Neate Sager

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Neate Sager is a blogger for Yahoo! Sports.

  • Once in a great while, a team whose quarterback throws the ball a country mile and has a football mind just as long-range as Michael O'Connor's turns university football inside-out and upside-down.

    The UBC Thunderbirds, on the wings of O'Connor's arm strength and a timely tip-drill interception by defensive back Kevin Wiens in Montreal territory with 1:19 left in a deadlocked Vanier Cup, gave the more seasoned Montreal Carabins comeuppance with an 26-23 last-play victory on Saturday. Led by O'Connor going 31-for-51 for 389 yards and a touchdown pass, the 19-year-old became the first rookie in 49 years to be the winning quarterback of record in the the Canadian Interuniversity Sport football championship game. The transfer from Penn State, who chose and the West Coast over several major-college teams that wanted his talents, led UBC out to 16 and 13-point leads. In the final minute, after A.J. Blackwell deflected the final pass of Carabins QB Gabriel Cousineau's career, Wiens

    Read More »from UBC Thunderbirds upset Montreal Carabins 26-23 in Vanier Cup classic
  • I was headed up to the video store — that was a thing then — in Simcoe, Ont., on a gloomy winter afternoon nearly 11 years ago when the car radio relayed that the Ottawa Renegades had got the kiss of death.

    That bit of news, of course, was that Brad Watters' ownership group, after hosting the 2004 Grey Cup, had cashed out by selling the 'Gades to Not Them Again, AKA Bernie and Lonie Glieberman of early 1990s Rough Riders and Shreveport Pirates infamy. On the lulz end, it worked like a dream. The late great Earl McRae was wont to calling the younger Glieberguy "Cuddles" in columns. A sweet piece of much lower-hanging fruit was How do you spell Lonie? With one N and a lot of L's. A year and a bit later, within a month of your agent moving to town, the 'Gades were gone, and the city had gone two and out in the CFL.

    Please excuse leading into this with a first-person pronoun. (What would Milt Dunnell think if he was here?) From the perspective of someone who loves Canadian football and

    Read More »from Redblacks' rise reflects how Ottawa's football love is deep
  • Tacticurn technicians tend not to be headline-friendly, either literally or figuratively, but they do cross the T's and dot the I's.

    There is a conundrum with relating to understanding football that pertains to coaches such as the Ottawa Redblacks' Rick Campbell and Edmonton's Chris Jones. The Grey Cup head coaches seem forged from a similar tintype that proscribes the right-brain digressions that throw the rest of us for a loss. Edmonton media have played up Jones' brusqueness. Campbell's deadpan home-run answer to the pregame sex question was all the more funnier because of the premise that the 44-year-old head coach practised his response. It almost took on a life of its own in the replaying of the clip — Campbell work-shopping The Response with his closest confidants. doing a walkthrough on the wording, then bringing it up to half speed, then three-quarters and full speed before springingg it on an unsuspecting media like a new pass play, 

    Of course, there is no one way to be

    Read More »from Ottawa's Rick Campbell, Edmonton's Chris Jones embody traits of the best football coaches
  • Vanier Cup preview: Montreal favoured against UBC, but Thunderbirds' time is coming

    UBC Thunderbirds coach Blake Nill has been party to a watershed moment in Canadian university football; now he's trying to create another one.

    The university games goes in cycles in terms of which conference monopolizes the Vanier. This is the era of Quebec, as the Montreal Carabins of Danny Maciocia aim to make it back-to-back national titles when they try to stymie phenom quarterback Michael O'Connor and the rather prolific T-Birds passing game on Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET/9:30 a.m. PT, Sportsnet/Sportsnet 360). 

    It's convenient to flash back to Nill's first Vanier as a head coach,  which was also the Rouge et Or's first and was the last one of the last century. People who were around that week in 1999 before Laval shaded Saint Mary's 14-10 for the first of its now eight championships couldn't help but notice the contrast in resources between the well-bankrolled arriviste from Quebec City and the traditionally powerful Huskies, and in how they practised and prepared.

    The cycles tend to

    Read More »from Vanier Cup preview: Montreal favoured against UBC, but Thunderbirds' time is coming
  • #OnlyInCIS: Aldrich Berrios hits 2 threes in game's final seconds for UBC Okanagan

    Aptly, the hottest hand in Canadian Interuniversity Sport hoops belongs to Aldrich Berrios of the UBC Okanagan Heat.

    Last Saturday, the second-year UBC-O guard hit two coldblooded last-second three-pointers that allowed the Heat to surmount the Mount Royal Cougars for an 87-84 home-floor win in Canada West action.

    Mount Royal missed a chance to seal the win when leading scorer Brett Layton split at the free-throw line after being strategically fouled. Berrios rushed upcourt and sank a tying triple with 0.8 seconds on the clock.

    (GIF credit: YouTube)(GIF credit: YouTube)

    When Mount Royal's Derek Wolf airmailed a lob pass from midcourt out of bounds, that gave the Heat an extra possession. Berrios capitalized, flicking the ball in from half-court for the UBC-O win.

    (GIF credit: YouTube)(GIF credit: YouTube)

    Watch Berrios put his heroics on full display in the video below:

    "The two big shots I hit were just bound to happen whether by me or by someone else on the team," Berrios, a Burnaby, B.C., native who is averaging 17.7 points for the Kelowna-based Heat, told the UBC

    Read More »from #OnlyInCIS: Aldrich Berrios hits 2 threes in game's final seconds for UBC Okanagan
  • Greg Ellingson made The Play, after Jeremiah Masoli and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats made the game.

