The University of Regina Rams scored two touchdowns in the final 95 seconds to upset the No. 8-ranked Manitoba Bisons by a 41-38 score on Thursday night in a wild Canada West game at Mosaic Stadium.
Third-year quarterback Noah Picton engineered two massive drives in the game’s final minutes, first leading the team on an 11-play, 87-yard drive that he finished off himself with a one-yard plunge. It looked bleak for the Rams after their onside kick attempt failed and Manitoba got the ball down to the Rams’ 24-yard line up by five, but Korey Greene’s tackle on Alex Christie jarred the ball loose and Zack McEachern pounced on it to give the Rams new life.
And the Rams offence did it again, starting from their own six-yard line. The big play was a Picton pass to Riley Wilson for a 49-yard gain and the nine-play, 104-yard drive was finished off with a touchdown pass to Ryan Schienbein on a 3rd-and-5 situation from 15 yards out.
Manitoba had one last chance with a heave towards the end zone, but there were only Rams in the vicinity and Joey Dwyer picked it off to seal the win.
“This might be my proudest moment so far as a coach,” Rams head coach Steve Bryce said. “Feeling a part of the Rams family for over 25 years and knowing how hard these guys have worked, it’s such an incredible feeling to come away with the win tonight.”
Picton finished with video game numbers in the win, setting school records in both completions (40) and pass attempts (60), throwing for a career-high 490 yards, and tossing four touchdown passes for the second consecutive week.
Mitchell Picton and Riley Wilson both hit the 1000-yard mark in career receiving yards in the win. Wilson had eight catches to lead all players with 127 yards, while Picton tied Schienbein for the game high with nine receptions and had 108 yards and two majors. Khalid Kornegay just missed hitting triple digits for the second week in a row, finishing with six catches for 94 yards and a touchdown.
Second-year running back Blake Anaka stepped in for an injured Jens Johnson and had 11 carries for a career-high 79 yards.
Danny Nesbitt led the team in tackles, finishing with seven solo and six assisted including one for a two-yard loss. Braedy Will had the team’s first interception since 2014 after picking off the ball in the end zone late in the third quarter, while Mason Rossler had five solo tackles, two assisted tackles, and a pair of pass breakups.
Manitoba quarterback Theo Deezar also had stellar numbers, finishing 30-for-49 for 457 yards and two touchdowns. Christie finished with a game-high 97 rushing yards, while Shai Ross had a team-leading 126 yards on just four receptions. Both Trysten Dyce and Jesse Walker had 80 receiving yards.
D.J. Lalama was everywhere for the Bisons defence, leading Manitoba in tackles and also registering a late sack fumble that Houston Rennie scooped up and turned into a 19-yard touchdown return. Tristen O’Meara was credited with four pass breakups, while Evan Foster had two tackles for loss including a sack.
With how the game finished, it’s a little hard to believe that the game was a defensive struggle for most of the first half. Neither team scored a touchdown until the two teams traded majors in the final three minutes of the second quarter – first an Anthony Dyck seven-yard reception for Manitoba, then a Mitchell Picton 16-yard touchdown catch with 11 seconds to go that sent the Rams into halftime with a narrow 13-10 lead.
The Rams scored two majors in the third quarter, both on 75-yard drives. Kornegay and Schienbein caught touchdowns from 10 yards out and 17 yards out, respectively, with Schienbein’s giving the Rams a healthy 27-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
But then Manitoba reeled off 24 unanswered points, starting with a conceded safety. Then Christie punched one in from a yard out to cap off a 10-play, 80-yard drive for the Bisons that got them to within one score. An onside kick caught the Rams napping and three plays later Manitoba was back in the end zone on a Cam Fox 28-yard touchdown catch that put Manitoba up 30-27. Rennie’s 19-yard fumble return touchdown put the Bisons up 38-27 and sent some fans towards the exits, but the Rams replied with those two huge drives to come away with a critical win for the program.
The Rams (1-1) will now prepare for a road tilt against UBC (1-0) next Saturday in Vancouver