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Bears after the bye week: where they stand in the playoff picture

The magic number is four. That’s how many wins the University of Alberta Golden Bears will need to have a legitimate chance at the Canada West playoffs, which has eluded the program since 2010. It’s possible to squeak into the postseason with a 3-5 record, but a lot has to go right in terms of tiebreakers and help from other teams.

Much like last year, the Bears find themselves in must-win mode after the conference bye week, which is disappointing considering they won their first two games of the season and have lost three straight since. We take a look at whether they stand in the playoff picture compared to one year ago.

Quarterbacks

Ben Kopczynski (through five games in 2015): 60.0 completion percentage, 244.2 yards per game, 8.1 yards per attempt, seven touchdowns, five interceptions

Curtis Dell (through seven games in 2014): 59.9 completion percentage, 286.7 yards per game, 9.0 yards per attempt, 10 touchdowns, six interceptions

Probably the biggest change since last year’s 3-5 team is under centre as Bears redshirt freshman Ben Kopczynski succeeded 2014 starter Curtis Dell at the helm of Alberta’s offence. With Kopczynski’s running ability, his passing totals are down, but adds a new dimension to the Bears offence.

Kop and the Bears average 28.8 first downs per game, second in the conference, well ahead of the 25.5 they averaged in 2014. Kopczynski’s dual threat in the pocket is an asset to the Bears offence, as they’ve moved the chains consistently with him as signalcaller.

But the Bears might be without Kopczynski for the time being. Freshman quarterback Brad Baker, who has a bigger arm but isn’t quite the runner Kop is, may start this week versus the T-Birds due to a knee injury. Kopczynski’s health is key to the Bears making a run at the playoffs.

Advantage: 2015 Kopczynski

Running game

Ed Ilnicki (through five games in 2015): 106.2 rushing yards per game, 6.1 yards per carry, four touchdowns

Ed Ilnicki (through eight games in 2014): 81.9 rushing yards per game, 6.1 yards per carry, nine touchdowns

Another year of development on the Bears offensive line has benefitted the third-year back greatly, as he’s averaging nearly 25 more yards per game out of the backfield. Questions were raised when offensive lineman Scott Ledieu and David Beard graduated from the locker room, but Ilnicki has been an absolute workhorse this season regardless. He’s getting more touches and become the unquestioned Bears back. He should only improve with two years of eligibility left after this season.

Advantage: 2015 run game

Defence:

Bears defence (through five games in 2015): 41.8 points per game allowed.

Bears defence (through eight games in 2014): 47 points per game allowed.

The Bears defence in 2014 saw 10 first-year starters take the field, which resulted in the worst ranked defence in the conference. Another year of development has given the Bears stellar play from defensive back Tak Landry, who leads the conference in tackles, but their troubles as a unit has prevented the Bears from remaining over .500.

Advantage: 2015, slightly

Overall: 2015

The young Bears have made improvements, and stand a better chance of making the postseason at this time than last year, but Kopczynski’s injury surely dampens their odds. Their remaining schedule versus the BC T-Birds, Manitoba Bisons and Calgary Dinos poses a great challenge, much like their matchups versus the Dinos, Huskies and Rams to close out 2014. The rematch with the T-Birds and Bisons are their most realistic chances at wins, but with the parity in the Canada West, even if they get those wins, it’s not a guaranteed trip to the postseason.

2015 Game Summaries

Sept. 4, 2015 – 29-22 win at Regina Rams

Passing stats: 22-for-36 with 278 yards passing. Four times sacked, five interceptions, zero touchdowns.

Rushing stats: 25 rush attempts for 174 yards and two touchdowns. (Ed Ilnicki with 16-90-2)

Total offence: 440 yards on 62 plays. An average of 7.1 yards per play.

First downs: 27 first downs. Eight rushing, 14 passing, Five on penalties.

Penalties: 15 penalties for 145 yards.

Opposing total offence: 516 yards on 71 plays. An average of 7.3 yards per play.

Sept. 11, 2015 – 38-26 win vs. Saskatchewan Huskies

Passing stats: 23-for-35 with 300 yards passing. Sacked zero times, two interceptions, three touchdowns.

Rushing stats: 35 rush attempts for 283 yards and two touchdowns. (Ed Ilnicki with 19-149-1)

Total offence: 550 yards on 75 plays. An average of 7.3 yards per play.

First downs: 29 first downs. 11 rushing, 17 passing, One on penalties.

Penalties: Eight penalties for 58 yards.

Opposing total offence: 508 yards on 77 plays. An average of 6.6 yards per play.

Sept. 17, 2015 – 80-18 loss at Calgary Dinos

Passing stats: 17-for-35 with 247 yards passing. Sacked two times, two interceptions, one touchdown.

Rushing stats: 39 rush attempts for 180 yards and one touchdown. (Ben Kopczynski with 11-36-1)

Total offence: 427 yards on 74 plays. An average of 5.8 yards per play.

