Huskie Centennial Game
Friday, September 9, 7:00 p.m.
Griffiths Stadium at PotashCorp Park – Purchase your tickets online now by clicking here.
Broadcasts available: www.ck750.com (pregame show at 6:30 p.m.).
Records coming in: Regina: 0-1 (ranked 6th in the Football Reporters of Canada – CIS football poll), lost 21-10 to the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in week 1. Saskatchewan: 1-0 (ranked 6th in the Football Reporters of Canada – CIS football poll), won 38-7 over the University of Alberta Golden Bears.
Head to head history: Saskatchewan has 12 regular season wins to Regina’s 5 since 2001.
Head coaches: Saskatchewan: Brian Towriss (28th year): 139-77-1, .643 winning percentage; Frank McCrystal (13th year): 44-52-1, .458 winning percentage.
What’s on the line: As usual, provincial bragging rights until they meet again late in the season.
However, there’s more on the line this time. The Rams want to come in and prove they are worthy of the praise and hype heaped upon them in numerous previews, especially after losing fifth-year quarterback Marc Mueller. This game will be an opportunity to rally around new starter Dylan Hart and become a stronger team.
The Huskies will be focused on improving their record and showing that the preseason rankings and previews mean nothing. The Huskies played well last week, but they have room for improvement in all areas, and playing a strong team such as the Rams will allow them to improve and will give them a clearer indication of where they sit amongst the top teams in the conference.
Key players: Most people are expecting the Rams to rely on their all-Canadian running back Adrian Charles, who had 192 yards rushing against UBC. However, running Charles 26 times like they did against UBC against the Saskatchewan front seven would not likely be productive, so expect them to air the ball out as often under Hart as they have under Mueller. Along with Charles, Jared Janotta will be a primary receiver, coming in with 99 yards and one touchdown from the UBC game. If they can be successful in gaining five to seven yards per play with screen passes and passes in the flat, expect them to open up and try a few shots downfield to receivers such as Jay Smith, who had 721 yards and ten touchdowns in the PFC last season with the Regina Thunder.
Defensively, the Rams will rely on their vaunted front four for penetration into the Huskie offensive backfield, although the Huskies have to be aware of the blitzing outside linebackers Chris Scoig and Steve Famulak. Scoig had two sacks in the first meeting of these teams last season, but it is Famulak the Huskies likely have to be more concerned about, as he has better speed and is more of a threat spy and track down Jahlani Gilbert-Knorren. The Rams will surely attempt to throw a lot of traffic at the Huskies’ young quarterbacks, forcing them to make their reads and find open men quickly. Halfback Justin Edralin had 5.5 tackles last week, and he could be brought on the odd blitz, possibly forcing Saskatchewan’s quarterbacks to make bad decisions and throw balls that all-Canadian cornerback Jamir Walker, who had five interceptions and three touchdowns last season, can easily pick off.
The Huskies receiving corps should receive a boost with the expected return of Mitch Stevens, who had 260 yards and four touchdowns last season. Not that they needed much of a boost, with an already deep group of receivers that generated 253 receiving yards and two touchdowns last week. The key to the offence’s success this week will be the play of the offensive line. With rookie starter Jordan Arkko making his first start last week, and with veterans Darren Hinds and Ben Heenan moving to tackle, Alberta was able to send blitzing linebackers through often, forcing the quarterbacks to scramble. The task won’t get much easier this week against a powerful Regina front four.
Defensively, the Huskies came out last week and did what many astute observers suspected they would, and shut down the opposing offence, limiting Alberta to 217 yards of offence and only seven first downs. A similar performance this week, even with Marc Mueller out of the Rams’ lineup, will be much more difficult, but this is a group that can be absolutely dominant if they’re on top of their game. Halfback Seamus Neary and linebacker Nico Higgs each had interceptions in the game against Alberta, with Neary taking his for a 60 yard touchdown. Joel Seutter also had a strong game, with two tackles for losses, while Zach Hart led tacklers with four solo tackles. If the Huskies can shut down Adrian Charles and get a sustained pass rush going, it will make for a long day for the Rams’ offence.
