Simon Fraser 26, British Columbia 7 (F)

CLAN Football: SFU knocks off UBC 26-7 to open Canada West season

Vancouver, B.C. – The Simon Fraser University Clan proved Saturday afternoon that 2008 wasn’t an aberration, controlling the tempo in the 2009 Canada West regular season opener to defeat the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds 26-7 at UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium. The Clan’s special teams play was perhaps the story of the game; kicker Jason Cook (Vernon, B.C.) connected on all four of his field goal attempts, while return man Jeffery Thompson (St. Louis, MO) added 134 total return yards to put SFU in scoring position.

The Clan’s rushing attack also proved effective; as a team SFU averaged 6.6 yards per carry (152 total yards rushing), while quarterback Bernd Dittrich (Vienna, Austria) completed 13-of-23 attempts for 185 yards, and rushed for 36 yards on four carries. While at times the Thunderbirds showed flashes, offensive miscues in the first half proved to be their undoing, and finished the game with 229 total offensive yards to SFU’s 312.

The Clan (1-0) enter their bye-wee next weekend, and are back in action on September 11 (7 pm), when they host the Manitoba Bisons. The Thunderbirds (0-1) will have to rebound next weekend when they face Alberta in Edmonton on September 4 (7 pm).

“Both teams played well today, but as a team I thought everyone on our roster stepped up and made a contribution,” said SFU head coach Dave Johnson following the game. “When we needed it, we had a couple of big plays defensively that were very timely, and offensively I thought Brendan [Halverson] and Gabe [Ephard] gave us a nice one-two punch in the backfield.”

After a scoreless first quarter, Cook connected on his first field goal in SFU colours, a 20-yarder, to put the Clan up 3-0 only 30 seconds into the second. The Thunderbirds didn’t cross into SFU territory until the nine-minute mark of the second, putting together an eight-play 52-yard touchdown drive, capped by a ten-yard Billy Greene strike to Jordan Grieve on a post pattern to lead 7-3 with 1:35 left in the half.

The Clan however answered with a touchdown drive of their own before the end of the half. Following a 29-yard Thompson return to the SFU 52-yard line, Simon Fraser quarterback Dittrich completed two passes to get SFU to the UBC 27. From there, Gabe Ephard (North Vancouver, B.C.) took a handoff, made two cuts, and carried two Thunderbird tacklers across the goal line to give SFU a 10-7 advantage at halftime.

Simon Fraser extended their advantage on the opening drive of the third quarter, with Cook connecting on a 15-yard field goal following an eight-play 60-yard drive and added to their lead on their next drive with another Cook field goal, this time from 29-yards out to lead 16-7.

After another lengthy SFU drive to open the fourth quarter, Cook potted his fourth field goal of the afternoon, connecting on a 34-yard strike. Cook had missed on the play before from 39 yards out, however a UBC offside penalty allowed him another opportunity, putting Simon Fraser up 19-7.

On the ensuing drive, the Thunderbirds were able to get down to the Clan 35-yard line, but on third down Justin Capicciotti (Toronto, Ont.) sacked UBC quarterback Greene to end the threat.

Later in the fourth, the Clan finished off UBC, recovering a fumble by UBC punter Billy Pavlopoulos to regain possession on the Thunderbird 18-yard line. Brendan Halverson (Phoenix, AZ) punched in the final nail on a five-yard touchdown run to put SFU up 26-7.

Ephard (North Vancouver, B.C.) finished as the Clan’s leading rusher, generating 68 yards on eight carries. Victor Marshall (Seattle, WA) was Simon Fraser’s leading receiver, catching four passes for 51 yards. Defensively Marc DesLauriers (Surrey, B.C.) finished with a team high six tackles, while Capicciotti added 1.5 sacks.

For the Thunderbirds, Greene ended the day 14-for-23 for 118 yards and one touchdown, while Dave Boyd reached the 100-yard mark with 11 carries for 100 yards on the ground. Alex Babalos was UBC’s leading tackler with seven. Neither team registered a turnover (fumble or interception).

“It was important for our team to come out and play well, we’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” said Thompson. “I just wanted to go out and do my thing, after coming from St. Louis and redshirting last year, I wanted to make the most of any playing time I got.”

Games notes: Starting SFU defensive tackle John Reeves (knee), linebacker Chris Folk (knee), halfback Aeron Kawakami (hand) and receiver Spencer Watt (arm) all missed Saturday’s game, but all are expected to be in the lineup against Manitoba (September 11).

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