EDMONTON â€” It took 3 years, 10 months and 14 days â€” but the University of Alberta Golden Bears football squad have finally done it.
The Golden Bearsâ€™ 44-42 victory over the University of Regina Rams is their first win since November 2010, ending a 26-game losing streak.
But it wasnâ€™t easy.
With 55.3 seconds remaining, Rams quarterback Noah Picton aired a 85-yard bomb to wide receiver Addison Richards, bringing the Rams to within two points of the Bears.
Rams head coach Frank McCrystal opted for the two-point conversion to tie the game, but Bears fourth-year linebacker Connor Ralph sacked Picton, sealing the victory.
â€œHeâ€™s one of the guys on this team we count on,â€� Bears head coach Chris Morris said of Ralph making the pivotal defensive stop. â€œHe makes plays when itâ€™s important for us, and itâ€™s great that he made one at the end of the game.â€�
Although he made the play, Ralph â€” who finished with a game-high eight tackles â€” deferred to his teammates on his game-saving sack.
â€œTo be honest, I was just kind of lucky,â€� Ralph said. â€œMy back end and my coverage guys did a great job of making the quarterback hold the ball, and I just put my motor going and I got there.â€�
While he felt â€œhelplessâ€� standing on the sidelines during the Ramsâ€™ 85-yard score and two-point try, Bears quarterback Curtis Dell said he was confident the defence was going to â€œstep up to make a play.â€�
As a fifth-year veteran of the Bears, Dell â€” who completed 17 of 27 passes for 271 yards and four touchdowns â€” said itâ€™s a relief to finally get a win after almost four years of heartache.
â€œObviously, this win came too late in everyoneâ€™s eyes, but Iâ€™m glad we got it,â€� he said. â€œLast week wouldâ€™ve been better and weâ€™re 1-2, so obviously weâ€™re behind the eight ball a bit. There was a lot of motivation coming into this week, a lot more preparation, and it paid off.â€�
His receivers certainly came prepared, as Adam Zajdel caught three balls for 90 yards and two scores, including a 49-yard scorcher in the second quarter. Yembeh Moiba had three receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown while slotback Aundrey Webster amassed 256 all-purpose yards. Dell also had help from the backfield, as running back Levon Hawreliak rushed for 66 yards and a touchdown.
Dell and his offence was enough to offset the Ramsâ€™ Picton, who threw for 431 yards and three touchdowns. His top receiver, Richards, caught a game high 225 yards and two touchdowns.
With Picton and the Ramsâ€™ late push, Dell said he knew the game wasnâ€™t over and they would â€œhave another shot.”
This made the win at the final buzzer a â€œdream come trueâ€� when Golden Bears fans rushed Foote Field. But if the Bears want to keep winning, they need to start preparing for next week versus the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.
â€œItâ€™s obviously just one win and we have to understand that. We got another game next week. We get to cherish this moment for the weekend,â€� he said. â€œCome Monday, weâ€™re back to work.â€