It has been about a year now of blogging for me here on the Sun site and just as last year when I kickstarted The Feed, the university action ramps up in the city with football and soccer seasons essentially upon us.
Basketball, hockey and volleyball won’t be far behind, but for now it’s a chance to give a bit of focus to football and futbol.
The Bisons got their one non-conference game out of the way and had some bright spots along the way in a 29-13 win over the Regina Rams, Friday night at Mosaic Stadium.
Offensively the Bisons have huge potential mixed with a question mark at their most pivotal position, as they audition four quarterbacks to see who will take the reins from the departed Khaleal Williams. The potential — and it surely has the coaching staff brimming — is at the skill positions, namely sophomore running backs Anthony Coombs and Nic Demski, both of whom had outstanding freshmen seasons with Coombs named a first-team all-Canadian at RB, and Demski logging a second-team all-Canadian special teams honour. In Regina, it was Coombs who hit the highlight reel courtesy a 125-yard missed field goal return for a touchdown that — and you might just have to trust me on this — was worthy of TSN Top 10 status. Regardless, U of M is set there already with those two and if you factor in former Winnipeg Rifle Riley Coates, who went lead them on the ground with 44 yards on six carries, and the Bisons can count the backfield as their backbone.
On Friday, they got a look at all four QBs. Junior record-breaker Ryan Marsch will have certainly garnered a lot of interest in his first year with the Herd, but fellow freshman Theo Deezar, who decommitted from Ottawa this summer, upstaged him on this night, going 4-for-5 for 53 yards in mop-up duty in the fourth. Marsch struggled to a 1-for-7 outing with nine yards through the air in his first CIS contest.
The battle for the starting job between fifth-year senior Cam Clark and junior Mark Paquette didn’t clarify itself, with both going 5-for-10 with similar yardage. Clark threw two interceptions and a TD, Paquette one and two.
The Bisons open the season Saturday in Vancouver against the UBC Thunderbirds, who still boast Hec Crighton winner Billy Greene at quarterback, and return nine starters on offence, including all-Canadian receiver Jordan Grieve, from a team that went to the Canada West final last season, only to have its wins vacated because of the use of an ineligible player. Still, the T-Birds did go 6-2 with Greene at the helm and, offensively at least, should provide the Bisons with a formidable opening-week test. UBC lost eight starters from last year’s subpar defensive unit, but will bring in Hawaii transfer LB Joseph Malabuyoc, who had a tryout with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The T-Birds also are adding New Mexico State transfer Daniel English, a 6-foot-3 burner who was a 2-star recruit on American services Rivals and Scout coming out of high school in New Westminster, B.C.
The Winnipeg Wesmen will hold a press conference Friday to get the ball rolling on their inaugural campaign in the CIS. The men’s team has played a few friendlies with senior teams from the city, while the women went 0-3 at this past weekend’s U of M tournament. That record included a narrow 2-1 loss to the Bisons on Sunday. The Wesmen open their CIS season on the Sept. 7-9 weekend with the women hosting Manitoba and Northern British Columbia on Friday and Saturday, and the men playing a home and home with Saskatchewan that starts Friday in Winnipeg and ends Sunday in Saskatoon.
For the third straight year, the Bisons and Wesmen men’s teams took advantage of NCAA teams looking to come north for some pre-season action and welcomed the South Dakota Coyotes of the Summit League this weekend. The Wesmen hung in on Saturday before a 29-18 fourth quarter blew things open for the Coyotes in a 90-76 victory. Sunday, the Bisons dropped a 109-75 decision that was in South Dakota’s favour the entire way. Both results were far more encouraging than previous run-ins with the likes of South Dakota State and North Dakota State, who came up here the past two years and did what you’d expect a Division 1 team to do to a pair of CIS teams still in rebuilds. The Coyotes went 5-13 last season in the Summit League, which is allotted one berth into the March Madness tournament each year.
Both Mike Raimbault‘s Wesmen and Kirby Schepp‘s Bisons are going through some significant changes from last season, so getting a quality run in now can only be beneficial.