“From the Grandstand” is a series that began last fall. It gives Huskie fans the opportunity to share their thoughts and memories about Huskie football. We enjoy posting these articles, and if you wish to be included in a future volume let us know, either in the comments section or when you see any of the Outsider bloggers at Griffiths stadium. Thanks go out to Keith Martin for being our first contributor of the 2011 season.
Q: For how many years have you been following the Huskies?
Keith: I began attending Huskie games when I was a UofS student in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I moved away from Saskatoon for a few years but still followed the team. When I moved back, in the mid 90’s, I started attending games once again. Since 1998, Huskie football has been like a religion to me, and I have only missed 2 home games.
Q: What is the best Huskie game that you have ever seen? What was special about this game?
Keith: I have seen so many great games that I can’t possibly pick only one. I’ll narrow it to two, but I could easily extend the list to my top 10.
1) 1990 Vanier Cup win over Saint Mary’s: This game, I believe, is the most historic victory in the history of Huskie Athletics (not just the football program, but the entire athletics program). It was our first national title in football. This was the second straight appearance in the Vanier for the Dogs, after playing in their first national title game the year previous, which coincided with the first year that the Skydome opened. The new stadium was big news all over the world for it’s retractable dome, hotel, etc. I think that the Huskies fell prey to how big the moment was as much as the ability of a strong Western Mustangs team. The team vowed to return in 1990 and kept their word. I was a 4th year UofS student at the time and knew lots of the players, which made the moment even more special. I watched the game at Louis’ campus pub. We had to be at the bar several hours before kickoff in order to get a seat. It was a great, close game in which I don’t think we ever trailed en route to a 24 – 21 win. Victory wasn’t sealed until Don Bristow forced a fumble, from SMU QB Chris Flynn, that was recovered by Rob Dutton with less than a minute remaining. The excitement of that moment remains, to this day, crystal clear. It was a wild atmosphere at Louis’. I remember standing on top of one of the tables and beginning a chant of “we’re number 1!” A Louis’ staff member was approaching me as I did this. Instead of telling me to get off of the table, he climbed onto the table next to mine and joined in the chant. Louis’ really was THE meeting place for UofS students at that time, and I recall that Huskie fullback, Rob Symchuk, made a phone call to the pub, from the Skydome, immediately following the game. The phone call was put over some sort of speaker system so that everyone there could be a part of it. There were Huskie souvenirs all over the walls of the pub for that day. As I left for my cab ride home, I took a Huskie pennant with me. That pennant has been a fixture on the wall, behind my desk at work, for nearly 20 years now.
2) 1998 Churchill Bowl win over Western Ontario: This game was a chance for the Huskies to exact a little revenge after Vanier Cup losses to Western in 1989 and 1994. TSN was televising the game, and they actually focused a fair amount of attention on the game during the few days lead-up that they had. Much of their attention was directed at a Mustang running back by the name of Fabian Rayne. I was growing tired of hearing about him, so I can only imagine how the team felt about it. The game took place in late November, but it was unseasonably warm that afternoon; a light jacket was plenty warm enough. The great weather and matchup brought out a huge crowd. We didn’t have nearly as much seating back then, so fans also sat and stood, several people deep, all around the track that surrounds the field. Former CFL receiver, Leif Pettersen, was the colour commentator that day. I later watched a recording of the game and I remember him raving about the exciting atmosphere in the stadium. A friend of mine, who lived in the College Park area, told me that he could hear the crowd from his backyard. It was very loud! Among others, QB Ryan Reid and RB Doug Rozon had great games. I think that Rozon rushed for over 200 yards. Current receivers coach, Jason Sulz, was an outstanding slotback for that team. The Huskies beat the Mustangs 33-17, and the next week defeated Concordia for their third Vanier Cup.
Q: Which Huskie team do you feel is the best ever, or your favourite team?
Keith: The 2005 team was absolutely loaded. They really only had one close game during an undefeated CanWest regular season, semifinal, and Hardy Cup. In the Mitchell Bowl they then beat Laval who were two-time defending Vanier Cup champions, and the favourites in the eyes of most people, outside of Saskatoon, to earn a three-peat. Their subsequent Vanier Cup loss, to a very good Wilfred Laurier team, was a bitter pill to swallow. It might have been the team’s worst performance that season. I remember that we coughed up the ball on offense early in the game, which set a bad tone for the evening. Late in the game while we were ahead, the Golden Hawks got a lucky break and converted a key first down when a near interception deflected off of linebacker Morley Miller’s hands and right into the arms of a Laurier receiver. I was in Hamilton for the game and sitting in front of a section of their fans. They had quite a reaction to the good fortune of that play. On their game winning drive we allowed a first down conversion on a 3rd & 17 yard play; I couldn’t believe it. I hope that this year’s team can take a lesson from that loss, and a few others over the last 5 years, and realize that 100% focus is needed each play, every week, and that victory can never be taken for granted.
