EDMONTON – Brad Launhardt found Daniel Bubelenyi with a 30-yard touchdown strike with just six seconds left, as the Alberta Golden Bears pulled off an exhilarating 29-26 upset win over the No. 8 ranked Manitoba Bisons, Friday night at Foote Field.
While Alberta led for a vast majority of the game, Manitoba took a 26-22 lead over Alberta thanks to a Michael Ritchott rushing touchdown with just 48 seconds left.
Launhardt completed two passes for 41 yards in the Bears final drive, also adding 31 yards on two carries, as the Bears marched 75 yards in 42 seconds. The Bears pivot finished the game with 271 passing yards on 18 completions, adding another 117 rush yards on 10 carries.
“I’m just so proud of this group. Their resiliency this season has been outstanding. It’s been so long since this program has had had a comeback win like this,” said Bears head coach Chris Morris. “This group has no quit, they had the confidence in themselves to put together that late drive and get us that win.”
With the win, the Bears improved to 2-1 this season, marking the first time since 2015 the Bears have had a winning record. Manitoba’s second-straight loss drops them to 1-2.
As they had the week before in their 18-17 road win over Regina, the Alberta defence had another strong showing on Friday night. Third-year linebacker Josiah Schakel forced two key turnovers, including a 71-yard interception returned for a touchdown in the first quarter, and a forced fumble late in the fourth. He also added second tackles and a pass breakup for Alberta.
The Bears also held Bison quarterback Des Catellier to just 246 passing yards, as he completed 24 of his 37 attempts. They also added one sack to go along with three takeaways.
After Schakel opened the scoring with the defensive touchdown, Ritchott scored the first of his two touchdowns for Manitoba, a 84-yard dash to tie the game at 7-7.
Launhardt found Tyler Turner for a 74-yard gain late in the first, before finding Zach Campbell for a nine-yard TD strike to restore the Alberta lead.
“Brad is the unquestioned leader of this group. Everyone has a ton of confidence in him,” continued Morris. “He is able to make so many different plays both with his arm and with his legs, and that was evident on that final drive. He made plays like that all game, and was the spark our offence needed tonight.”
After Alberta held a 16-7 lead entering the half, the Bisons cut into Alberta’s lead with a pair of early field goals, before Catellier hit Trysten Dyce for a six-yard touchdown pass, giving the visitors a 20-19 lead after three.
Jonathan Giustini’s 41-yard field goal restored a 22-20 Alberta lead early in the fourth. Both teams made a handful of key defensive plays in the fourth quarter, as the two-point Alberta lead held for over 12 minutes.
Catellier was able to complete three passes late in the fourth, as the Bisons marched 79 yards in two minutes to take the 26-22 lead with 48 seconds left.
Two key runs from Launhardt set up the 30-yard touchdown pass to Bubelenyi, his second touchdown reception this season.
The Golden Bears will look for a third-straight win next weekend, as they host the 2-1 Saskatchewan Huskies on Saturday afternoon. Manitoba will return to Winnipeg, as they host the UBC Thunderbirds.