The Huskies fell to 1-1 on the season with a close 31-28 loss to the Manitoba Bisons in Winnipeg.
With both teams fighting a strong wind, the Bisons came out ahead thanks to a fourth-quarter drive into the wind that included a conversion on third and 11, putting up a touchdown that stood as the game winning points.
The Huskies started well, putting together a touchdown drive early in the game that ended with an 18-yard run from quarterback Drew Burko to put the Huskies up 7-0. With the Bisons going against the wind and the Huskies defence pinning them deep and giving up little ground, the score at the end of the first quarter was 14-0 thanks to a series of safeties surrendered by the Bisons.
The second quarter was a different story as the Bisons had the wind. After going two-and-out to start the second, the Bisons put together a five play, 52-yard drive that ended with a six-yard Cam Clark pass to Bryan Giesbrecht to narrow the lead to 14-7. The teams traded short drives, with the Bisons threatening to late in the frame until Braxton Lawrence forced a fumble, stopping the Bisons from scoring again with the wind.
The Bisons came out of the half down 14-7 and with the wind. They struck quickly, with Kienan LaFrance rushing in for a touchdown that was set up by a 47-yard kickoff return by Nic Demski, tying the game at 14-14. The Huskies started the subsequent drive at their own 20 and put together a decent drive into the wind, getting down to the Manitoba 52 before Denton Kolodzinski pinned the Bisons on their own 25 with a 27 yard kick into the wind. However, the Bisons explosive offence wouldn’t be held there, with Cam Clark catching the Huskies in a coverage mismatch, hitting Anthony Coombs in stride in front of linebacker Richard Zacharias resulting in an 85 yard touchdown. The teams traded kickoff singles before the Bisons drove one last time with the wind, putting together an eight play, 56-yard drive that resulted in a 26-yard Nick Boyd field goal, going up 25-15.
The Huskies would rebound well with the wind in the fourth quarter. Jeff Moore made a big play on special teams, tackling punter Brandon Bowman after coming unblocked, setting the Huskies up on the Manitoba 15. The Huskies were able to punch it in four plays later, overcoming a holding penalty on first-and-goal, drawing to within three. Cole Samson put the ensuing kickoff through the endzone, cutting Manitoba’s lead to 25-23, and after Braxton Lawrence recovered a Nic Demski fumble on the Manitoba 37, Samson regained the lead for the Huskies, putting up a 42-yard field goal to make the score 26-25.
The Bisons took the ball on their own 35 on the next drive, needing to drive 75 yards into the wind to score a touchdown. They would do just that, exposing some holes in the Saskatchewan secondary along the way, with Demski catching a 5-yard pass from Clark to regain take a 31-25 lead. The Huskies drove from their own 47 to the Manitoba 40, but an untimely unnecessary roughness penalty brought the Huskies back to midfield, making what would have been a third-and-one situation a third-and-sixteen. Kolodzinski’s punt pinned the ball deep and the defence would stop the Bisons, forcing another Bison safety, making the score 31-28. However, the Huskies would not be able to drive far enough for a field goal attempt, with Saskatchewan turning the ball over on downs on the Manitoba 47. The Bisons ran out the clock from there.
Manitoba improved to 2-0, while the Huskies dropped to 1-1. While the loss is not what the Huskies hoped for, they did see what their team was made of, and the indications are positive. The Huskies had 23 first downs and put up 435 yards of offence. Drew Burko, in his second CIS football game, went 23 of 39 for 290 yards and did not throw and interception. Plus, Jeremy Andrew put up 113 yards and one touchdown rushing, part of a 167 yard effort for the team on the day.
Defensively, the Huskies held the Bisons to only 66 yards rushing. However, they did show some holes in the last Manitoba touchdown drive, which included a third-and-11 conversion and a passing touchdown with the Bisons driving into the wind, not to mention the 85-yard Coombs touchdown reception earlier. They have some work to to with their secondary, while the coverage on special teams, which allowed kickoff returns of 30 and 47 yards and 26-yard punt return, also needs to be tightened up.
Heading into UBC next week to face the battered and winless Thunderbirds, there are many positives for this team to build on. If the Huskies are able to address their problems and with veterans like Seamus Neary, Corbin Eskelson and Shane Buchanan ready to return, the Huskies will be among the top teams in the conference going into the Thanksgiving bye.