The real journey begins now for the Calgary Dinos.
After going undefeated in the regular season (8-0) for the second time in school history, the Dinos have wiped the slate clean for playoff football. Four more wins to achieve their ultimate goal, a Vanier Cup Championship.
“Eleven months of the year we’re working to get to this point,” said Dinos defensive back Robert Woodson.
Calgary hosts the University of Saskatchewan Huskies (3-5) in the Canada West Semi-Final on Saturday at McMahon Stadium, (1 p.m., CanadaWest.tv).
“We’ve had our mindset on playoffs the whole season,” said quarterback Andrew Buckley. “For me as a fifth-year, I’m also looking at it like each game could be my last.”
This veteran Dinos team feels they’ve learned a lesson from last season, losing in the Hardy Cup Final, snapping a streak of six straight conference titles.
“It doesn’t matter what team you have going into any game, in the playoffs, it’s sudden death,” said Woodson. “You have to make sure you come every single week prepared to win, and ready to go, or else (like last year) you can get upset and then it’s over just like that.”
“It’s served as a big motivator for all the teams, and leaders within the team have really emerged and taken ownership of this program and the direction it’s going to go,” said first-year head coach Wayne Harris.
It’s the first playoff meeting since 2009, which the Dinos won in an offensive shootout, 39-38. The Dinos also owned the season series, winning both by a combined score of 103-34.
Maybe a little foreshadowing for the rest of the playoffs, each of the previous four times the Dinos and Huskies have met in the playoffs, the winner has gone on to play for the national championship.
“We’ve come so close in the past that it can’t help but fuel this team as we go into the playoffs,” said Buckley.
2015 was yet another record-breaking campaign for the Dinos, who set seven single-season marks on offence, including most points (471), touchdowns (53) and total offence (5606)—all of which were set last season.
That offence was guided by Buckley, who also enjoyed a tremendous senior season, breaking the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) record for passing yards in a single season, with 3,162 yards. He also finishes his career No. 2 all-time in Dinos passing yards and completions, behind only Greg Vavra (1980-1983).
“It’s very cool for me personally, and my family is very proud of me,” said Buckley. “Just to be in the same conversation as a guy like Greg Vavra is tremendously honouring for me. That being said though, it’s just a minor focus for this team; our team goal for this entire season is the Vanier Cup, so that’s what we’re focused on now.”
They also set a new school record with 16 players named to the Canada West All-Star team, breaking the old mark of 12 set in 2012. There are just 27 nominations available.
The UBC Thunderbirds (6-2) host the Manitoba Bisons (5-3) in the other Canada West Semi-Final (1 p.m. MST, Global TV). The winners will meet in the 79th Hardy Cup Final, which can be seen live nationally on Global TV Nov 14.