The University of Alberta Golden Bears football team is expecting an all-out battle this Friday when they open their home schedule against the visiting University of Regina Rams.
The matchup is not only a Legacy Game — meaning free admission for any U of A student — but it also marks the Bears’ return home after two road losses to open the season. While, the Bears head into Friday’s home opener as underdogs, there’s no shortage of confidence and enthusiasm surrounding the opportunity to play in front of hometown fans.
“It’s exciting for me, it’s exciting for the guys and it’s exciting for the university,” Golden Bears head coach Jeff Stead said. “We’ve been in training camp for two and a half weeks, and then on the road for two weeks. That’s a long time for these guys not to be able to play in front of their student body, their friends, and their families.”
Perhaps the most glaring discrepancy between the two teams heading into Friday’s game is their experience level. The Bears are one of the youngest teams in their conference and feature a wealth of potential, but lack the same team familiarity and knowledge of their upcoming opponents.
“They have 19 fifth-year players. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a roster that loaded with fifth-year guys. There’s a lot of experience over there, and that’s something that your young team is going to have to try and match,” Stead said of Regina, who is coming off a strong 49-20 win over the UBC Thunderbirds.
Comparing results from the past two weeks isn’t necessarily encouraging for the Bears. They didn’t fare nearly as well against their provincial rival, the University of Calgary Dinos, as the Rams did. The Dinos opened their season with a hard fought 37-27 win over the Rams before rolling over the Golden Bears 65-6 at McMahon Stadium this past weekend.
Despite the lopsided defeat in week two, Stead has expressed confidence that his team is growing from such adversity.
“Our guys understand the process,” Stead explained.“We started really young last year, and we are still a bit young this year. But our confidence level is growing and there’s no reason why we can’t take the final step to win.”
The Bears will be looking to improve on their offensive performance over the past few weeks. The team’s 210.5 offensive yards per game ranks the lowest in CIS, and they have yet to score a touchdown this season.
The duo of third-year quarterbacks Curtis Dell and Ryan Schwartz haven’t been able to find a solid rhythm, resulting in uncertainty about who will be playing pivot this Friday. Dell started the past two games, but last week in Calgary saw limited action as Schwartz took the bulk of the snaps.
Defensively, third-year linebacker Tyler Greenslade has been a standout. After putting up impressive numbers in an injury-shortened campaign last year, Greenslade picked up right where he left off. His 12 tackles lead the team and are good enough for 15th overall in CIS.
The home opener takes place at Foote Field at 7 p.m. on Sept. 14. Regardless of the Bears’ underdog status, they’ll be ready to compete in a hard-fought battle against the Rams. For the first time this year, they’ll be aided by the hometown advantage, along with a spark from the 13th man.
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