Johnson: Bisons in confident mood ahead of Hardy Cup

 

 
 
 
 
University of Calgary Dinos defensive back Elie Bouka can only watch as Kienan LaFrance of the Manitoba Bisons runs in for a touchdown during their Sept. 26 meeting at McMahon Stadium.
 

University of Calgary Dinos defensive back Elie Bouka can only watch as Kienan LaFrance of the Manitoba Bisons runs in for a touchdown during their Sept. 26 meeting at McMahon Stadium.

Photograph by: Ted Rhodes, Calgary Herald

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CALGARY - If the Manitoba Bisons play half as tough as their boss looks at the moment …

“I am,” concedes Brian Dobie, “a bit of a mess.”

As if he’d only just collided with Manny Pacquiao’s right fist and not a frozen projectile posing as a football.

One eye swollen shut after undergoing a battery of tests and some work by doctors and specialists after being unwittingly hit in the face by an errant toss – no name was being released, no charges laid – during the Bisons’ workout 24 hours earlier, Dobie was wondering aloud on Wednesday if he might actually be forced to miss his first practice in four decades in the coaching dodge.

“That thing,” sighs Dobie with amused resignation, “was thrown on a rope, let me tell you. A real fastball, high and tight. And, as luck would have it, I turned around perfectly, just in time to see it coming. There it was. Pow!

“Almost in slow, then fast – really fast – motion.

“I spent six hours at the hospital. They had some repairs to make.”

It’d take more than one whopper of a shiner to keep an old coaching campaigner like Dobie away from Saturday’s Hardy Cup at McMahon Stadium, though.

On this Saturday of all Saturdays.

Because come that afternoon, Dobie won’t merely feel like a patron saint of lost causes; he isn’t resigned to the long-standing reality that his Bisons are but mere slap-around playthings for the almighty Dinos to torment. Not anymore.

It’s one thing for Regina Rams coach Frank McCrystal to head into a playoff game against Blake Nill’s boys insisting that anything’s possible, after being strapped to the rack 59-7 in their only regular-season confrontation.

It’s quite another for Dobie to say it.

For not only did his Bisons come within a missed final-play 40-yard-field goal of dropping the six-times-running conference champions in their own bailiwick on Sept. 26, narrowly losing 42-41, they drummed the Dinos to the tune of 50-39 in the season curtain-dropper back home at Winnipeg’s Investors Group Field.

As a season series, it stands 1-1, even as can be.

You don’t need any advanced psychological profiling to see what that can do for a collective morale.

“You kind of hate to admit it – and I think our entire staff feels this way – but in the past, there was unquestionably a mental thing, a barrier, with Calgary,” acknowledges Dobie. “They’ve been so good, been the team to beat for so long. Prior to Calgary, remember, we were that team. So we know what it’s like to be there, on the other side. We know how intimidating that can be.

“Over the past number of years, we’d bring our guys in there and you could feel it. Nothing was ever said out loud. But it was there, anyway, the elephant in the room.”

Even moreso than that ultra-rare, oh-so-succulent W at home a couple of weeks back, the heart-wrenching September loss at McMahon – an epiphany of sorts – sold the Bisons on their viability.

“That,” Dobie said flatly, “was a break-through for us.

“After it was over, the feeling wasn’t ‘Oh, great. We played them tough.’ The feeling in our room was one of anger and frustration. We felt we could’ve, maybe should’ve, won. And I thought ‘Wow! We’re getting over this hump.’

“Look, I really respect the Dinos’ program. I know, we all know, how well it’s put together, how well they’re coached. I also know a lot of the guys on that side, great guys, great football players. But the sincere, genuine respect we were shown in the handshake line after that game in Calgary let us know just how far we’d come. ‘Wow, coach, you guys played a great game.’ ‘Wow, coach, we stole that from you guys.’ Stuff like that.

“And so I told our guys afterwards: ‘You have their respect. You finally have their respect. Now, let’s take that and turn it into self-respect.’

“Let’s run with that.”

Quarterback Jordan Yantz figures the Bisons can run with it all the way beyond Friday, out of the habitually merciless McMahon Stadium, to the Uteck Bowl in Quebec.

“In past years,” said the fourth-year pivot, “everybody would go into Calgary and simply say ‘The Dinos are the big bullies.’ We’d go in there and expect to lose.

“That’s the difference now. We knew going in there this year that we had to play a full 60 minutes in order to win. We played 59. We got rid of that stigma. We proved a lot to ourselves that day.

“The biggest thing is that now we’re not worried about getting beat on. We’re not going to turtle when they start coming at us. We’re going to stand and fight.

“I think it’s anyone’s game this weekend.

And so the rubber match looms.

Bruised and swollen, black-and-blue but not bowed, Brian Dobie can’t wait. He might have to miss a practice, but there’s no way on earth he’d miss this.

This Saturday of all Saturdays.

“I think our guys are hungry and confident. I don’t know who’s going to win the game. But I think it’s going to be a great one.

“It’s the old adage, right? To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. And Calgary’s the best. Unquestionably the best. They have our respect. And now we have theirs.

“They’re a great team. But we’re damn good, too. We’re there. At least, we think we are. And now we get the chance to find out.”

gjohnson@calgaryherald.com

Follow George Johnson on Twitter at @GeorgejohnsonCH

 
 
 
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University of Calgary Dinos defensive back Elie Bouka can only watch as Kienan LaFrance of the Manitoba Bisons runs in for a touchdown during their Sept. 26 meeting at McMahon Stadium.
 

University of Calgary Dinos defensive back Elie Bouka can only watch as Kienan LaFrance of the Manitoba Bisons runs in for a touchdown during their Sept. 26 meeting at McMahon Stadium.

Photograph by: Ted Rhodes, Calgary Herald

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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