UBC's Trivel Pinto (1) was unstoppable Saturday in the 'Birds win over Saskatchewan. (Richard Lam, UBC athletics)
Feature University Football

Pinto-powered ‘Birds roll Huskies, UBC coach Nill: “I think he could be the No. 1 pick of the CFL draft”

VANCOUVER — Trivel Pinto is playing football like he is the best university player in country and on Saturday, one of the largest and most appreciative crowds in the history of Thunderbird Stadium headed to the exits convinced of the fact.

For over three hours, in front of a UBC Homecoming crowd announced at 9,542, the third-year receiver from Toronto put on a show filled with flash and finish.

His hips swayed, his feet caught fire, and if there was even the slightest of creases, he was off to the races.

And at the end of an evening in which No. 10 UBC (2-1) won for the second straight week, 31-10 over the No. 7 Saskatchewan Huskies (2-1), the 6-foot Pinto had accumulated 165 yards in receptions and 242 all-purpose yards.

He was so good in fact, that when head coach Blake Nill was asked about him, the veteran coach, who has sent a steady stream of talent to the CFL over the last quarter century, made the statement of the night.

“I am a big fan of this guy and as long as he continues to mature and make good decisions, then you know what?,” said Nill. “I think he could be the No. 1 pick of the (2019) CFL draft.”

On Saturday, with its win streak coming so early in the season, the ‘Birds are looking like national contenders.

Quarterback Michael O’Connor passed for 431 yards and two touchdowns.

Running back Ben Cummings rushed for 178 yards and a score one week after he rushed for 145 in a win over Manitoba.

And of course there is Pinto.

Last week, in an event totally out of his character, he was whistled for objectionable conduct and ejected before the end of the first half.

What Pinto made clear in the post-game Saturday was that he was owning it all and that he wasn’t taking his transgression lightly.

“I just lost my temper for a quick second and I paid the ultimate price,” said Pinto. “The second half I stayed in the locker room and just reflected on what I did. I told myself I would never let that happen again. Sitting there by myself was one of the toughest things I’ve had to do. I never been ejected, or taken an unsportsmanlike conduct penalties like that. I don’t know what came over me.”

In turn, what came over him Saturday was not only a return to form, but perhaps the most well-rounded game of his UBC career.

On the night, Pinto gained 13 yards every time he touched the ball.

Besides his 165 yards on 10 catches, he rushed four times for 33 yards, returned four punts for 23 yards and returned one punt for 21 more.

And although he’s already scored plenty of touchdowns in his UBC career, the 23-yard pass he caught in the end zone from O’Connor to push the ‘Birds lead to 27-7 was extremely meaningful when you consider how much of what he had done to that point had gone unrewarded.

Just before the half, in a low scoring game, Pinto peeled off a 60-yard run that got UBC into the end zone.

However O’Connor’s pass to Will Watson in the end zone was tipped into the hands of the Huskies.

Then, on the very first action of the second half, Pinto had a 106-yard kick-off return nullified by a UBC penalty.

Add last week’s ejection into the mix and you’ve got a heaping helping of adversity.

That’s why his touchdown was big, and the words of his coach even bigger.

“If I’m the first pick (in the CFL draft), there will be tears in my eyes for sure,” said Pinto. “That is definitely every kid’s dream.”

BIRD BITS — O’Connor’s first pass of the game was a huge one, as he connected with receiver Alex Morrison on a 93-yard TD pass.

Cummings rushed for a seven-yard score, and Greg Hutchins kicked field goals of 13, 29 and 18 yards, then closed the game with a rouge.

UBC finished with 647 yards to 258 yards by Saskatchewan.

Abbotsford-W.J. Mouat freshman Nelson Lokombo of the Huskies returned four kick-offs for 65 yards, including one that covered 33 yards.

Slot/running back Marcus Davis sat out Saturday’s game with a sore knee. Nill reported that Davis will undergo an MRI this week.

The crowd of 9,542 was the third largest to ever witness a Canada West conference game.

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