If you’re an NFL fan, you know that watching preseason games can be frustrating as the pace slows, new players are worked in and new plays are attempted in a game for the first time. A moment of brilliance can be quickly followed by a moment of ineptitude. A quick pace and strong play in one half can suddenly slow, and what is perplexing and dull to the fan can be invaluable for the coaches as they evaluate their team. Tonight’s game fit that mould.
While the Huskies lost their first preseason game since they visited Laval in 2006, the players gained valuable experience and the coaches valuable insight, both more important than the final score on this night. What we saw was a strong performance from the starting offence and a challenging night, at times, for the starting defence, especially the secondary.
Drew Burko made his first CIS start at quarterback and showed he deserved his promotion to starting quarterback, looking poised in the pocket and showing off a strong, accurate arm. Burko finished his night mid-way through the second quarter, going 13 of 19 for 176 yards, a touchdown and an interception. His favourite receiver was second-year wide-receiver Kit Hillis, who showed he will be a threat this season by catching eight passes for 117 yards and a touchdown.
On defence, the starting defensive line looked solid, as always, with Zach Hart and Levi Steinhauer leading the way with a strong pass rush. The linebackers were solid, filling the gaps and keeping the Guelph quarteback in the pocket, for the most part. The secondary, however, was not as strong as many had hoped, and much of this could be due to cornerback Luke Thiel sitting the game out, while rookie Keegan Arnyek and junior veteran Braxton Lawrence made their CIS debuts.
The Huskies held a 15-14 lead at halftime, but never seemed to find a groove and either weren’t able to move the ball or sustain drives until late in the second half. It seemed like Guelph took away what is usually an advantage for the Huskies, that being a hard-hitting, physical team, outhitting the Huskies and getting in the minds of the young receivers and running backs on the Huskie roster.
There were many positives to take away from this game, especially in individual performances. On defence, linebackers Richard Zacharias, who had five tackles, and Jaques Geyer, who had six solo tackles and three assisted tackles, may have played their way onto the roster. On offence, the play of Charlie Power, who had two catches for 49 yards, and rookie receiver Brydon Ozmun, who was a starter and had three catches for 29 yards, was promising.
What wasn’t so good was the space the Guelph receivers were able to create behind the Huskies’ secondary. The Huskies had their chances, but dropped two catchable passes that would have set the offence up in great field position. The offence had their own problems, with wide-open receivers dropping perfect passes and the offensive line allowing rushing Guelph linemen through too often. And then there were the penalties, which twice sustained Guelph drives because of unnecessary roughness calls.
The Huskies have a week to correct the mistakes and regain their discipline before the Alberta Golden Bears come to town. Things won’t get easier with running backs Dexter Janke and Shane Buchanan and defensive back Bryce McCall possibly out with injuries. Things only get harder from here.
Quote: “We weren’t ready to play at the start. They really took it to us, physically. I’m not so concerned about the score, but I am concerned about the fact that we didn’t hit anybody. We paid a physical price for it. It looks like we’re going to lose a couple guys for a little bit and that just tells me we got out-hit, big time.” – Head Coach Brian Towriss in the post-game news conference.
First Downs 26 27
Passing 24-43-348 yards 17-24-357 yards
Rushing 24-105 yards 34-123 yards
Total Offence 68 plays, 424 yards 62 plays, 363 yards
Penalties 14-125 yards 15-133 yards
Fumbles 1, 1 lost 1, 1 lost
Interceptions 0 3