The Rick Rivers Report
After an undefeated 2016 season and an opening win, the Tigers’ streak ended at 9 as the UNBF Red Bombers defeated Dal, 41-24. Coach Haggett when asked to describe his team’s loss in 15 words or less, said; “we were outplayed, out coached and they wanted it more”. He also said, the bus problems that morning had nothing to do with the loss.
A bus scheduled to pick up the Tigers at six a.m. did not appear until about seven-thirty. Coach had to call UNBF to ask to have the game start delayed until at least one-thirty from one. After the phone call and with the bus in transit, the bus had to stop on the highway with mechanical difficulties. The team arrived going on one PM and with an abbreviated warmup the game started at one-thirty.
It was a picture perfect afternoon for the start of the two game total point series for the Alumni Cup. In sweltering heat and humidity both defences would have good first halves. But the Bombers took advantage of a Dal fumble recovery on the Tigers’ 35. The result a 3-0 lead as Kevin O’Sullivan kicked a 24 yard FG.
Hunter Sturgeon’s varied short passing attack was effective in the second quarter against Dal. But a Turner Sturgeon run followed by a five yard TD run by Dylan Waugh and a PAT by O’Sullivan had the Bombers up 10-0, half way through the second quarter.
Dal’s offence seemed to be ignited by UNB’s first major. Starting from their 35, Chris Duplisea found Ryan Merlin for a long gain and runs by Merlin, Duplisea, and Leger had the Tigers on the Bombers 15. But the drive was thwarted and Dal had to settle for a single off of a missed 22 yard FG by Merlin.
A football traditionalist would challenge a number of third down gambles lost by the Bombers in the mid-field area. Such was the situation on third and two with less than a minute remaining in the half. The Tiger D again stopped the Bombers on their own 40 with 25 seconds remaining. Three incomplete pass attempts later, Dal found themselves down 10-1 at the half.
The third quarter was exciting for the good size crowd as 36 points were scored. Sturgeon combined with Mitch McCoy on their opening drive for a 73 yard touchdown. Dal responded immediately as Zack “Smash” Leger sprinted seventy-five yards for the major. Two scores in less than two minutes. O’Sullivan and Merlin added converts. The Red Bombers added a FG and led 20-8 at 10:52 of the third.
Aerial majors from Sturgeon to Jason Copperthwaite (13) and Jake McKay (74) had the Tiger fans pondering about their defence. Dal had given up more points in this game than in all of 2016.
A short kickoff by UNB, they had three following TDs, gave the black and gold good field position. A Duplisea pass to Spencer Muise and runs by “Slash” Kuhn (2) and Duplisea had the ball on the Bombers’ five. Jack Underhill scored the major and the subsequent two point convert saw the Tigers down, 34-16 at three quarter time.
Dalhousie dodged a huge bullet early in the 4th Q as Duplisea was intercepted on his own eleven. Sturgeon fumbled three plays later and Jesse Legault saved a possible six with the recovery. The next drive of Dal’s culminated with an interception on a third and five. Shortly after, Cam Caisse ran in from 20 yards out, making the score, 41-18.
Again, another purposeful short kickoff gave Dal possession at centre field. A first down run followed by three incomplete passes, saw the Tigers give up the ball. Dal’s D held for a two and punt and the most exciting play of the clash was saved for last. “Slash” Kuhn finessed his way 70 yards for the six. A missed two point convert left the score at Bombers 41, Tigers 24. Kuhn rushed for 120 yards on 8 carries while Leger had 123 on 9 attempts.
Some coaches say that a loss at a point in the season is more beneficial than a win to a team. The Tigers are down in the first game of the Alumni Cup and have three weeks to correct their mistakes. They will be at home and won’t have to worry about bus problems and a 17 point lead is not insurmountable. That first step will come this weekend as they challenge the Holland College Hurricanes this Saturday at 6 to a rematch of last year’s final.
So come and support your TIGERS!