CALGARY - The Manitoba Bisons were determined to not let the Calgary Dinos knock them out of the playoffs for the third year in a row.
Kienan LaFrance helped make sure that didn't happen again as he ran for 155 yards and a touchdown during Manitoba's 27-15 win over Calgary in the 78th Hardy Cup on Saturday afternoon.
"Each year we just got more angry and angry," said LaFrance, who left McMahon Stadium disappointed the past two years following playoff losses. "Every time we came out here was just an embarrassment. It's been a chip on our shoulder that's for sure. It feels great to finally take down the big dogs."
In 2012, the Bisons lost 57-18 to the Dinos in Calgary in the Canada West semifinal. A year later, Manitoba suffered a 43-28 setback to Calgary at McMahon in the Hardy Cup.
"We've come into this stadium two years previous and got knocked out here and with our tails tucked between our legs hopped on an airplane back home to Winnipeg," said Manitoba coach Brian Dobie, who preached the concept of resiliency to his players this season. "It's about trying to stay in the moment and not get panicky and just kind of go through obstacles. They bought in. I'm really proud of them."
With the win, Manitoba ended Calgary's run of six consecutive Canada West titles. Prior to Saturday's victory, the Bisons were the last team other than the Dinos to win the Hardy Cup back in 2007 on their way to a Vanier Cup title.
"I feel honoured that our football team rose to the occasion against this great program at the University of Calgary and were able to accomplish what we accomplished," Dobie said.
Manitoba took advantage of five Calgary turnovers in the first half to build up a 24-14 edge. The Bisons were able to protect that lead in the second half during which the Dinos turned the ball over five more times.
"Ten turnovers ... it's not going to happen," said Calgary coach Blake Nill, who commended the Bisons for battling hard to win the Canada West title. "They may have struggled at different points this year ... they just seemed to have a focus and a drive."
Zach Regert caught a touchdown pass from Manitoba quarterback Jordan Yantz, while Jonathan Jones scored on an interception return. Ryan Jones added a pair of field goals for the Bisons.
Mercer Timmis had a rushing touchdown for the Dinos, quarterback Andrew Buckley threw a TD pass to Rashaun Simonise, while kicker Johnny Mark booted a single.
The Bisons, who didn't crack the season-ending CIS top-10 rankings, will now advance to the Uteck Bowl next Saturday against the No. 2 Montreal Carabins, who upset the top-ranked Laval Rouge et Or 12-9 in overtime earlier on Saturday in the Dunsmore Cup.
"That's going to be an adventure to go into Montreal for sure," Dobie said. "We can't wait to get the train rolling when we get back to Winnipeg and get back to work."
The winner of the Uteck Bowl will qualify for the 50th Vanier Cup at Percival Molson Stadium in Montreal on Nov. 29.
The Dinos jumped out to a quick lead just 35 seconds into the game as Timmis ran for an 81-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage.
"That run was awesome," said LaFrance, who wound up finishing with 22 more yards rushing than Timmis. "We made a crucial mistake, but for me personally it just drove me crazy. The competition between me and Timmis has been ongoing. It was my goal to outrush him today and that just started it off."
The Bisons answered right back at 4:38 of the first quarter when Jones picked off an errant pass by Buckley and ran it back 20 yards into the end zone.
Less than three minutes later, Manitoba took a 14-7 lead when LaFrance ran for a 40-yard touchdown to cap off a three-play, 75-yard drive.
The Bisons had a chance to extend their lead early in the second quarter, but Jones missed a 37-yard field goal wide to the right.
Calgary took advantage of the missed opportunity as the Dinos engineered a five-play, 90-yard drive that culminated with Buckley throwing a 42-yard touchdown pass to Simonise at 5:58 of the second quarter.
The Bisons then scored 10 more points off turnovers to take a 24-14 lead into the halftime intermission.
After Calgary's Michael Klukas fumbled a punt return on his own 10-yard line, Jones kicked a 17-yard field goal. Tyler Fong then intercepted a pass by Buckley and ran it back 32 yards into Calgary territory before Yantz threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to Regert.
Mark started off the second half by kicking a 78-yard single before Jones answered back with a 30-yard field goal to give the Bisons a 27-15 lead.
Calgary's chance of a comeback took a hit late in the third quarter when Buckley went down with a leg injury when he fell to the ground after running out of bounds.
Backup quarterback Eric Dzwilewski had an opportunity to cut into Manitoba's lead in the fourth quarter, but he was picked off by Jayden McKoy in the end zone to end the scoring threat.
"It's pretty disappointing on my part for not getting the job done," Dzwilewski said. "It's always tough, but it's something that the backup quarterback has to be ready to do. That's my responsibility to get the job done when called upon."
Notes: Over the previous six seasons, Calgary defeated Simon Fraser (2008), Saskatchewan (2009), Alberta (2010), UBC (2011), Regina (2012) and Manitoba (2013) to win the Hardy Cup. … Buckley was named the Canada West most-valuable player after throwing for 2,160 yards, 18 touchdowns and four interceptions in the regular season. He was picked off four times by the Bisons on Saturday as Jones, Fong, Cam Teschuk and Jordan Linnen all had interceptions.