Credit David Moll / University of Calgary
By Ryan Stelter, U Sports Correspondent
The Calgary Dinos are coming off a dominant regular season, one where they only lost two games. Both of their losses were extremely tight affairs, losing by five points to Regina, and only by a field goal against Saskatchewan.
They've been led this season by their all-star defense, allowing only 107.4 yards per game on the ground, and 288 yards per game through the air. The Dinos defence also led Canada West with 12 interceptions on the year, a testament to their strong secondary. If teams decide to start airing it out against this Dinos team, they will be throwing into some dangerous territory. Seven defensive backs for Calgary registered at least one interception this year, two of which, Robert Woodson and Adam Laurenssee, were named Canada West all stars.
"I'm extremely proud of this group - they've worked hard all season long to achieve this goal, and we still have goals in front of us we are trying to achieve," said Dinos head coach Wayne Harris. "Their work ethic and commitment to getting better and improving each day - can't be any more proud than that."
The front seven of the Dinos has been solid, led by defensive lineman and Canada West all-star Jack McEwan with 4.5 sacks. The team registered a conference-best 13 sacks on the year. Fellow Canada West all-star, Boston Rowe, reinforces the linebacker position, finishing third in the conference with 53.5 tackles. The Calgary defense also scored the most touchdowns in the Canada West with four.
On the offence, the Dinos average almost 40 points a game, highlighted by games against Manitoba when they scored 63 points, and provincial rival Alberta for 50 points. The Dinos had a 92 per cent success rate in the red zone and had 242 first downs, the best in the conference.
The Dinos have been hit hard by injuries late in the season, with starting quarterback Jimmy Underdahl missing the final two regular season games and both Canada West playoff games. His replacement, Adam Sinagra, has performed admirably in his place: with a 3-1 record as a starter, Sinagra led the Dinos to their 16th Hardy Cup championship and earned offensive MVP honours in the Canada West championship game.
Calgary is also down to its third-string tailback on the preseason depth chart with injuries to both Quentin Chown and Bryce Harper, but second-year running back Jeshrun Antwi is the next man up. Receiver Austen Hartley, the team's leader with 110.2 yards per game – the third-best total in the nation – also missed the Hardy Cup, providing opportunities for the likes of Dallas Boath and Whitman Tomusiak to step in.
"We have talked about that right from day one, before we started training camp, that nothing was going to come easy this year and we would have to fight for every point and every win that we get," said Harris. "We've talked about finishing every play and every game - we've gotten behind in games but they've stuck to it. Part of that is our conditioning and being able to execute going into the fourth quarter."