In what could have been the gridiron Golden Bears’ best chance to win a game this season, the Bears dropped a home game Saturday afternoon to the UBC Thunderbirds 29-10.
Both schools went into the game with winless records, but it was the Thunderbirds who were able to improve to a record of 1-4, while the Golden Bears fell to 0-5. UBC’s 293 net rushing yards and 472 yards of total offence made a difference in the game, but the University of Alberta’s problems began early in the game when the Bears’ first two possessions resulted in a fumble at midfield and an interception in UBC’s end zone, both resulting in scoring drives for the T-Birds.
“I just said to the coaches, ‘What did we change this week that made these guys not want to make plays for some reason?’” Golden Bears head coach Jeff Stead said. “I warned these guys all week that this is not an 0-4 team we’re playing. This is a good football team and if we don’t play our best, we’re not going to win, and we didn’t. That was our worst game of the year by far.”
The Bears’ offence was looking to carry over its momentum against UBC after scoring 38 points against Manitoba last weekend, but were unable to find the end zone until the final minute of the game. Despite Alberta’s time of possession exceeding UBC by almost ten minutes in the first half, the score at halftime was 22-0 in the T-Birds’ favour.
UBC was led by defending Hec Creighton Award winner Billy Greene who ran 12 times for 148 yards and one touchdown highlighted by a 62-yard first quarter run for a touchdown. The Thunderbirds’ rushing attack also featured running back Brandon Deschamps who ran for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
“We narrowed our goals down, we had to get two turnovers on defence and keep them under 100 yards rushing. That was gone by the mid-first quarter,” Stead said. “We had a goal to be 100 per cent scoring inside the 30-yard line and that was gone in the first quarter.”
Alberta’s lone touchdown came from receiver Ryley Richardson who caught 10 passes for 130 yards. Meanwhile quarterback Curtis Dell completed 13 of 26 passes and threw for 183 yards, but was sacked four times before being replaced by backup Ryan Schwartz. The 83 yards and one touchdown thrown by Schwartz were too little, too late for an Alberta team that failed to capitalize on scoring chances throughout the game.
“You cannot play this game without emotion and we had no emotion,” Stead said. “It seemed like when we were in Winnipeg having success, these guys were energetic and supporting each other. Then we come here and I thought we were fired up before the game, the guys seemed fired up before the game, but it didn’t translate past the five minute mark of the first quarter.”
After a conference-wide bye week next weekend, the Golden Bears’ remaining three games are rematches against Saskatchewan, Calgary and Regina. In the Bears’ first meetings against these schools earlier this season, Alberta was outscored by a combined total of 128-23. To compete with three teams who pose bigger threats than UBC did on Saturday, Stead believes he’ll need to see an improved effort from his team to close out Alberta’s 2012 season.
“These guys have to understand that to play this game you have to have heart, and to have heart means you have to have self-pride,” Stead said. “Self-pride means you’ve got to want and you can tell we got out-wanted today and I guess that’s something I have to look at and figure out.”
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