November 9, 2023

PREVIEW: Golden Bears head to Vancouver in search of Hardy Cup

The University of Alberta Golden Bears will play for the Canada West title when they visit the UBC Thunderbirds on Saturday for the 86th Hardy Cup.

Alberta returns to the Hardy Cup for the first time since 2010 and will look for their first Canada West Championship since 1981 after an impressive 40-17 semifinal win over the Saskatchewan Huskies last weekend. The Bears were led by quarterback Eli Hetlinger who threw for 279 yards and four touchdowns, while Carter Kettyle and Jonathan Rosery combined for 225 receiving yards against the Huskies.

“We played well, it was our best performance against Saskatchewan this season. It was nice to play well and play well at the end of the season,” said Bears head coach Chris Morris, who was named Canada West coach of the year on Thursday. “We have a good group of kids here, a mature group of kids. We’re happy with where we are at, but we have some important work ahead of us.”

Saturday, November 11 at 2 p.m. MT
Thunderbird Stadium | Vancouver, BC
 Webcast | Live stats | U of A game preview


Fresh off their first home playoff win since 2005 and first for head coach Chris Morris in his 11 seasons, the veteran coach understands the pressure there was to get that first playoff win under their belts but says they have been knocking at the door for quite some time.

“We have been decent the last few years, having made the playoffs in three of the last four years. In Canada West everyone is good, so even making the playoffs means you are a pretty good team,” explained Morris. “I’m very happy we won that game, got the monkey off our backs, and now we want to see how far we can take it with this group.”

Alberta’s only two losses in the regular season came to the Thunderbirds, falling 54-37 on September 22 and losing 23-10 on October 28. Both teams come in with elite talent on the field, as Canada West Player of the Year, running back Matthew Peterson will look to lead the way for Alberta after rushing for 1,128 yards on 117 carries and four touchdowns this season.

2023 regular season 2-0 UBC  (54-37 Sept. 22 in Vancouver & 23-10 Oct. 28 in Edmonton)
All-time playoff series 3-2 Alberta
Last playoff meeting 1987 Hardy Cup Final (26-8 UBC in Vancouver)

UBC, led by head coach Blake Nill, will be bolstered by quarterback Garrett Rooker who led Canada West in passing yards and touchdowns in the regular season along with their two hulking offensive lineman Theo Benedet and Giovanni Manu, who are both ranked in the top 10 in the latest 2024 CFL draft rankings.

The No. 1 seeded Thunderbirds defeated Manitoba 29-21 in the other Hardy Cup semifinal last Saturday and will be making their fifth appearance in the Hardy Cup since 2015.

“The first time we played UBC, our offence played well, but our defence didn’t and the second time our defence played well, but our offence didn’t. If all three phases work well and UBC still beats us, then hats off to them. But we would like to play our best game and see where we go with that.” said Morris in preparation for the Thunderbirds.

Saturday’s final will mark the sixth post-season meeting between the Bears and Thunderbirds with Alberta holding a 3-2 record all-time.

Kickoff from Thunderbird Stadium is at 2:00 p.m. MT.