Saturday, September 8, 12:00 p.m.
Broadcast available at www.ck750.com (pregame show at 11:30 a.m.).
Records coming in: Huskies: 1-0, first in Canada West, won 32-0 over Alberta in week one (ranked eighth in the FRC-CIS Football Top Ten); Manitoba: 1-0, third in the Canada West, won 31-24 over UBC in week one (ranked tenth in the FRC-CIS Football Top Ten).
Head to head history: The Huskies and Bisons each have six wins in their twelve meetings since 2002. The Huskie have won both playoff matches the teams have played in the last decade.
What’s on the line: An undefeated record and the opportunity to be a step or two ahead of all but Calgary in the tight Canada West.
The Huskies come into this game riding high after a dominant defensive performance against the Alberta Golden Bears. They allowed only 211 yards of offence and no points, showing, in the process, that their front seven will be dominant and that they have talent and depth at every position. This talent and depth extends to the offence, where Jeremy Andrew and the offensive line showed that the Huskies will move the ball along the ground and that Drew Burko, Chase Bradshaw and their receivers are much more dangerous than most, especially opposition head coaches, expect them to be.
The Manitoba Bisons earned some preseason love from Blake Nill and showed that they were improved, winning in Vancouver over UBC. Although some considered that an upset, it really wasn’t, as Manitoba picked apart a poor UBC defence with their strong running game and an opportunistic and explosive punt return game. The Bisons are always tough to win against at home and the confidence they received from their week one road win will make this game one of the Huskies’ biggest challenges this season.
Key matchup: The Bisons will try to run the ball behind their large, physical offensive line. They have had a lot of success with this and their explosive running backs over the past season, and that continued last week, as they put up 258 yards against UBC. The Huskies, on the other hand, are known as a stingy, difficult defence to run against, year after year ending near the top of the defensive rushing statistics thanks to their fast, swarming, gap-cancellation style.
The Huskies know they will be facing a great, elusive runner this week, whether they face Coombs, Demski or LaFrance. The Bisons know they will be facing a fast, physical front seven that limited them to 91 yards the last time they met. The success of the Manitoba rushing attack will come down to taking advantage of the odd big play, as ground and pound doesn’t work well against the Huskies. The Huskies will need to be ready to defend not only running between the tackles, which they always do well, but also plays run off tackle, which the Dinos exploited for big numbers against the Huskies in one game last season.
Roster moves: The Huskies came out of the game last week without any serious injuries. It will likely be another week before we see rover Seamus Neary and running back Shane Buchanan. Dexter Janke, Garrett Burgess, Thomas Hilderman and Glen Joorisity remain out of the lineup.
Expect running back Anthony Coombs to be back in the Bison’s lineup after missing week one in Vancouver for unknown reasons.
What they’re saying:
“Year in, year out, they always have a good o-line. They’re always big and can move people. The receivers are all quick guys and the running backs were there last year and are all good. The quarterback looks like he’s good and makes good decisions back there. So we’ll definitely have to play mistake free to make sure we’re successful.
“We have to come out every game and make sure we improve on things no matter how well we played the week before. We’re far from perfect at this point, we’ve got a lot of work to do if we want to consider ourselves one of the better teams in the league. We’ve got a long way to go, but I think we’re taking the right steps to get there.”
– Safety Bryce McCall on playing the Bisons.
What to expect: Last week, I expected a close, low-scoring game. Instead, the Huskies came out, looked solid on offence and unbeatable on defence, and blew out the Bears.
This week, I think my expectations will be more accurate, as the Huskies will be facing a tougher opponent on the road. Not only that, but they will be going into University Stadium, a place they have lost four of the last seven times they have played there. Next to Griffiths, University Stadium gives the Bisons the greatest home-field advantage in the Canada West, as it is a tough place to win thanks to the distance the opposing teams have to travel, the constant wind and the terrible field and dressing room conditions. The Huskies hoped they had seen the last of this stadium and its rubber endzones as a new stadium for the Bisons and Blue Bombers has been under construction next to University Stadium, but it won’t be ready until the 2013 season.
Expect a close game for the first three quarters, but then expect one team or the other to pull away and seal a five to 10 point win. The average margin of victory for the last decade of Huskie regular season games against the Bisons in Winnipeg is 8.8. There have been few blowouts, as both of these teams are well coached, filled with top prospects, and well prepared.
Preparation is the key to the win in this game, especially for the Huskies, as they will have to endure an eight-hour bus ride and will have 10 fewer players on their roster. A key injury could tip the balance in favour of the Bisons, so the Huskies will have to be on top of their gameplan, remain disciplined, and win the turnover differential. Turnovers are what did the Huskies in last year, losing 26-16 to the Bisons in a game where the Huskies threw two interceptions, while the Bisons didn’t throw any.
The Huskies will be relatively healthy heading into the game, which should benefit them. However, if they don’t match the Bisons intensity, they will likely fall behind early and have to play catch up. The Bisons are always fired up and ready to play the Huskies at home and will try to be physical and intimidating. The Huskies can be as physical and as intimidating as any team in the league, and they are usually successful when they match or exceed their opponent’s intensity. Hopefully, they do just that on Saturday and come home after a big win in Winnipeg.
Go, Dogs, go!