It was an incredible game honouring an incredible coach. Frank Smith is far-and-away UBC football’s most successful coach. Smith’s tenure spanned 21 seasons, from 1974 to 1994, included two Vanier Cup Championships, five Canada West titles and 126 total wins. But his accomplishments don’t stop with championships, as 47 of his former student-athletes went on to play professionally in the Canadian Football League.
The game itself didn’t have all the makings of a classic. With Canada West’s worst overall defence, the ’Birds were hosting the Huskies and Canada West’s most potent offence.
The Huskies attack is powered by superstar running back Adam Machart, who rushes on average for over 150 yards a game an 8.7 yards per rush.
Machart’s skillset was on display from the very first play from scrimmage, as he took a handoff up the middle of the field for a 22-yard gain.
However, the ’Birds’ defence stalled the drive and quarterback Gabe Olivares went to work, pushing the ’Birds’ offence deep into Huskies territory. Kicker Garrin McDonnell knocked in a 23-yard field goal to make the score 3–0 for the Thunderbirds.
On their next drive, the Huskies were at 2nd and 10 on their own 45-yard line when their quarterback Mason Nyhus threw a bad pass to the right side.
UBC linebacker Ben Hladik intercepted it and returned it 50 yards for the ’Birds’ second defensive touchdown of the season and a 10–0 lead.
The Thunderbird crowd was ecstatic, but the party didn’t last long.
On the very next drive, Huskies’ receiver Sam Baker cut through the Thunderbirds zone coverage and Nyhus didn’t miss his wide-open receiver. Baker took that pass 83 yards to the house, cutting down the T-Birds’ lead to 10–7.
The two teams traded field goals, and after the Huskies opted to take a two-point safety instead of a punt from their endzone, the score stood at 15–13 in favor of UBC with eight minutes left in the first half.
Beginning at the UBC 44-yard line, Nyhus faked a handoff to Machart and hit receiver Colton Klassen on consecutive plays for 11-yard and 14-yard gains respectively.
Next, Nyhus hit Baker again for his second receiving touchdown of the game, a 19-yard score that gave the Huskies the lead at 20–15.
After another Huskies field goal, Olivares took over with his team down eight and 2:45 left in the half.
Olivares proceeded to run a near-perfect two-minute drill. The Huskies were playing a lot of cover-one and cover-two defence. Olivares gashed them underneath with 13 yards to Trey Kellogg, 7 yards to Jacob Patten, 6 yards to Lucas Robertson, 9 yards to Nick Pollitt, 11 yards to Lliam Wishart, and then 9 yards again to Lliam Wishart for the touchdown.
Wishart’s catch was a beauty. He ran a fade into one-on-one coverage, Olivares tossed it up to the left side of the endzone and Wishart went up and snagged it like a center rebounding a basketball. It was the receiver’s first touchdown catch of the season, and the team was predictably excited.
The game looked poised to go into the half with the T-Birds down only one point at 23–22. However, it was not meant to be. Machart showed why he’s the best in Canada West, taking a toss to the left side, avoiding one tackle and shaking off another before cutting up the field for a 77-yard gain. Machart scored two plays later and the Huskies led the ’Birds 30–22 at the half.