MacKinnon: Alberta Golden Bears snap three-season losing streak

EDMONTON — Golden Bears quarterback Curtis Dell described the jubilant mob scene at midfield as a “movie moment,â€� following Alberta’s 44-42 victory over the University of Regina Rams on Saturday.

The cinematic scene — fans surrounding the Golden Bears and all of them dancing at midfield as the fans chanted “Bears win! Bears win! Bears win!� — was a long, painful time coming.

The Golden Bears, the lone straggler in a university athletics program renowned for its sporting excellence and parade of national championships, had not won a regular-season game since Oct. 23, 2010, a staggering 26 regular-season losses in a row — three straight winless seasons — plus two defeats to open 2014.

Just four members of the current roster had experienced a regular-season victory. Dell, a fifth-year physical education major, is one of them.

“For a game like this to happen, obviously it’s been too long for this group, for this team, for this organization,� said Dell. “So, to finally get that win, there are so many things that go through your head, so many emotions, it’s tough to focus on one.

“But, obviously, we’re very excited and it’s been a long time coming.�

The Bears thought they had snapped their grim streak last week at home, but they lost 42-41 in overtime to the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. They had overcome a 24-9 deficit in that one to force overtime, only to lose yet another heartbreaker.

At least it was close, for whatever that may have been worth. At least it demonstrated that victory was possible.

The Chris Morris-coached club lost its season opener 71-3 to the University of Calgary Dinos, a loss reminiscent to some of the pastings the Bears absorbed last season, Morris’s first as head coach.

And Saturday’s victory did not come easily, either. Regina racked up 705 yards of offence, including 530 yards passing, but the Bears found a way to secure a victory.

The Golden Bears built a 28-13 halftime lead over the Rams, who responded with a major push in the third quarter, which finished up 29-29.

Alberta built a 44-29 fourth-quarter lead, too, but Regina wouldn’t go away.

The potential dagger was an 85-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Noah Picton to Addison Richards that brought the Rams within a two-point convert of tying the game with 1:58 to go in the game. Picton completed 28 of 36 passing attempts for 431 yards in relief, and rushed for 40 yards on seven carries, also.

Led by the gifted Picton, Regina produced 37 first downs to 20 for Alberta, which finished with 463 yards in total offence.

But with the game on the line, Picton, who replaced Cayman Shutter when the starter was injured late in the second quarter, was sacked on the two-point convert attempt by fourth-year linebacker Connor Ralph, so the score remained 44-42.

“You know what? Sometimes, I just get lucky, I was just running as hard as I can and I got there,� Ralph said. “I’ll take it.�

Like his teammates, Ralph was elated at game’s end, but in a controlled, “let’s-not-go-overboard� sort of way.

“It’s kind of mixed emotions,� Ralph said. “It’s feels good any time you get a win.

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