    The instant-classic CFL East final that the Ottawa Redblacks captured 35-28 at TD Place on Sunday, by the margin of ex-Ticats' Henry Burris and Ellingson's 93-yard catch-and-run collaboration with 1:11 left, might yet mark a watershed for Hamilton. A core group of players only gets so many shots to win a Grey Cup, and the outcome left the Ticats, who have 34 free agents, on outside looking in after back-to-back East titles. The loss also came after depleted Hamilton, with Masoli passing 30-of-42 for 349 yards and getting his Oregon Ducks-style option on for a team-high 44 rushing in his third career start, pulled out all the stops against highly favoured Ottawa. It piles on top of last fall's Grey Cup loss to Calgary, where a potential game-winning punt return TD by speedmeister Brandon Banks was negated by a penalty.

    "All I can think about right now is how determined this band of brothers

    Read More »from Hamilton Tiger-Cats' heartache swells with East final loss: 'Welcome to the game of life'
  • For the CFL's most durable offensive line, getting to run amok was its own reward.

    The scenario that wide receiver Greg Ellingson's 93-yard catch-and-run TD that gave Ottawa the 35-28 win against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats occurred in was a fatalist's delight. In a tied East Division final with fewer than 90 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Ottawa Redblacks were backed up to second-and-25 at their 17-yard line by an unnecessary roughness penalty on left guard J'Micheal Deane. 

    Instead of feeling like they were on the brink, Jon Gott, Deane, right guard Nolan MacMillan and tackles Colin Kelly and SirVincent Rogers mentally blocked out being in a low-percentage situation as effectively as they held off Hamilton's pass rush. That bought time for Henry Burris to find Ellingson for the script-flipping, division-winning score that put Ottawa ahead for good with 1:11 left.

    "I saw those sticks and thought, 'we're pretty far back,' " Gott admitted. "We practise that all the time, situations

    Read More »from To Redblacks O-line, Greg Ellingson's winning TD was like the 'best sunset I ever saw'
  • UBC Thunderbirds, Michael O'Connor flying to Vanier Cup

    Michael O'Connor, whose stated goal is to win multiple Vanier Cups, will help the UBC Thunderbirds play for one against the Montreal Carabins next week.

    Whether the T-Birds, who were seemingly built faster than a Vancouver condo development since Blake Nill came over from Calgary just before last Christmas, can hang in with the Carabins in the Vanier in Ste-Foy, Que., will remain to be seen.

    The narrative was alluring by the time O'Connor was done slinging in the rain in Antigonish, N.S., finishing  21-of-31 for 272 yards with two touchdowns during UBC's 36-8 Uteck Bowl victory against the host St. Francis Xavier X-Men. The Vanier will put a talented still-teenaged transfer — with two fellow frosh from Ontario, Trivel Pinto and Alex Morrison, as O'Connor's favorite receivers — leading a West Coast legacy program deep into Quebec against mighty Montreal, the defending champ with a devastating defensive line led by Junior Luke. Both the 'Birds and Les Bleus have already won at

    Read More »from UBC Thunderbirds, Michael O'Connor flying to Vanier Cup
  • Montreal Carabins maul Guelph Gryphons in Mitchell Bowl, return to Vanier Cup

    The buses that brought the Carabins' caravan to Guelph could have motored through some of the holes Montreal's offensive line opened in the Mitchell Bowl.

    Lines win championships, especially once football is at the mercy of fall weather. The major takeaway from the defending Vanier Cup champion Montreal Carabins' 25-10 Mitchell Bowl mauling of the Guelph Gryphons was the physical separation between Les Bleus from La Belle Province and the Ontario University Athletics champ, whose 20-win streak at Alumni Stadium was snapped. Carabins coach Danny Maciocia's heavies — from tackle to tackle, Gustave Sylvestre, Rémi Giguère, Jean-Christophe Labrecque, Jason Raymond and Marc Glaude — cleared the way for 246 rushing yards, including 170 and a touchdown by halfback Sean Thomas Erlington.

    On the other side of the ball, the force unit, spearheaded by the likes of nosetackle Junior Luke, defensive end Mathieu Dupuis and linebacker Maïko Zepeda, kept the Gryphons from testing a young Montreal

    Read More »from Montreal Carabins maul Guelph Gryphons in Mitchell Bowl, return to Vanier Cup
  • Shawn Lemon, Keith Shologan & Redblacks D-line ready for Masoli's fleet feet

    Shawn Lemon is more about putting down roots than getting his hand down in a three-point stance.

    Reunited with Rick Campbell, who was his defensive coordinator in Calgary before becoming Ottawa's head coach, the rush end believes he is peaking at an opportune time ahead of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats-Redblacks East final on Sunday. Lemon had an easing-in period after signing in Ottawa following NFL trials as a linebacker with Pittsburgh and San Francisco, but contributed to the Redblacks' 7-2 finish with five sacks in a half-season.

    "It's more of a family atmosphere and these guys mesh well together," Lemon said after Thursday's practice at TD Place, where Ottawa will have a sellout crowd of 25,000-plus. "We spend a lot  of time together outside of football.

    "I know what coach Campbell is about and I know his coaching philosophy from our time in Calgary," added Lemon, who had 13 sacks for the Grey Cup-winning 2014 Stampeders. "That's one thing he wanted to implement here, and it has been

    Read More »from Shawn Lemon, Keith Shologan & Redblacks D-line ready for Masoli's fleet feet


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