UBC Thunderbirds' freshman receiver Marcus Browne has a chance to step up big for his team Saturday in the regular-season finale against Regina at Thunderbird Stadium. (Bob Frid/UBC athletics)
Feature University Football

TSUMURA: It’s all hands on deck for UBC’s decimated receiving core Saturday vs. Regina

VANCOUVER — Trivel Pinto and Alex Morrison are the veterans who know their time is now.

Trey Kellogg, Marshall Cook, Marcus Browne and Nick Richard?

They are understudies of varying degrees who each need to hit the line of scrimmage with their best pair of catching hands ever.

It’s going to be that kind of a late-October football Saturday on the Point Grey campus at Thunderbird Stadium.

Bring up what in the preseason was the defining strength of this team — it’s receiving core — two days before the biggest game of its season, and all head coach Blake Nill can say is that it’s all hands on deck.

On Saturday (1 p.m.), No. 6 UBC (5-2) plays host to No. 8 Regina (4-3) with a receiving core that has been ravaged by injury.

Marcus Davis (knee), Lliam Wishart (finger), J.J. Deslauriers (ankle) and Will Watson (groin) are all officially off the target list for quarterback Michael O’Connor as the ‘Birds faces the Rams in a regular-season finale in which the winner hosts the loser in next week’s Hardy Cup semifinals.

And while the list has taken a month to grow to its current size, it’s still debilitating by anyone’s measure. Nill, however, has no choice but to pay it no mind.

“Three of those four guys were penciled in as starters in training camp,” Nill said. “But this is part of the game and if you sit back and reflect on injuries too much, then you’re not moving forward.

“For me, it’s out of sight, out of mind. I know what guys I have to go with and we are preparing those guys to be ready.”

UBC receiver Alex Morrison has made a habit out of precision catches in tight spaces for the UBC Thunderbirds. (Bob Frid/UBC athletics)

Of course Pinto is the straw that stirs the drink, the game-breaking blank Scrabble chip who has brought dynamism to every phase of the game over his UBC career.

Morrison is equally as important Saturday.

A veteran of Montreal Alouettes training camp, he has done his best to excel in an environment where Nill admits he has taken some liberties in experimentation, some to the detriment of his player.

“Alex Morrison got off to a bit of a slow start, but that is only because of the fact that maybe his head coach limited his role too much,” said Nill. “But Alex this week has had two very good days of practice and if we get him to the form of 2015, he is certainly a guy who can create issues.”

You can certainly make the case that he already has, using his big frame and plus-level hands to sneak deep and emerge with huge gainers.

Cook has been a good possession receiver going back to the that 2015 Vanier Cup season but has seen limited action, and Kellogg has flashed moments this season which tell you he is the leading man in future seasons among the pass-catching core.

The freshman Richard, like Kellogg, a Calgary native, might be the guy whose reps increase amidst the MASH unit that is the receiving core.

And then there is Browne.

About as quickly as his older brother Taylor established himself in the guard rotation of head coach Kevin Hanson’s basketball team, the younger of the Holy Cross brothers has done the same with the football team.

Browne, however, like all freshmen, needs to have that breakout game, the one where it all slows down, and he finds that place where his routes, instincts and hands all come together at the same time.

“Marcus Browne has to start taking a bigger role,” said Nill, “but this isn’t unusual for a first-year player. Coming right in and being asked to play a fairly significant role can be overwhelming for kids.

“Marcus at times has looked really good, and at times he’s looked like an 18-year-old and that inconsistency limits his potential right now. But as he matures and his consistency becomes a non-factor, I think this guy is going to be the real deal.”

Saturday is certainly not a day to learn on the job.

It’s a day, if you’re a UBC Thunderbird, to win and take the degree of difficulty down a notch in week one of the post-season.

And when the receiving core resembles the walking wounded, how much of a boost would the entire team get from an unheralded underclassman who decides its his time to step up and give O’Connor, Pinto and Morrison a helping hand.

If you’re reading this story on any other website other than one belonging to a university athletic department, it has been taken without appropriate permission. In these challenging times, true journalism will survive only through your dedicated support and loyalty. VarsityLetters.ca and all of its exclusive content has been created to serve B.C.’s high school and university sports community with hard work, integrity and respect. Feel free to drop us a line any time at varsitylettersbc@gmail.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *