November 16, 2012
Dinos, Marauders should produce fireworks
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

University of Calgary Dinos' quarterback Eric Dzwilewski (11) celebrates with his team after they defeated the University of Regina Rams during the 76th annual Hardy Cup Canada West university football Championship game in Calgary, Alberta November 10, 2012. (Reuters/TODD KOROL)

Looking for a fireworks display Saturday afternoon?

Try Ron Joyce Stadium on the campus of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

If everything goes to plan, there may be enough gunpowder to blow the stadium away.

This is university football where the most predictable predication sometimes doesn’t happen.

But with the Calgary Dinos and McMaster Marauders meeting in the Mitchell Bowl, it will come as a shock if the scoreboard doesn’t spin like a pinball machine.

The Marauders are defending Vanier Cup champions and have won 20 straight. The Dinos are the first team to have won Canada West five times in a row. That’s a pedigree that says there’s going to be a lot of talent on the field that can make things happen.


The over-under heading into the game?

“Hopefully it’s a lot but don’t let my defence hear that,” McMaster quarterback Kyle Quinlan said.

Dinos’ pivot Eric Dzwilewski believes both defences are strong enough to stifle the opposition.

No one is counting on that happening.

“These are two explosive offences,” Dzwilewski said. “When you have two explosive offences there will be explosions.

“We can execute,” he continued. “If you don’t execute you aren’t going to be productive. We’re at the stage in our season where we feel productive.”

The most popular words being thrown around this game when it comes to offence are “explosive, electric, stacked, talented.”

Both starting quarterbacks were voted most valuable player by their respective conferences.

The Dinos finished No. 1 in the country in just about everything, averaging 47.5 points per game, 592 total yards and 375 passing yards while finishing third in rushing with a 218 yards.

The Marauders were second in the nation offensively, averaging 45.6 points a game, 583 total yards and 370 passing yards per game.

Quinlan has a core group of receivers to pick out including Robert Babic, Brad Fochesato and Michael DiCroce, last year’s OUA most valuable player, who returned from injury in time for the OUA semifinal.

Although Quinlan, who connected on 19 touchdown passes this season, tossed just two interceptions this year, he doesn’t want to hear anything about this being a contest between two quarterbacks.

“That’s too simple to dumb it down to that,” Quinlan said. “Guys battle all year long – offence, defence, special teams . . . to single it down to two guys is not very accurate.

“It was like looking at the Laval film last year,” he said. “There’s no real weakness on (Calgary’s) defence and you can say the same thing about their offence. They’re explosive. They are just stacked. They have CFL draft picks all over the place, all-stars all over.”

Running back Steven Lumbala is a top CFL prospect. The offensive line has Kirby Fabien, Carson Rockhill and Reed Alexander, all CFL picks.

The offences are likely to continue doing what they’ve done all year. It’s likely both defences will have to do something different to slow down the two most talented offensive teams in the country.

It’s not that the team’s defences aren’t very good. Both are overshadowed by the offences.

Calgary finished in the Top 4 in most major national categories, including No. 1 in passing yards allowed per game.

McMaster finished fourth in the CIS in points allowed (15.6) and sixth in yards conceded.

Calgary coach Blake Nill believes both teams will look to pressure the quarterbacks.

“Both teams are going to have to block six- and seven-man pressure,” he said. “Both have a lot of team speed, lots of different looks. Don’t be surprised if both (defences) see elements that might surprise them.

“Both defences are very good. The athletes are very good.”

How about overmatched?

Only time will tell.

It will be the first time Calgary has played in Ontario since 1995 when it beat Western 54-24 for the Vanier Cup.

McMaster and Calgary have never played.

It promises to be a memorable first meeting.

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DiCroce’s return a big boost to Marauders

You’d have to go pretty far to find a feel-good story that makes you feel better than Michael DiCroce’s.

The fourth-year receiver was looking forward to this season after being named the OUA’s most valuable player a season ago.

DiCroce, a first-team all-Canadian player, was a key member of the Vanier Cup-winning Marauders and was hoping to help defend the their title this season.

But after breaking his foot in preseason, DiCroce’s season was in jeopardy.

He slowly recovered and to the surprise of many, was back on the field in the Ontario semifinal earlier this month against the Western Mustangs. He delivered the crushing blow in a big Marauders win, a 103-yard touchdown reception from Kyle Quinlan, one of two on the day.

“You have to know Mike,” Quinlan said. “I’m not surprised at all (he came back the way he has).

“He’s the most competitive guy I know. You tell him he broke his foot, he won’t even believe that. He has an x-ray in front of him, he won’t accept that.”

“We’re close off the field. It’s more than a game to him . . . I missed three games and it was devastating to me. This is an entire season in his draft year. That’s why he wants to get the most out of every rep.”

DiCroce is one of those guys who has talent and a great will to succeed. He said although sitting out was the most difficult thing he’s had to do, he buried his feelings as deep as possible.

“It’s not something you would wish upon anyone,” DiCroce said about missing most of the season. “It was different for me. I tried not to be negative in front of the guys because I knew they needed help and support along the way.

“I really wanted to stay positive because I wanted to be around the guys, wanted to be around practices and the games and try and help as much as I could. As much as I love playing the game, I also love to watch it and help the guys.”

Leaders take responsibility for how they play and DiCroce is a leader. Despite scoring, he didn’t like his play in his first game back against Western despite the big numbers.

“Personally, I wasn’t too happy with how I played,” he said. “I made some mental mistakes and I did drop a ball. I wasn’t happy with myself but at the same time, I was so happy to be out there.”

Nowhere near as happy as the Marauders, who now have another weapon to throw at the Calgary Dinos in Saturday’s Mitchell Bowl.

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