For the first time in a decade, the UBC Thunderbirds have brought home the holy grail of Canadian university football, the Vanier Cup. The T-Birds defeated the Ottawa Gee Gees 39-23 in the Canadian Interuniversity Athletics Union (CIAU) championship game in Toronto Nov. 22.
Running back Mark Nohra returned to the field with a vengeance after being sidelined during the Western and Atlantic championship games with a knee injury to help quarterback Shawn Olson lead the 'Birds to the title for the first time since 1986 and bring home the university's third Vanier Cup.
Nohra was unstoppable, carrying the ball 29 times for 166 yards and scoring touchdowns from one and 19 yards. His efforts earned him the game's Bruce Coulter Award for outstanding player.
The victory caps a stellar season for the Thunderbirds and comes just one week after they defeated the Mount Allison Mounties in the Atlantic Bowl in Halifax and two weeks after the team crushed Calgary at UBC to win the Canada West championship title, the Hardy Cup.
UBC finished regular season play 5-1-2 with the only losses coming against last year's Vanier Cup winners, the Saskatchewan Huskies.
UBC won the Vanier Cup in 1982 and 1986. In 1987, the team made it to the Vanier Cup game but was defeated by McGill.
Nohra's performance this season drew national attention and earned him the Hec Crighton Trophy for Outstanding Player of the Year. The top rusher in the Canada West conference, he set three school records Oct. 25 in Calgary including the most carries in a single game (48), most yards rushing (351), and most yards total offence (413). His 48 carries also established a new conference record. He was injured in the final season game against Manitoba Oct. 31.
Olson has shown further proof of his talent this year. In 1996, the second-year pivot had a remarkable debut coming off the bench mid-way through the season. He has continued to perform throughout the 1997 season, showing in Atlantic and Western finals that he could lead the team's offensive efforts without the workhorse Nohra.
Offensive tackle Bob Beveridge received a CIAU nomination for outstanding lineman. Coach Casey Smith, who was named Canada West Coach of the Year, was nominated for CIAU Coach of the Year. Nohra, Beveridge and offensive lineman Jim Cooper were named All-Canadians.
Smith also joins nine of his T-Bird players on the CIAU all-star team. All-star team members from the T-Birds include Smith, Beveridge, Cooper, Nohra, wide receiver Brad Coutts, tackle Travis Fehler, linebackers Dan Elliott and Stewart Scherck, halfback Strachan Hartley and cornerback Curtis Galick.