OCTOBER 27, 2018

T-Birds to host Hardy Cup semifinal after OT win in Manitoba

T-Birds to host Hardy Cup semifinal after OT win in Manitoba

UBC Thunderbirds

WINNIPEG – The UBC Thunderbirds trailed by as much as 21 points late in the second quarter but mounted a ferocious second half comeback capped off with a Ben Cummings overtime touchdown for the 38-34 win over the Manitoba Bisons Saturday afternoon at Investors Group Field.

The win is the third straight for the T-Birds who clinched a Hardy Cup semifinal home berth with a 5-3 record and will now host the Saskatchewan Huskies next Saturday for a berth in a fourth straight Canada West final.

Riding the shoulder of their backup quarterback, the Bisons came out strong in Week eight against No. 10 ranked UBC. The story shifted in the second half, though, as the Thunderbirds showed their aggression, out scoring the Bisons 18-0 in the final two quarters. Manitoba (3-5) will now play their Hardy Cup semifinal on the road against No. 3 ranked Calgary.

Stavros Katsantonis vs. Manitoba, Sept. 30, 2016

"All we did at halftime was reflect on how important football is to us and ask each other if this was worth the battle," said UBC head coach Blake Nill who will prepare to host a playoff game for the third year in his four seasons with the 'Birds. "There are enough kids on this team where football truly means everything to them and we saw that kind of effort in the second half."

The Thunderbirds were led by their quarterback, as Michael O'Connor had a stellar second half to finish 36-for-49 for 467 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception.

With Des Catellier out due to a lower body injury, Manitoba found an unlikely hero in quarterback Jamie Ybarra, who went 20-for-26 for 396 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions.

Michael O'Connor handoff to Ben Cummings, vs Manitoba, Oct. 27, 2018

Ybarra connected with Dylan Schrot for an 11-yard score to open proceedings. The touchdown was Schrot's sixth of the season, as he finishes one shy of the school record. Schrot also led Manitoba in receiving, with a season-high 173 yards on seven receptions, with his touchdown.

While UBC would answer with an O'Connor connection to Trey Kellogg, the Bisons rolled off 21 straight points in response. First, it was Jesse Walker running it in to close the first quarter from the wildcat formation. Then, running back Victor St. Pierre-Laviolette scampered in a 17-yard touchdown. Finally, Ybarra made a brilliant pass to the back of the end zone to Shai Ross, who tapped the toes to make it 28-7. Manitoba would go into halftime up 31-13.

From there, though, it was all Thunderbirds. O'Connor found his favourite target in Trivel Pinto for a 26-yard touchdown five minutes into the third frame. Then, lightning struck twice, as Pinto caught another score with 7:30 left in the fourth. A two-point convert tied the game at 31. Pinto would finish with 184 yards on 12 receptions to go with his two scores.

Marcus Browne - Sept. 9, 2017 vs. Manitoba

In overtime, Manitoba struck first off a 50-yard boot from Brad Mikoluff. The Thunderbirds did one better, though, as Ben Cummings caught a pass out wide from O'Connor to seal the win.

"Now it's all about player management, staying healthy, being rested and being mentally ready to go," added Nill. "I feel a lot better right now than I did two hours ago, I'll tell you that."

The T-Birds will host a playoff game at Thunderbird Stadium for the second consecutive season while meeting the Huskies in the postseason for the first time since 2011. Kickoff for the Hardy Cup semifinal will be 2:00 p.m. PT on Saturday, November 3rd.


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