ANTIGONISH, N.S. -- Veteran coach Blake Nill never could have predicted the turn around for his program after last season.
UBC quarterback Michael O'Connor threw two touchdown passes to Trivel Pinto, and Prince George born-and-raised running back Brandon Deschamps added another on the ground to lead the Thunderbirds to a decisive 36-9 victory over the hometown St.FX X-Men on Saturday night in the 2015 Uteck Bowl - earning the team a shot at the national championship.
"I would never have expected this in a 100 years with this group, a group that was 2-6 last year, to get into the Vanier Cup," said Nill. "It's not like we had an easy road either. We had to win in Calgary, Manitoba, Saskatchewan. We beat some good teams to here. I don't think we played our best today but we did play well enough."
Deschamps, a Kelly Road secondary school graduate who ran for 128 yards on 20 carries and caught three passes for an additional 50 yards, received game MVP honours.
"It was a crazy game," said Deschamps, who added he was overwhelmed to receive the MVP nod. "They came out hard and they competed really well. Our defence played really well tonight. They didn't let them score points until the end of the game. That was huge for us."
The Thunderbirds will play the Montreal Carabins for the Vanier Cup in Quebec City next weekend.