The University of Alberta Golden Bears were hoping to win their first game of the season in their home opener against the University of Regina Rams, Friday night at Foote Field. The back and forth affair seemed destined for a dramatic conclusion, until a fourth quarter collapse saw the Bears dealt their third straight loss 31-17.
The Rams used a 21-point fourth quarter to overcome a Bears squad that for much of the night, looked as if they might pull off the upset against their rivals from Saskatchewan. Fifth-year quarterback Marc Mueller set up three scoring drives in the final quarter to break a 10-10 tie and seal the Rams’ second win of the season.
“We came in on a big high. We scored our first touchdown of the year and our guys were excited. We came out slow in a sense but I liked the way that we fought, and we fought all the way until we hurt ourselves,” Golden Bears head coach Jeff Stead said. “We came out strong until nine minutes left in the fourth quarter and then the boots came off.”
The first three quarters of the game saw the two teams engage in an all-out defensive battle. After a scoreless first quarter, Regina got on the board when Kirby Kezama hit a 19-yard field goal. The Bears responded three drives later when Curtis Dell hit Jess Valleau for a beautiful 41 yard completion, before finding Dillon Prince in the end zone for a five yard touchdown.
The score marked the first time the Bears have led a game all season. After a Rams touchdown and a Bears field goal, the teams headed into halftime tied 10-10.
The third quarter was also scoreless, but the U of A began to play undisciplined football. Any momentum the Bears hoped to carry into the fourth was derailed by bad penalties, as they took nine penalties for 88 yards in the second half. The Bears’ lack of discipline, coupled with a failure to execute both offensively and defensively kept the ball in the hands of the much more experienced Regina squad.
Despite the loss, there were many positives to take away from the game. Golden Bears quarterback Curtis Dell had his most impressive game of the season, displaying poise and composure as he led the team in both passing and rushing yards. He threw for 206 yards and one touchdown, and ran for 78 yards while also scoring a rushing TD. Stead expressed confidence in his quarterback’s ability to keep the chains moving.
“Curtis did things that I didn’t know he could. I didn’t know he could run the ball like that,” Stead said. “At the end of the game he threw two picks, but that’s him trying to make plays. I thought he managed the game well, emotionally and physically”
The Bear’s biggest loss may not have been on the scoreboard. Third-year linebacker Tyler Greenslade – one of the Bear’s best defensive players – suffered a lower body injury in the first half. Greenslade was taken to a hospital, essentially guaranteeing his season is over. Defensive back Brennan Van Nistlerooy also left the game and did not return.
Regardless of the result, the Bears displayed solid progress as they played their best game of the season. The U of A will continue the hunt for their first win of the season next weekend when they visit the undefeated University of Manitoba Bisons in Winnipeg. The Bears will need to build on this Friday’s valiant effort if they hope to slow the nationally seventh-ranked Bisons.
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