All Huskie fans, myself included, have many fond memories of UofS football over the last several years. But I’m certain that there are few, if any, Huskie fans with as detailed a recollection, of seasons past, as our latest fan to contribute to “From the Grandstand.” Tom S. grew up near Griffiths Stadium, and has followed the Dogs for his entire life. In particular, his recounting of a 1998 game against the UBC Thunderbirds is a treat to read. That was a game that I attended, but had forgotten many of the highlights. Until now.
Q: For how many years have you been following the Huskies?
Tom S.: In the summer of 1959 we moved to a house on Cumberland Ave., just five blocks from Griffiths Stadium. I hadn’t realized until just recently that our moving actually coincided with the reintroduction of football to the U of S. As a youngster, just four years old, I used to tag along with my older brother and his buddies when they rode their bikes to Griffiths to watch the Huskies practice or play (I’d ride on the handlebars). In those days, and until about 1965, the stadium was located further west just alongside what is the 300 block north of Cumberland Ave. Of course I don’t remember the football, but I do remember being there. I recall that the dressing rooms at the time were two small shacks, each about the size of a single car garage, if not smaller. And I was intrigued, as a little guy, by these streams of great big football players running out of such very small buildings, and wondered how they ever got them all in there in the first place. It would be as comical as anything if we were to see it now!
Growing up in the 60′s, my friends and I often spent Saturday afternoons watching Huskie games. We usually snuck in without paying, either by crawling under the fence or jumping over it. As pre-teens we were as much entertained by the raucous university students as the actual football game. Drinking wasn’t allowed, so university students smuggled their own liquor into the ballpark. And it was usually hard liquor. It was probably easier to conceal. The public drunkenness created an enforcement problem for the police, but was a great source of amusement for us youngsters.
As for the fortunes of the football team, well, there wasn’t really an expectation that they would compete on the national stage for the Vanier Cup, or even win very often. The winning tradition came along much, much later, under the direction of coach Brian Towriss.
Q: What is the best Huskie game that you have ever seen? What was special about this game?
Tom S.: The best Huskie game I ever saw took place on Oct. 3, 1998. The UBC Thunderbirds, then reigning national champions, came to play that day. Their team featured Akbal Singh, Shawn Olson, Tyson St. James and Brad Coutts, while we had Ryan Reid, Doug Rozon, Warren Muzika and James Repesse. Rozon was hurt for that game, so Tony Chad filled in. On UBC’s first play, Olson and Brad Coutts burned us for a 95 yard touchdown pass. So right away it’s 7 zip. Then the Huskies get the ball and Tony Chad responds with a 60 yard touchdown romp, straight up the middle of the field. The teams continue to trade blows all afternoon. Fast forward. With 1:10 left to play, and UBC leading 34 – 31, the Huskies get the ball on their own 20 yard line. This would be their final drive. Led by Ryan Reid, the Huskies go into no huddle offence and march upfield. With each successive completion, and each successive first down, the crowd just gets crazier and crazier. It’s bedlam. Finally, we’re on their 4 yard line with 10 seconds left. There’s time for one more play. I wondered if they’d go for the win or the tie. They went for the win. Reid throws to Todd Lynden for the TD and it was all over. Huskies 38 – UBC 34! It was the greatest game of anything I have ever seen in my life. It featured, by the way, no turnovers – no fumbles or interceptions – by either team. Remarkable! In that Monday morning’s Star Phoenix, the game was covered on the front page in an article entitled ” The Drive”. Later in the season, UBC beats us by 2 points, giving the UofS a slim 2 point plus/minus lead, and allowing them home field for the Hardy Cup. It was an advantage they needed because, in my opinion, they would not have won the Hardy Cup without it. The Huskies later won the Vanier Cup that fall.
Q: Which Huskie team do you feel is the best ever, or was your favourite team?
Tom S.: I have a soft spot for the 2002 team. They were a gritty bunch. People will remember Tyler Siwak, Sheldon Ball, Ryan Gottselig and Darryl Balzer. I could name many more. They had a tough schedule, playing Manitoba and Regina twice that year. They lost both games to Manitoba, split with the Rams, and kinda dropped a stinker to Calgary. Bottom line is they’re 4 and 4 after the regular season and they’ve got to go to Winnipeg for the quarter final against the 8 – 0 juggernaut, Manitoba Bisons. They staged a huge upset and came home on the bus late that Sunday night. The next week they play another epic battle against the Rams in Regina for the Hardy Cup. It was snowing like crazy and field staff had to sweep the line markers every few minutes. Huskies win another barnburner. They beat McGill the week after, in Montreal, and go on to play Saint Mary’s for the Vanier. They lost the Vanier, unfortunately, but they came a lot closer than most people think. It was a 12 point margin. The big story of that playoff run was playing all 4 games on the road, and winning 3 of them. They showed tremendous character and leadership.
Q: Who are your 3 favourite Huskie players of all time, and why?
Tom S.: Leighton Heron for sure – especially after the Vanier Cup in Saskatoon where he just clobbered Laval’s middle linebacker, and later the safety. He just hammered ‘em! Aaron David was another small guy who played big. Sheldon Ball was a gutsy player and great leader.
Q: What are your thoughts/impressions of the 2010 Huskie team (team and/or individual players)?
Tom S.: They’ll be fine. Remember, last year we were nearly 0 – 4 at the halfway mark. As it turned out we were 3 – 1, but it could have been much different. When I see guys like Laurence Nixon, Peter and Luke Thiel, Garrett Bolen, Mitch Friesen and Zach Hart on our team, I know we’re in good shape. I could name so many more. These guys are awesome.
Q: Which 2010 game are you most looking forward to?
Tom S.: While I’m always looking forward to the next game (Manitoba in this case), I think we all want to see Calgary when they come back. Then, of course, the Rams come to Griffiths Stadium.
Q: What do you think is the best rivalry between the Huskies and another team (current or past rivalry)?
Tom S.: The rivalry with Calgary could be real tough for a long, long time. These guys aren’t going away, that’s for sure. I think Olson will do a great job in B.C., too. It should be really exciting – tough, but exciting.
Q: What would you say to a potential recruit who is considering playing for the Huskies?
Tom S.: The Huskies have been the most consistent program in CanWest over the last 20 years. They’ve had 9 Vanier Cup appearances, and many national semifinal appearances in that time. If you come here, there’s a very good chance that you’ll be with a team that goes on to do great things. Make sure, however, that getting a solid degree is your first priority, wherever you go.
Q: Is there anything else that you wish to add? This could include game memories, things from the Dogs’ Breakfast, craziest/funniest thing you’ve seen from a fan…you name it.
Tom S.: One last acknowledgement is to all the opposition players and coaches who have come and performed so well here all these years. You know, without great players and teams to play against, you don’t have great football games or a great league. We couldn’t do it without them. So, to players like Akbal Singh, Jeff Zimmer, Jason Clermont, Eric Glavic, and everyone else, thank you for all your efforts.