40 seconds. 40 measly seconds. That’s the amount of time that stood between the Golden Bears and their first on-field victory in almost three years. And although the rainy weather threatened to dampen the mood of the thousands of drenched fans who turned up to watch the team take on UBC in their 2013 home opener, it wasn’t enough to extinguish the hope and optimism of the crowd, who like the players themselves, sensed that the ending to this game would be different.
But for those poor souls who were in attendance at Foote Field Saturday night, what transpired over those last 40 seconds — and the subsequent overtime period — was akin to watching a well-built house of cards come crashing down just before the determined architect had a chance to place the crowning card on top of his masterpiece.
“I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight with that play,” Bears fourth-year quarterback Ryan Schwartz said immediately after the game referring to an interception he threw during his team’s possession in overtime that all but sealed their unfortunate fate. “Not a good read, should have just played it safe, I should have just ran it. That’s a tough one.”
The play — which happened after the Bears questionably conceded a safety in the final moment of play, which subsequently lead to a UBC field goal that sent the game into overtime — was one of many mishaps for the Bears, who saw the 29–2 lead that they had build up over the first half slip away as UBC got back into, and eventually won , the game. Despite what was mostly a good game for Schwartz — who threw for 352 yards again this week after a breakout performance last week in Winnipeg — and his offence, the veteran QB knows that this was a game that he and his team let slip through their fingers.
“We were doing very well as an offence, but there’s some critical moments when we didn’t get the job done,” Schwartz said. “With our fast-paced tempo offence, we can’t go two and out. When we go two and out, the defence is right back on the field. We had a couple (of) long stretches where the defence was on the field for too long. We weren’t getting first downs, and we have to be better than that.
“There’s no moral victories. It’s tough to get over this hump. I’m sick of losing. We know we can win in this league. We’ve just got to get that first win. (It’s) heartbreaking ... There’s no other words for it.”
The Bears, who benefited off of a botched kickoff at the beginning of the game by UBC kicker Quinn Van Gylswyk, took advantage of early opportunities and poor play by the UBC defence to take an early 14–2 lead over their opponents in the first quarter of the game, bringing the mostly student crowd to life as they watched eagerly while their team was on the verge of breaking their nearly three-year losing streak without an on-field win.
The great play continued in the second half when Ryley Richardson and Ryan Schwartz both crossed the Thunderbirds goal line — the latter of which occurred after a 26-yard interception by Bears offensive lineman Gregory Severin — to add two more scores for the Bears and give them a comfortable lead going into half-time of 29–10.
But both squads looked like totally different teams when they returned for the third quarter. This time, it was Alberta who was making the mistakes and UBC who was making them pay by capitalizing on their errors. UBC took advantage of poor offensive and defensive decisions by the Bears to inch closer and closer to evening the score. Even though the Bears scored early in the fourth to seemingly put the game out of reach for the T-Birds, UBC was able to erase a 12-point deficit to come within five points of the Bears with under a minute remaining and the Bears looking at third and long deep in their own end. Facing the daunting prospect of a short punt, the Bears decided to take a timeout and chose to concede a safety with just over 40 seconds left on the clock, and UBC opted to take the ball from their 35-yard line.
“I don’t think that’s a bad decision,” Bears head coach Chris Morris said after the game on the decision to take a safety instead of punting the ball from their 28 yard line on third and 18. “But you could argue, I guess, in retrospect, either way. They can’t drive the field with 40 seconds left, that’s the long and short of it, that’s where we’re coming from ... and that’s, if you want to look at one thing that happened, that’s the problem right there.”
Following a 40-yard pass that was called back due to an illegal forward pass, UBC was able to complete a 50-yard throw and, with seconds remaining on the clock, put a field goal through the uprights to force the game to overtime where they took advantage of a Ryan Schwartz interception to get Van Gylswyk into prime position to seal the deal with a successful kick that give the T-Birds the three points they needed to win the game.
The Bears will look to reverse their fortunes when they take on the Regina Rams next Saturday.
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