Despite a record day from running back Atlee Simon, the University of Regina Rams were beaten in the playoffs by the Thunderbirds for the second straight year on Saturday in Vancouver.
The University of British Columbia Thunderbirds defence was able to shut down the Rams offence for much of the first half — quarterback Noah Picton only had five yards through the air in the first quarter — and jumped out to an early lead, scoring 16 points in the first quarter.
The Thunderbirds would lead by 21 points in the third quarter but the Rams weren’t going to go away quietly.
The Rams would score 14 unanswered points with rushing touchdowns from Simon and Frankie Gray.
TOUCHDOWN! Simon up the middle for 46 yards and the major! pic.twitter.com/HZDbWb8NOS
— U. of Regina Rams (@reginarams) November 5, 2017
The Rams would get the ball back with under 40 seconds left in the game and Picton would get the team into position for one last opportunity to tie it up.
Picton threw up a Hail Mary pass but it was knocked down by the Thunderbirds’ Trivel Pinto, sealing the 28-21 victory for UBC.
“They outplayed us in the first half and I think we outplayed them in the second half but you shoot yourself in the foot a couple times too early, it’s difficult to come back from,” Rams head coach Stephen Bryce said.
He said he was proud of the team for being able to make the game close and give them an opportunity to win late.
One of the Rams who led the late-game surge was Simon. He ran for 223 yards — a U of R playoff record.
“He kind of had a tipping point this year where all of a sudden, it was almost a reawakening, where he started to run a lot more consistently and finishing drives,” Bryce said. “He’s been outstanding and I think he’ll continue that next year and I think he’ll compete to be the top running back in the league.”
With the loss, the Rams season came to an end and that means it’s the end of a few players collegiate careers.
Bryce said his fifth-year players were the leaders of the team and their guidance will be missed next season.
He said he wants the players who will be returning to remember the feeling of the loss so they don’t repeat it again next year.
The Thunderbirds will travel to Alberta to face the Calgary Dinos for the Hardy Cup.