Unbeatable Bisons nearly blow it

ADAM WAZNY -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:38 AM ET

Before the Manitoba Bisons start booking flights for a late November trip to Saskatoon, a bit of advice, free of charge:

Remember what happened yesterday or you'll be watching the Vanier Cup from the comfort of your living rooms.

BISONS 49 RAMS 44

Manitoba did not look like the No. 2-ranked team in the land against Regina yesterday afternoon and perhaps were guilty of reading their own press clippings last week.

"Our guys have been handling things pretty well, but it got pretty quiet on that sideline at times and I think it put some interesting perspective on the season we've had," said Bisons head coach Brian Dobie after his club escaped University Stadium with a 49-44 victory over the Rams. "It was a gut check for some of these guys.

"We did some really stupid things."

OK, let's not lose perspective here.

The Herd (7-0) have locked up top spot in the Canada West conference for the first time since the 2002 season. They're in line to host two playoff games and judging from the amount of positive energy around the club this week -- thanks largely in part to Friday's alumni-filled Bison Football dinner -- the Fort Garry campus is primed for an appearance on the national stage once again.

Everything nearly came crashing down against the 3-4 Rams.

Building a 33-7 lead at the half, the Bisons looked like the impressive team which climbed to the top on the CIS rankings. A solid mix of air attack and ground game (the Herd had 562 yards total offence, RB Karim Lowen had four TDs in the game) plus a dominant defence highlighted the first half, foreshadowing the outcome. So it seemed.

But the Rams got some life, however, thanks to a 107-yard strike and a 80-yard punt return -- both for touchdowns -- making it an 11-point game heading into the fourth quarter.

"It was a bit of a scare," said Herd FB Neil Fulgueras, who had four catches for 93 yards and a touchdown. "I don't want to say we were on cloud nine, but this game hits the ego down and makes us realize we're not super-human."

Again, let's not lose our heads.

Manitoba is easily the Goliath of Canada West, but Regina's Davids exposed some weaknesses. Rams QB Teale Orban threw for 455 yards and five touchdowns, leaving the Bisons with defensive secondary questions. Boredom could be another Achilles heel for Manitoba, too, as lapses shown yesterday can be contagious.

"I feel a sense a relief, we clinched first place, we won the football game, but I am not happy at all," Dobie said. "That's the first time there might have been a little panic this year."

Manitoba travels to UBC next week.


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