LIGHTS OUTSHINE DINOS IN EXHIBITION TILT
MEDICINE HAT, Alta. – The Montana State University-Northern Lights used a 13-3 advantage in the second half to defeat the University of Calgary Dinos 30-19 in an exhibition contest Saturday at the Methanex Bowl in Medicine Hat, Alta., the first action for both teams in the 2009 season.
In a game that meant very different things to the two teams, both sides return home ready to start conference play next weekend with exactly what they came for. For the Lights, the game counted in their season record and likely boosted their chances of qualifying for the NAIA national playoffs, while the Dinos got the chance to play virtually their entire roster and evaluate young players before Friday’s season-opener against the Saskatchewan Huskies in Saskatoon (7 p.m., The FAN 960, fan960.com, Shaw TV).
The game was played with a hybrid of Canadian and American rules. On the 110-yard Canadian field, both teams played four-down football, and the two defences were forced to adjust to offensive schemes they rarely see. When Calgary was on offence there were 12 players per side on the field, with the American 11 players when the Lights had the ball.
“It was tough on the defence to play a totally different system, and we literally came in with five defensive calls,” said Calgary head coach Blake Nill. “We really just wanted to get the opportunity to see the kids play. I was happy with the way the offence moved at times, especially the first group, and now it’s about the real thing. We have to make sure that we’re prepared to play next week when the chips are down and everything counts.”
The teams went blow-for-blow in the first half, which ended in a 17-16 advantage for the American side after the Dinos missed a point-after attempt on a bobbled snap. An early 7-0 Calgary lead on a three-yard touchdown grab by Chris Dobko was matched less than a minute later on a two play, 62-yard drive by the Lights culminating in a five-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jeff Van Nest. Reigning Canada West MVP Matt Walter added a five-yard TD scamper for Calgary before 10 unanswered points from MSU-N. Calgary ended the half with a big 50-yard field goal by Aaron Ifield to pull the score within one.
A 43-yard Ifield field goal was the only scoring for Calgary in the second half as the Dinos substituted young players freely while the Lights stuck with their starting string. Van Nest connected with Kyle Kercher and Matt Stuart for touchdown passes in the second half.
Walter racked up 88 yards on eight carries in just one half of work for the Dinos, while quarterback Erik Glavic looked impressive in his debut with the Dinos completing five on nine passes for 72 yards in just over one quarter of action. Returning pivot Deke Junior took over for the second half, completing six of 12 passes for 64 yards.
Defensively, Calgary got a good look at several young players who stood out despite the 11-man formation. Freshman Matt Prete joined sophomores Wyatt Getty and Tye Noble in leading the Dinos in tackles on the afternoon.
“Prete looked very good, some of our young defensive linemen looked very good, and even our young receivers played well,” said Nill. “Overall it was what we wanted to do, and now it’s time to get ready for Saskatchewan.”