The win gives the Bears a 1-0 record to start the season, a feat they have not accomplished since the 2005 season when they defeated the Clan 40-18 in Burnaby. It also represents the first time Alberta has won a season opener at home since 1992, although they’ve only played eight openers in Edmonton in the last 20 years.
It certainly didn’t start out in favour of Alberta as their attempted short kick-off was recovered by rookie receiver Mike Wasylyniuk (3rd, Katepwa Lake, SK) who was also flagged for interference, turning the ball over to SFU at the SFU 54. From there, Clan starting QB Bernd Dittrich (2nd, Vienna, Austria) hit Jeffrey Biles (2nd, Burnaby, BC) for a 15 yard gain and then Brandon Halverson (3rd, Phoenix, AZ) ripped off a 33 yard rush to set-up Marek Seta (4th, Surrey BC) for a one yard touchdown jaunt and a quick 7-0 SFU lead.
The Alberta offence struggled in the opening quarter and after punting on their first possession, Dittrich found a hole and the Austrian waltzed for a 32 yard gain to the Alberta 21 yard line, which set-up a Biles field goal and a 10-0 SFU lead midway through the first.
With three minutes remaining in the first quarter, the Bears got the spark they needed from kicker Hugh O’Neill (2nd, Edmonton, AB).
Faced with third down and four yards to go from their own 37 yard line, O’Neill came in for the punt. The Clan pressure broke through the blocking and was able to deflect the punt but O’Neill raced forwards, collected the ball on the bounce and picked up the first down.
With a fresh set of downs, Armstrong threw first down completions to Damon Fraietta (4th, Edmonton, AB), Wasylyniuk and runningback Matthew Jarvis (3rd, Beaumont, AB), which ended in a O’Neill 25 yard field goal and a huge momentum shift.
Simon Fraser wrestled the momentum back briefly in the second quarter when they picked off an errant Armstrong pass and cashed in on another Biles field goal but it would be the last points they would put on the board as the Bears‘ defence took over.
Another O’Neill punt, he finished with a 40 yard average in windy conditions, pinned the Clan on their own 13 yard line and set the stage for another big play.
Defensive end Greg Whelan (4th, Edmonton, AB) tipped a Dittrich pass and fellow defensive lineman Kyle Pagnucco (5th, Spruce Grove, AB) caught the fluttering ball, giving Alberta a crack at the end zone before the half. A seven yard completion to Fraietta moved them to the SFU six yard line where the Clan took an offside call, allowing Armstrong to find 6’4" 290lbs DE Brett Waine on a first and goal attempt for the team’s first major of the 2008 season.
The Bears went ahead for good after an SFU safety and another O’Neill field goal, giving the home side a 15-13 lead at half-time.
Armstrong continued the march in the second half, playing catch and run with 6’6" 243lbs DE Dale Stevenson who rumbled for 22 yards which was followed by 31 yards on three carries by runningback Tendayi Jozzy (4th, Edmonton, AB) to set-up the team’s second touchdown, an 11 yard completion to Fraietta in the SFU end zone at the 11:19 mark.
The Alberta defence stepped up again holding the Clan on their next possession to just six yards and forcing Biles to shank a punt, giving Alberta the ball on the SFU 25 yard line.
O’Neill drove another field goal home for the 25-13 lead and watched as the Bears‘ defence shut down the Simon Fraser attack.
Rookie Craig Gerbrandt (3rd, Sherwood Park, AB) was an absolute force for Alberta recording nine solo tackles, one fumble recovery at the SFU 33 and one sack.
Jozzy finished the game with 141 yards on 24 carries, after gaining just 37 yards in the first half. Armstrong finished 16 of 32 for 213 yards with two TDs and two INTs. Fraietta was the game’s top receiver with six catches for 98 yards and one TD.
Dittrich, perhaps the most gifted athlete on the field, rushed 11 times for a whopping 86 yards, while completing 13 of 23 passes for 103 yards and one INT. Seta hauled the mail 14 times for 50 yards and one TD while Biles caught five passes for 54 yards and boomed a 43.8 yard average on nine punts.
Jerry Friesen and the Golden Bears next travel to UBC (0-1), a game that can be watched live on Shaw TV on September 6th at 2:00 pm. The 1-1 Clan take week two off and then host the 1-0 Huskies September 13th.
University of Alberta Athletics
Sports Information Director