Volume 91, Issue 49

Tuesday, November 25, 1997



Thunderbirds take home Vanier

©Geoff Robins/Gazette
BETTER RUN, RUN, RUN, RUN AWAY. Thunderbird Mark Nohra [20] proved to be the Gee Gee's psycho killer as he knifed through Ottawa's defence to carry his team to the Canadian title.

By Ian Ross

Gazette Staff

For some athletes, the severe bruises and breaks from a long, hard season can be pushed aside when the pressure of the big game approaches. On Saturday, the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, led by running back Mark Nohra, held this mentality to take home Canada's most coveted national university championship – the Vanier Cup – by breaking the Ottawa Gee-Gees 39-23 at the SkyDome in Toronto.

Going into the contest, Nohra was the Hec Crighton winner (awarded to the nation's most valuable player), but he was also at the top of the injured list. The star running back had missed both of UBC's two playoff games leading up to the final due to a knee injury.

"At the beginning of the week, I didn't think I would play, but as the week went on [the knee] got better," Nohra said. "The decision was made a couple days ago. When the coach knew I was going to play, I knew my playing time would depend on how effective I could be on the field."

Beginning with an eight-yard rush on the first play of the game, Nohra set the pace for both himself and the rest of the team. In the end, he finished with two touchdowns and 166 yards on 29 carries to take home the Bruce Coulter Award for outstanding player of the game.

"The team had more confidence with Mark back in the lineup," Thunderbird all-Canadian tackle Bob Beveridge said. "We knew even if we missed a tackle, Mark would make them miss anyway."

While Nohra was able to allow adrenaline and determination to guide him through the pain, the Gee-Gee's were limping from the starting whistle.

Both Ottawa starting quarterback Phil Cote and wide receiver Chris Evraire were troubled by charlie horses suffered in the Churchill Bowl the week prior, preventing them from practicing the entire week leading up to the Vanier. Another injury to running back Trevor Bailey slowed down Ottawa's running game to only 131 yards carried by seven different rushers.

"Our only weapon was the pass," Cote said. "We should have been able to run if it were not for the injury to Bailey."

Because of Ottawa's injuries, UBC's defence was able to concentrate more on the pass and managed to shut down the Gee-Gees most dangerous threat receiver Ousmane Tounkara, the Ontario Québec Intercollegiate Football Conference's outstanding player of the year, limiting him to only three receptions.

With UBC's third Vanier Cup championship already in hand late in the fourth quarter with a 39-7 lead, the Thunderbirds lost focus while celebrating and allowed Ottawa to claw back with 16 points in the last three minutes of the game.

For Nohra, the title of national champion capped the end of his best season at any level of competition.

"This was a dream season. I couldn't have dreamed it up better," he said. "I can only hope to take this emotion to the next level of play."

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1997