The University of Saskatchewan Huskies buried the memories of the horrible homecoming loss to UBC in week two with their fourth convincing win in a row, a 30 to nine drubbing of the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in Vancouver.
In spite of some early struggles, Laurence Nixon and the offence were able to move the ball and eat up the clock, if not lighting up the scoreboard, at least in the first half. “For me, personally, it’s always tough coming out here with a lot of distractions with family and stuff,” said Nixon, who is from Vancouver suburb Richmond and who played his high school football at Vancouver College. “It feels really good to get that win under our belt and now the team can go home and focus on beating Regina.”
Leading only 3-0 thanks to a Stephen McDonald field goal after the first quarter, the Huskies struck quickly in the second quarter, capping off a six play, 55 yard drive with Ben Coakwell’s first of two touchdowns on the night. Coakwell’s one-yard plunge opened up a 10-0 lead, and with the way the Huskies’ defence was playing on the night, that lead looked like it may be too much to overcome.
“It was a great effort tonight out of the guys,” commented defensive coordinator Ed Carleton after the game. “Tonight, we finished things. We finished drives when we had to at the end and we stopped them when we had to. We did a real good job defensively on their quarterback and we didn’t let him hurt us running the football. It all came together today.”
The Huskies defence was able to hold the UBC offence to two-and-out on half of their 18 drives, while limiting UBC quarterback Billy Greene, who averaged 82.5 yards rushing per game entering the contest, to only 19 yards. UBC was only able to gain 42 yards on the ground the entire night, putting up a mere 280 yards of net offence. In spite of these meager totals, UBC’s defence held them in the game at halftime, only allowing two McDonald filed goals after the Coakwell major, down 16-3 at the break.
The third quarter was not an inspiring effort for either offence, with the Huskies capping off a 78 yard, 10 play drive with a interception on the UBC 20. The Huskies also gave the ball to UBC on a fumble with just under 4:00 remaining in the third, but thanks to the inability of either offence to move the ball, the score remained 16-3 until late in the quarter when a Keenan MacDougall interception set the Huskies up near mid-field. They would march 63 yards on five plays, concluding the drive at 13:28 of the fourth quarter with a two-yard Braeden George touchdown reception from Nixon, making the score 23-3.
It wouldn’t take the Huskies long to strike again. After putting together a couple of first downs on what looked to be a promising drive, but would turn the ball over on downs at the Huskie 43 yard line. After a 20 yard pass to Rory Kohlert, Ben Coakwell would get the ball and break through the UBC front seven, turning on the jets for a 47 yard touchdown. McDonald’s convert made the score 30-3 in favour of the Huskies, and the run pushed Coakwell to 88 yards and gave him his second touchdown of the afternoon, which was also his seventh of the year.
“He had my ankle and I was able to get out,” described Coakwell when asked about his fourth quarter touchdown run. “You know, I’m getting old, and I’m surprised I had a little juice left in the old legs. But I was just happy to get in, for sure.
“This feels good because they beat us the last time we played them. It was nice to come out here and execute a lot better this week.”
One of the few defensive blemishes of the night occurred with just under five minutes remaining in the game when Greene went long for big-play receiver Victor Marshall who hauled in a 44-yard touchdown pass. A fake convert landed incomplete in the endzone, making the score 30-9 for the Huskies. The defence would make up for that, however, as Bryce McCall would snag his third interception of the year with 33 seconds remaining, putting an exclamation mark at the end of another dominant performance by the Huskies.
“It was a great effort by the defence all night,” said head coach Brian Towriss. “We made a couple mistakes on some deep balls but they have some really good receivers and Billy Greene is a good quarterback, so they’re going to make some plays. It was a great physical effort by everybody the whole night.
With the win, the Huskies move to 5-2 and into a three-way tie for first with Regina and Calgary heading into the final week of the season. Earlier in the evening, the Rams lost to the Dinos 35-27, meaning that a Huskies win over the Rams at home next week will lock up first place and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs for the third year in a row.
“We win, we finish first, and if we lose, we finish third, probably,” explained Towriss. “It’s in our hands and we fought our way from a long ways back. We’ve got to go home, regroup, and get ready for Regina.”
The Huskies will meet Regina in a first place showdown next Friday at 7:00 p.m. at Griffiths Stadium. Get your tickets for what is sure to be a huge, standing room only, electric game by calling 966-1111 or by stopping at the PAC ticket office.
Note: The Huskies will be traveling back to Saskatoon on Saturday. Our coverage will continue later today.