with a higher combined total.
We’ll come up with a fun name for the fancy stat later.
O’Connor, the UBC Thunderbirds third-year pivot, has been a well-documented success on the football field, highlighted by leading the Thunderbirds to the Vanier Cup national title two seasons ago. He’s done well in the classroom as well, evidenced by him landing academic all-Canadian status for 2016-17 after attaining an average of more than 80 per cent at UBC’s Sauder School of Business.
“Does studying the playbook help studying for school and vice versa? I’d say so,” said the 6-foot-5, 225-pound O’Connor, whose team takes on the Regina Rams in a Canada West Hardy Cup semifinal on Saturday (3 p.m.) at Thunderbird Stadium.
“The more repetition you get, the better you get at something. The more you study, the easier it is to remember and use what you’re studying.
“Basically, the more time you dedicate to something, the more natural it becomes.”
The winner of Saturday’s game between UBC (6-2) and Regina (4-4) advances to the Hardy Cup final the following week. That’s two steps away from a spot in the Vanier Cup. The Canadian championship is to be contested on Nov. 25 in Hamilton.
UBC Thunderbirds quarterback Michael O’Connor in action against the University of Alberta Golden Bears earlier this season. Bob Frid/UBC Athletics / PNG
Even with so much on the line, O’Connor insists that he doesn’t change his routine this week. The Orleans, Ont., native says he’ll try to get his school work out of the way early on and spend whatever extra time he has left between that and practice watching film on the Rams.
“It’s the same process all year,” explained O’Connor, who maintains that UBC’s academics were part of the draw when he was looking for a university to transfer to after leaving Penn State in 2015. “It’s definitely about a good balance between school and football. It takes a lot of discipline and time management.”
O’Connor has connected on 67.5 per cent (183-of-271) of his passes, totalling 2,308 yards along the way. He’s thrown for 14 touchdowns while getting intercepted five times.
All of that includes going 14-of-19 for 200 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions, last Saturday at Thunderbird Stadium in a 44-15 win over Regina.
UBC outscored the Rams 35-0 in the second quarter to blow the game open.
If the Rams had won the regular season finale, they would have been hosting the playoff game between the teams this week, based on the head-to-head tiebreaker.
O’Connor admits that beating the same team in consecutive weeks is a massive challenge. He does maintain that home field advantage is a key.
“Having to travel here in back-to-back weeks is going to be hard on them,” said O’Connor.
The game will be yet another showdown between two of the best quarterbacks in the country. Regina pass thrower Noah Picton is the reigning Hec Crighton Trophy winner as U Sports most outstanding player.
This season, he’s completed 68.8 per cent (207-of-301) of his passes for 2,491 yards, with 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He was just 13-of-18 for 106 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception, last week.
“I try not to worry too much about what they’re doing on offence, but one thing I do keep in the back of my mind is that he’s definitely a great QB and the longer we can stay on the field the harder it is on him,” O’Connor said.
UBC was ranked No. 6 in this week’s national poll. Regina was No. 9. The Canada West leading Calgary Dinos (7-1) were No. 4, and they host the unranked Alberta Golden Bears (3-5) in the other Hardy Cup semifinal Saturday.