Roster moves: For the Huskies, they return slotback Mitch Stevens and defensive tackle David Rybinski, who sat out last week’s game with minor injuries. The Rams lost Mueller, centre Brenden Bennett, and possibly slotback Rory Copithorn, while they welcome former Saskatoon Hilltops receiver Ian Miller to the lineup for his first CIS game. The Rams will also likely have veteran receivers Mark McConkey and Brenden Owens are also expected back for this game after sitting out the season opener.
What they’re saying:“I don’t think they’re going to change their offence, really, but they’ll emphasize the run, for sure. We have to stop Adrian Charles. Last year, the fact they could run the ball made them a lot harder to defend. We’ve got to do a good job shutting down the run and force them into passing situations.” Huskies’ Head Coach Brian Towriss, in an interview with Kevin Mitchell of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.
“The first two drives were a little bit shaky. I was pretty nervous when I went in there. After that, I got into a little bit of a rhythm and thought, ‘It’s going to be OK. I’ll be able to lead this team wherever it wants to go.’ That’s what it is, too. We have so much talent that it’s all about wherever this team wants to go.” Rams’ quarterback Dylan Hart on his first CIS action after Marc Mueller left with an injury.
What to expect: We know there will be fireworks at this game, thanks to David Dube and Heather Ryan. What we don’t know, yet, is if the fireworks in the sky will be joined by fireworks on the field.
Each of their last two games in Saskatoon, the Rams decided to try some intimidation tactics as the Huskies were being introduced (videos from those games are available here, here and here). They didn’t just direct their vitriol at the team, choosing to also yell at the cheerleaders and the flag plant fan. And, inexplicably, but not unexpectedly, Frank McCrystal blamed the Huskies for the whole thing after last year’s game:
“There’s a whole intimidation factor coming from them, with all of the stuff they do,” McCrystal said. “Really, to be quite honest with you, they kind of started it.”
Well, excuse us for trying to attract fans. Excuse us for not being content with high school sized crowds and wanting the team to play in front of more than just family and friends. When they see the expanded clubhouse, it will really set them off!
Anticipated antics aside, this game should be much closer than the blowout we saw at the end of last seaon. In fact, if both offences struggle and the defences dominate, we could see a replay of the 10-9 game of two years ago. Expect the Rams defence to be well preparred for Jahlani Gilbert-Knorren, forcing him from the pocket and making him throw on the run. They will definitely want to force JGK into situations where he has to make a quick read and make a decision, as he put up a couple balls last week that the Bears intercepted that would have been better off thrown away.
The Huskies will have their chances to open things up, as the Rams defence has been susceptible to the pass, especially long gains. They gave up an opening drive, 63-yard touchdown to UBC last week, and gave up touchdowns of 55 and 44 yards to the Huskies in the October 29, 2010 game. On the other side of the ball, expect the Rams to go deep earlier and more often than one would think, in spite of quarterback Dylan Hart’s inexperience. They are, after all, the Rams, and they still have a good set of receivers to throw to.
This game will likely come down to mistakes and turnovers. The Huskies won the turnover battle the last time these teams met, as did UBC in the game against the Rams last week. Continued strong play by the Huskies on special teams will also go a long way towards a win, as the Huskies and their return game, which averaged 13.4 yards on punt returns (including a 62 yard touchdown by Luke Thiel) and 16.7 yards on kickoff returns, battles Rams’ kicker Chris Bodnar, who averaged 46.9 yards on punts and 53.8 yards on kickoffs.
This game is shaping up to be a great one, and we may even see an attendance record broke. The regular season record is currently 6090, set when these teams met two years ago. With the Huskie centennial celebrations underway, the students back for school, and the high expected to be 33, that record could be shattered. Reports are that tickets are going quickly, so you should click the link at the upper right corner of this page if you haven’t already purchased yours.
Go, Dogs, go!