WINNIPEG – After suffering a last-second loss to the Alberta Golden Bears last Friday, the Manitoba Bisons (1-2) come into Week 4 motivated to end a two-game losing streak. Their opportunity to do so comes in their Homecoming Game, this year against the UBC Thunderbirds (0-3), which goes September 21, 2019 at IG Field.
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. CDT, with fans able to watch the game on CanadaWest.TV (fee required) or listen on UMFM 101.5.
Though their last game ended with Alberta scoring a game-winning touchdown with six seconds left, the Bisons have plenty trending in the right direction heading into Week 4.
That starts with running back and return specialist Michael Ritchott, who is on pace to obliterate the program record for kick return yardage. Already with 340 yards on ten returns, Ritchott needs just 44 yards to break into the Bisons’ top ten seasons all-time, and is second in U SPORTS in kick return yards per game (34.0).
Ritchott also statistically leads a run game that continues to find pay dirt against opponents. Manitoba’s 170.0 yards per game on the ground puts them 6th in U SPORTS, with Ritchott averaging 79.3 yards per game and third-year Victor St. Pierre-Laviolette averaging 39.7.
Bisons head coach Brian Dobie is expecting Manitoba’s run game to be a difference-maker this week, even against former Canada West Rookie of the Year Nick Cross and his conference-leading 22 solo tackles.
“[Cross] is having a great year. He is unquestionably the top defensive player at UBC and maybe in the conference. He’ll be in the CFL that kid for sure,” Dobie added.
“But we ran well against Alberta, we ran well against Saskatchewan to open the season and the offensive line has come through at times. We need to establish the run against UBC without a doubt, to help our passing game work.”
On defence, Manitoba’s line has lived up to its promise heading into the season. The Herd rank 16th in the nation with seven sacks and have recovered three fumbles and made three interceptions. Penalties have been a sore spot, however, as the Bisons have the most penalty yardage of any team in the country with 231 through three games.
This weekend’s Homecoming Game is preceded by a tailgate carnival in I-Lot, which ticket-holders and students get into free. At halftime, the Bisons will honour the 1969 and 1970 Vanier Cup winning teams on the 50th anniversary of their first national championship.
The Bisons are home again in Week 5, as they play the Regina Rams on Saturday, September 28 (2 p.m.) at IG Field.
- Recent history against the Thunderbirds hasn’t been kind to Manitoba, as they’ve lost nine of ten to UBC and eight straight dating back to 2014. The Bisons and ‘Birds have played two overtime games over that span as well, with the Herd hoping to break through against their winless opposition this weekend.
- This is the only matchup between the Bisons and Thunderbirds this season, as Manitoba plays Calgary, Saskatchewan, and Regina twice during the 2019 season.
HOOFPRINTS: MANITOBA BISONS (1-2)
LAST WEEK: L 10-24,
Sep. 6 at Calgary
NEXT WEEK: vs. UBC, Sep. 21 at 2:00 PM CDT
- Ritchott’s Run: Fourth-year Bisons running back and return specialist Michael Ritchott scored an 84-yard touchdown run against Alberta last week, which ranks as the fifth-longest running play in Bisons history and the longest since Anthony Coombs’ run of the same length in 2013.
- Des in the Books: After a prolific 2018 season and start to 2019, QB Des Catellier is cementing his place in the program record books. He currently sits 135 passing yards behind Jordan Yantz (2013-14) for 7th all-time and is 5th in pass completions (371), five behind John Makie (2005-08).
HOOFPRINTS: UBC THUNDERBIRDS (0-3)
LAST WEEK: L 13-47,
Sep. 14 vs. Calgary
NEXT WEEK: vs. Alberta, Sep. 28 at 1:00 PM PT
- Rushing Issues: The ground game has been rough sledding for the ‘Birds through three weeks, as they rank 26th in U SPORTS in attempts (46) and 21st in rush yards per game (77.7). They also have just one rushing touchdown on the season.
- Yanchuk Under Pressure: First-year quarterback Tommy Yanchuk has been solid with a 60.9% completion percentage, but has found himself under pressure — 10th in U SPORTS in sacks taken (7) and 9th in most yards lost (49).