Q: Who are your 3 favourite Huskie players of all time, and why?
Keith: 1) David Stevens is my favourite. He was a great back who could do it all. He hit the hole so hard! During the 2005 CanWest semifinal he sent 3 UBC TBird defenders to the sidelines after some collisions. He suffered 2 serious ACL injuries in 2003 and 2004, and came back better than ever in 2005. He dominated games that season and was never held below 100 yards in any of the twelve games that the Huskies played. I brought a co-worker to his first Huskie game that year. David’s play on that afternoon turned him into a fan of the Huskies who follows the team to this day. I think that Jeff Hassler has the potential to have a few David Stevens-type years if his bad luck with injuries can disappear.
Picking the next two players is almost impossible but here goes:
2) Mike Scheibel embodied what is great about the Huskie football program. He entered camp, for his fifth year of eligibility, in 2005 as the returning starter at safety, and he was a very good player. 2005 also coincided with when a young phenom, by the name of Dylan Barker, was ready to play. No starting positions are guaranteed with the Huskies, and Barker earned the starting spot ahead of Scheibel. Mike was moved to halfback. I don’t recall if he began the season as a starter at his new position, but by the end of the season he wasn’t just a starting halfback, he was also named to the CanWest all star team. What a great lesson and motivator that story should be for all current Huskies – rookies and veterans alike! I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Mike following the 2004 and 2005 Vanier Cups – what a class act.
3) Ryan Reid was a great QB and leader. He joined the Dogs right around the time when I moved back to Saskatoon and became a regular at Huskie games.
Q: What are your thoughts/impressions/predictions for the 2011 Huskie team (team and/or individual players)?
Keith: There are holes to fill – especially with 3 CIS eligible players moving up to the CFL (congratulations to Patrick, Rory, and Jade!), and there’s work to be done, but I expect the Huskies to be good. They have the potential to be very good. They will be capable of beating, or losing to, anyone. It’s up to the team to train and practice as hard as they can, trust each other, and push each other to get better. They can’t take victory for granted, which I think has happened more than once during the last few seasons.
Q: What do you think is the best rivalry between the Huskies and another team (current or past rivalry)
Keith: There are a lot of good teams in this conference, but I think that the Huskies are going to continue to have a lot of battles with the Dinos over the next several years.
Q: Which 2011 game are you most looking forward to?
Keith: I’m curious to see the Rams come to Saskatoon on September 9. I expect the Rams to be a pretty good team this year, but they were absolute jackasses with their antics during the Huskies’ entrance at Griffiths Stadium last fall. The garbage continued during the game as well. It was a classless attempt at intimidation that totally backfired and made them look like complete jerks. I hope that Frank isn’t thinking of pulling off a similar stunt this fall; I wouldn’t put it past him though.
Q: What would you say to a potential recruit who is considering playing for the Huskies?
Keith: You can’t hope for a better program to join than the Huskies. The school is very good. The coaches are incredible; if you give them your all they will help you develop into the best player that you can possibly be. The fact that there are more Huskies in the CFL than any other CIS team is proof of this. The football facilities are unmatched. The game day atmosphere is better than anything in the CIS or CFL. And there are many, many Huskie fans who are just as passionate about our team as I am – you won’t get that anywhere else in CanWest.
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.
Keith: I have a funny memory from the 1998 Churchill Bowl (a bowl now known as the Mitchell Bowl; I’m not sure what Mr. Churchill did to have the game renamed, but I digress). During a break in the game, a guy wearing only long underwear hopped the short fence near the west sideline and took to the field. He pretended to receive a handoff from a phantom quarterback near the endzone on the north side of the field. He then proceeded to run the imaginary football down the field toward the south endzone. He displayed all sorts of jukes, stiff-arms, and stutter step moves and he had the entire crowd roaring. Along the way to the south endzone he stopped near midfield, facing the west side bleachers. He proceeded to drop his long underwear, moon everyone on the east side of the stadium, pull his underwear back up, and continue his touchdown run. Several thousand people were in attendance, and they all erupted in laughter and cheers. Global even showed a clip of this moment on the evening news. I loved what happened after he scored his touchdown and celebrated. He simply jogged back to where he originally hopped the fence and went back to his place of viewing. There were absolutely no repercussions from security or anyone.