Gabe Olivares came off the bench Saturday in Winnipeg to quarterback UBC in its loss to the Manitoba Bisons. (Photo by Richard Lam property of UBC athletics 2019. All Rights Reserved)
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UBC Football: ‘Birds hit midway mark of Canada West season plagued by giveaways, penalties in 37-19 loss at Manitoba

The UBC Thunderbirds spent the week leading up to Saturday afternoon’s key Canada West clash in Winnipeg against the Manitoba Bisons building the good vibes they hoped would bring about a sharp turn in their road as the 2019 Canada West season reached its midway mark.

Instead, a fumbled hand-off on its first series, a surrendered pick-six pass and a roughing the kicker call all led to opposition touchdowns in what brought about a familiar ending in 2019: A 37-19 loss.

With the setback, UBC’s post-season aspirations fell even deeper into question, it’s 0-4 start further burying them in the basement of the Canada West conference as they prepare to host the 3-1 Alberta Golden Bears this Saturday (3 p.m.) at Thunderbird Stadium. Manitoba improved to 2-2.

Jacob Patten, UBC’s top offensive weapon over its first three games of the season, has been kept under wraps effectively over the first three quarters but managed to put a spark into the offence three minutes into the fourth quarter when he scored on a 33-yard reverse on third down to pull the ‘Birds to within 34-19.

In a contest in which back-up quarterback Gabe Olivares was called to duty to start the second quarter, UBC’s third quarter showed marked improvement over the first half.

Yet the ‘Birds still fell further into a hole heading into the fourth quarter after a one-yard TD run by Manitoba’s Brandon O’Connor made it 36-12 late in the frame.

Prior to that score, the ‘Birds Eric Dika-Balotoken had picked off Bisons’ pivot Des Catellier and returned the ball to the 50-yard line.

UBC was not able to score on that takeaway, yet had begun to win the field position battle.

After forcing Manitoba to punt deep in its own end, however, UBC was flagged for roughing the kicker, giving the Bisons a first-down which they resourcefully turned into the frame’s only scoring play.

Catellier hit Macho Bockru with a 44-yard completion down to the UBC one-yard line, setting the stage for the short O’Connor run.

The tale of the turnover was clearly felt by the Thunderbirds over the first half of play.

On UBC’s second snap of the game, a bobbled exchange between quarterback Tommy Yanchuk and running back Sharique Khan, put the ball on the turf where it was recovered by the Bisons’ Kyle Gordon.

That red-zone turnover was quickly turned into a 10-yard scoring pass from Manitoba’s Catellier to Bockru, and a 7-0 lead.

UBC’s Christophe Bouchard was injured early in the game and was taken to hospital for further examination.

Later, with 56 seconds left in the quarter, a pass by Yanchuk on a wide-side out was neatly intercepted by Arjay Shelley of the Bisons and returned 44 yards for an eventual 17-2 lead.

The UBC offence did not put the ball in the end zone over the first half.

The ‘Birds only major came from its special teams unit when Daniel Appiah took a punt 88 yards for the score, cutting the Bisons lead to 20-9.

Garrin McDonnell’s 39-yard field goal made it 20-12, however the Bisons maximized their time late in the second quarter and scored on a three-yard run by Jonathan Remple to make it 27-12.

Olivares finished the game going 11-of-23 for 119 yards and an interception. Yanchuk was 4-of-10 for 22 yards and two interceptions before leaving the game.

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