Rams loose nail-biter

Donnelly takes the snap. Kate Thiessen

Green and gold come up short

With 2:12 remaining in the fourth quarter the Rams’ defence takes to the field to keep their hopes of winning their home opener alive. The defence stands up to the pressure, holding the Golden Bears to a loss of three yards and they are forced to punt the ball to the Regina offence. It’s crunch time now. Trailing 18-16, the young Rams team has just 1:12 to get into field goal range and continue their winning start. Rookie quarterback Josh Donnelly passes the ball to running back Semba Mbasela who runs for 17 yards, taking them to the 51-yard line. Donnelly then throws a great pass to Kyle Moortgat, bringing the Rams into field-goal range with less than a minute remaining. As the kicking team takes the field, the crowd sits in bated anticipation. All they need is a field goal and the game will be won. As Aldo Galvan’s kick soars through the air the crowd explodes, and it goes . . . wide. The Rams lose 18-17.

The Ram’s 2019 home opener was undeniably exciting, but it was far from a perfect game. They got off to a slow start; their first drive was dead in the water with a loss of four yards. Fortunately, Alberta wasn’t much better, and the Rams began to build momentum with two good drives and opened the game’s scoring courtesy of Galvan’s 16-yard field goal. This was beginning to look like the team who trounced UBC by 30 points.

The second quarter was much of the same. Erik Wicijowski had a big sack, and the Rams gained a 16-8 lead from another great drive that culminated with Donnelly’s touchdown pass to Kyle Moortgat. Momentum turned early in the third when Donnelly threw an interception, but a interception courtesy of Cord Delinte regained some of that momentum. That’s when the wheels started to fall off.  In crushing fashion, they turned over the ball again this time with a fumbled kick. Even worse, the Bears converted the opportunity into a field goal, giving them their 17-16 lead. The fourth quarter was a showcase of offence weakness from both teams. Donnelly threw two more interceptions, and a blocked field goal attempt sealed the Rams chances.

The offence was by far the worst component of the Rams team on Friday. Donnelly, who was very solid in the Rams 46-point win over UBC was uncharacteristically shaky. He executed on only 28-49 of his passes on route to throwing three interceptions. Special teams, in particular kicking was also a weak point for the Rams. One field goal attempt was partially blocked, another was fumbled and turned over for an Alberta field goal, and in the final play of the game Galvan missed a 42-yard field goal which ultimately cost them the win.

That said, there were bright spots on the offence. The receiving core was strong once again, led by Ryan Schienbein’s 85-yard performance. Kyle Moortgat was also exceptionally dangerous, generating 78 yards with eight receptions and one touchdown. Daniel Scraper, Bennett Stusek, and Riley Boersma also contributed with good performances. It’s worth noting that part of this success is because Donnelly managed to pass for 340 yards, despite the poor completion ratio and three interceptions. He looked poised and in control for two and a half quarters and if he can keep it together for four, this passing offence is dangerous. Another improvement for the Rams came from running back Mbasela who had some good runs, including the big first down in the last minute on his way to 97 yards in the game.

The defence was also solid, allowing no touchdowns and only two field goals while generating two sacks courtesy of Wicijowski and Robbie Lowes. Delinte was also dangerous, garnering 11 tackles and an interception. If the Rams want to get back to winning, the defence will need to keep performing.

For head coach Steve Bryce, the game was a good test and his assessment was clear.

“We didn’t play well enough to win. Though we looked good at times, we made a lot of mistakes during the game. We threw too many interceptions; we didn’t handle the ball very well and our kicking game was a little rough. We need to get better than this.”

Second-year receiver Riley Boersma also thought that the team needed to improve for the next game.

“It was not what we expected. We just got to be better and come back to practice. We made too many mistakes.”

Despite the unfortunate result, the team is still proving that they can compete. They only lost by one, and with such a young offence, there is room for improvement game to game, something Boersma understands is a part of the process.

“We know that we have the potential to be great if we can fix those mistakes, we will come back good.”

Coach Bryce also believes that his team is far better than the result on Friday indicated.

“They are a great group of young men and they’re going to fix their mistakes.”

The other plus? The game was close and in CanWest competition, scores matter.

“The positive is that in a two-game series we are only down one point we just got to beat them by more than a point and we win that series.”

The team will play their next game at Mosaic once again, this time against in-province rivals the U of S Huskies. The Huskies also head into the game 1-1 coming off of a 40-7 win against UBC. If the Rams can put together four full quarters, they should be back in the winning column.

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