The University of Regina Rams struggled to get in sync in their season opener as the UBC Thunderbirds defeated the Rams 25-10 on Friday night at Mosaic Stadium.
Quarterback Noah Pelletier got the start for the Rams and ended up with 12/28 with 138 passing yards and a rushing touchdown, but Bryden O’Flaherty was the QB who led the Rams on their touchdown drive after coming in relief for Pelletier in the third quarter.
Wide receiver D’Sean Mimbs led the Rams in receiving with six catches and 92 yards.
Defensive back Jackson Sombach provided five tackles on defence for the green and gold.
UBC QB Garrett Rooker had 305 passing yards with a touchdown, and running back Isaiah Knight added 100 yards on the ground.
The Thunderbirds relied on their aerial attack on the opening drive as they marched the ball down the field 66-yards before the Rams defence forced a stop, limiting UBC kicker Kieran Flannery-Fleck to a 38-yard field goal to open up the scoring.
At the end of the first quarter, the Thunderbirds doubled their lead to six as Flannery-Fleck connected on a 14-yard field goal.
UBC dominated time of possession in the opening quarter, with an 11:49 to 3:11 advantage.
Thunderbirds wide receiver Sam Davenport opened up the scoring with a 61-yard touchdown catch and run to push the UBC lead into double digits.
The Ram’s defence would create the first points of the season. Linebacker Brayden Wegg sacked Rooker inside the UBC five-yard line for a 19-yard loss. The Thunderbirds elected to concede the safety,
Just before the first half expired, the Green and Gold offense was posing a threat of scoring more points. With 15 seconds remaining and a running clock, Pelletier’s pass into the end zone fell incomplete, and with zeroes on the board, the University of Regina trailed 13-2 at half-time.
In the second half, UBC added to their lead with three field goals from Flannery-Fleck to give UBC a 22-2 advantage.
O’Flaherty would then replace Pelletier at quarterback and led the Rams on a 75-yard drive that was capped off by Pelletier running it in the end zone. O’Flaherty would return for the two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 22-10.
But that was as close as the Rams would get after UBC added a late field goal to make the final 25-10.
After the game, Ram head coach Mark McConkey took the heat for the miscommunication for the end of the first half.
“I couldn’t manage the clock worse at half, like I didn’t call a timeout, I was just thinking about the next play.”
Despite the spark that was provided O’Flaherty, McConkey wasn’t ready to name a starter for next week but also displayed support for Pelletier.
“Noah’s our guy, he’s been tremendous all camp, I thought he made the right reads sometimes, just when receivers are dropping them and you make a bad throw and you get hit once or twice, it starts to add up.”
On the positive side, the Rams head coach was happy on the defensive side of the ball, with the Rams only allowing touchdown against the Thunderbirds.
“They (UBC) probably have the best o-line in CanWest. ” McConkey said, “they’re going to rush the ball, that’s what they do, but our defence did well and that was the biggest question mark coming into the game.”
Things won’t get any easier for the Rams as they will travel to Saskatoon next week to meet their provincial rivals, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies at Griffiths Stadium. McConkey has no problem with the Rams facing the top two teams in the Canada West according to the preseason coaches poll, and felt his team gave the Thunderbirds a tough test in Week 1.
“When you play good teams, you can’t have that many mistakes, just too many self inflicted errors, that really hurt us. “
The Huskies were victorious on Friday night, with a come from behind 30-27 win over the University of Manitoba Bisons in Winnipeg.