First downs: 27 first downs. 12 rushing, 12 passing, Four on penalties.

Penalties: Nine penalties for 55 yards.

Opposing total offence: 975 yards on 75 plays. An average of 13.0 yards per play.

Sept. 25, 2015 – 42-32 loss vs. Manitoba Bisons

Passing stats: 19-for-30 with 324 yards passing. Sacked once, one interception, two touchdowns.

Rushing stats: 44 rush attempts for 235 yards and one touchdown. (Ed Ilnicki with 18-113-1)

Total offence: 518 yards on 79 plays. An average of 6.6 yards per play.

First downs: 31 first downs. 14 rushing, 14 passing, three on penalties.

Penalties: 15 penalties for 104 yards.

Opposing total offence: 477 yards on 61 plays. An average of 7.8 yards per play

Oct. 3, 2015 – 39-21 loss vs. BC Thunderbirds

Passing stats: 30-for-48 with 438 yards passing. Sacked once, one interception, one touchdown.

Rushing stats: 31 rush attempts for 151 yards and one touchdown. (Ed Ilnicki with 18-192-0)

Total offence: 438 yards on 81 plays. An average of 5.4 yards per play.

First downs: 30 first downs. 13 rushing, 15 passing, two on penalties.

Penalties: 7 penalties for 72 yards.

Opposing total offence: 489 yards on 72 plays. An average of 6.8 yards per play.

2014 Game Summaries

Sept. 5, 2014 – 1-0 win at Calgary Dinos.

Game was originally won 71-3 by Calgary. Calgary forfeited the victory due to the use of ineligible players. Alberta was awarded a 1-0 victory. No official stats were recorded due to the forfeit. Here are the unofficial stats from the originally played game.

Passing stats: 19-for-43 with 179 yards passing. Four times sacked, five interceptions, zero touchdowns.

Rushing stats: 27 rush attempts for 123 yards. Zero touchdowns. (Joel Mukendi with 14-97-0)

Total offence: 277 yards on 74 plays. An average of 3.7 yards per play.

First downs: 23 first downs. Five rushing, 10 passing, eight on penalty.

Penalties: 15 penalties for 139 yards.

Opposing total offence: 734 yards on 76 plays. An average of 9.7 yards per play.

Sept. 13, 2014 – 42-41 loss vs. Saskatchewan Huskies.

Passing stats: 25-for-41 with 413 yards passing. An average of 10.1 yards per play. One time sacked, one interception, two touchdowns.

Rushing stats: 29 rush attempts for 174 yards. Three touchdowns. (Ed Ilnicki with 17 carries and 18 yards)

Total offence: 572 yards on 71 plays. An average of 8.1 yards per play.

First downs: 30 first downs. Nine rushing, 18 passing, three on penalty.

Penalties: 18 penalties for 140 yards.

Opposing total offence: 482 yards on 68 plays. An average of 7.1 yards per play.

Sept. 20, 2014 – 44-41 win vs. Regina Rams.

Passing stats: 17-for-27 with 271 yards passing. An average of 10.0 yards per play. Zero times sacked, zero interception, four touchdowns.

Rushing stats: 29 rush attempts for 174 yards. Two touchdowns. (Levon Hawreliak with 12 carries and 64 yards).

Total offence: 454 yards on 56 plays. An average of 8.1 yards per play. First downs: 20 first downs. Eight rushing, nine passing, three on penalty.

Penalties: 14 penalties for 129 yards.

Opposing total offence: 705 yards on 78 plays. An average of 9.0 yards per play.

Sept. 27, 2014 – 49-13 loss at BC Thunderbirds.

Passing stats: 22-for-41 with 310 yards passing. An average of 7.6 yards per play. Two times sacked, two interceptions, zero touchdowns.

Rushing stats: 17 rush attempts for 95 yards. Zero touchdowns. (Levon Hawreliak with four carries for 35 yards)

Total offence: 405 yards on 58 plays. An average of 7.0 yards per play.

First downs: 20 first downs. Five rushing, 15 passing, zero on penalty.

Penalties: 12 penalties for 65 yards.

Opposing total offence: 583 yards on 66 plays. An average of 8.8 yards per play.

Oct. 27, 2014 – 38-31 victory vs. Manitoba Bisons.

Passing stats: 13-for-23 with 131 yards passing. An average of 5.7 yards per play. One times sacked, one interception, one touchdown.

Rushing stats: 48 rush attempts for 271 yards. Four touchdowns. (Ed Ilnicki with 33 carries for 192 yards)

Total offence: 400 yards on 72 plays. An average of 5.6 yards per play.

First downs: 26 first downs. 18 rushing, five passing, three on penalty.

Penalties: 7 penalties for 52 yards.

Opposing total offence: 488 yards on 67 plays. An average of 7.3 yards per play.

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