|Photo by Mitchell Blair|
The win completes a worst-to-first turnaround for the Rams, who went through a winless season in 2015 but went 6-2 this year under the guidance of first-year head coach Steve Bryce. They’ll now match up with the UBC Thunderbirds (3-5) next weekend in the Canada West semifinals, a game that will kick off on Saturday afternoon (3:30) at Mosaic Stadium and will mark the first time the two teams have ever met in the postseason.
“I’m very proud that we’ve played a role in helping turn this team in a positive direction, but by far the most important piece of the puzzle is how well our players have bonded and are playing together as a team,” Bryce said. “It’s never easy to beat a team three times in one season, but that’s what we’ll have to accomplish to get through UBC. We know we have our work cut out for us against an explosive offence and a stingy defence.”
Third-year quarterback Noah Picton capped off his sensational regular season with 447 passing yards in the win. That gives him 3174 for the season as he breaks the U Sports single-season record of 3162, which was set last year by Calgary’s Andrew Buckley.
“The work that Mark (McConkey) has done with the offence this year is incredible,” Picton said. “Week in and week out, he’s put us in a position to be successful and between that and the athletes we’ve got on offence, my job has been easy all season long. The guys in front of me have kept me upright through eight games and when the receivers have the ball in their hands, they’ve made the plays. The numbers are truly a testament to the play of the guys around me.”
While Picton had yet another great passing performance as he completed 27 of his 39 pass attempts, threw three touchdowns, and ran for one more, third-year running back Atlee Simon also had a huge game for the Rams. All three of Picton’s touchdowns were to Simon, and he ran for another to give him four touchdowns in a game for the second time in his career as he equals the school record also shared by Jason Clermont and Chad Goldie. Simon finished with 133 all-purpose yards, rushing 13 times for 76 yards and adding five catches for 57 yards.
Ryan Schienbein had six catches for 129 yards, while Riley Wilson caught five passes for a game-high 156 yards – 81 of which came on one play, when backup pivot Tyler Vieira found him for a long touchdown late in the third quarter. Andrew Bennett had a huge first half with five catches for 93 yards, while Simon, Kyle Moortgat, Brady Eurich, and Mitchell Picton also had multiple receptions.
NOTES: The total of 55 points scored by the Rams is the fourth highest in school history, eclipsed only by a 59-21 win over UBC (2001), a 58-31 win over Saskatchewan (2001), and a 56-41 win over Manitoba (2014) … Noah Picton finishes the season with 224 completions (Canada West record), 3174 passing yards (U Sports record), and 25 touchdown passes … Mitchell Picton finishes the year with 58 receptions (U of R record), 834 receiving yards, and 11 touchdown catches (tied for U of R record) … Ryan Schienbein’s final numbers for his breakout regular season are 54 catches for 775 yards and seven touchdowns … after next week’s game against UBC, Alberta will be the only Canada West team remaining that the Rams have never played in the postseason.
(Courtesy Braden Konschuh)