What a way to lose a playoff spot.
The University of Calgary Dinos were stunned Saturday afternoon when a turnover in the final few ticks of the game went robbed them of a spot in the Canada West football’s post-season.
Stephen Adamopoulos forced a fumble with eight seconds left that was scooped up by Nick Conway, who scampered 30 yards and scored a touchdown as time expired before Jackson Tachinshki connected with DeShawn Le Jour for the two-point convert, as the Manitoba Bisons claimed the fourth and final playoff spot to stun the home crowd at McMahon Stadium.
While the Dinos closed the regular season with their third consecutive win, defeating Manitoba 35-23, they couldn’t collect Canada West’s final playoff spot. They needed a 13-point win to edge out the Bisons for the fourth playoff spot and fell just short of that on that final bizarre play of the season.
Dom Britton finished the day with 238 yards on 15-of-31 passing for the Dinos with two touchdowns and an interception.
Tachinski led the Bisons with 216 yards through the air on 18-of-33 passing for two scores and also had a team-high 65 yards on the ground on the day.
Calgary had its best rushing performance of the season Saturday. Matthieu Clarke carried the ball 15 times for 135 yards, while Nick Sua added another 63 yards and a score on 10 runs.
Vince Triumbari also had a strong performance, connecting on all four of his field goal attempts — a new career high — while also adding a pair of singles.
Knowing the stakes at hand, the Dinos received the opening kickoff and quickly put points on the board with a 67-yard touchdown pass from Dom Britton to Ben Britton to make it 7-0 just 2:04 into the game.
Using the gusting wind at their backs, Triumbari added a single on the ensuing kickoff to quickly make it an eight-point lead.
After forcing a two-and-out by the Bisons, the Dinos immediately got the ball back and methodically marched 49 yards in eight plays, capped on a five-yard run by Sua and it was suddenly 16-0 for Calgary just over seven minutes into the game following another Triumbari rouge on the kickoff.
The Bisons got their first big play of the game on the ensuing possession to completely flip the momentum of the game. After a drive stall, Nathan Udoh’s punt travelled to midfield where it was recovered by an eligible Samuel Hezekiah to give Manitoba the ball to breathe life into their sideline. Tachinski then connected with Breydon Stubbs for a 43-yard strike down to the two-yard line before AK Gassama caught the next pass for the score to get the Bisons on the scoreboard and completely change the way this one was going early.
Britton hit Matt Sibley for a 34-yard TD on the final play of the first quarter as the Dinos led 23-7 after having the wind at their backs.
With the field flipped, Manitoba took advantage of the weather and drove 96 yards on 13 plays as Tachinski once again connected with Gassama from inside the redzone to draw within nine and another single — this time by the Bisons made it 23-15 at the half.
Both defences clamped down in the second half, as four Triumbari field-goals proved to be the only points scored until late.
With 3:10 left on the clock, Manitoba got the ball at midfield and drove the ball down to the five-yard line. But, a big pass breakup in the endzone by Jacob Biggs set up a crucial third down. Tachinski kept the ball on a designed run but was met by Biggs and Liam Reid as Calgary got the ball back and looked to have things going their way until the final play of the game.
The Bisons now get ready for a Canada West quarterfinal visit west play the host UBC Thunderbirds, who claimed the top seed for the first time since 1999 with a 23-10 win over the Alberta Golden Bears on Saturday afternoon.