The annual Homecoming game takes place at Griffiths Stadium, tonight, and the Huskie Outsider crew is back with another edition of “Three Downs.”
1st Down: What will be one key to the game for the Huskies?
Ryan: The key to a Huskies’ victory will be limiting the Rams’ offence. The Huskie defence played very well against Alberta and Manitoba earlier in the season, but they allowed UBC to move the ball and score too often last week. If the week one and two defense shows up, the Huskies should be in good shape. The 7,000 fans can help make the defence’s job easier by showing their Huskie pride and being loud when the defense is on the field.
Dallas: I think the key will be winning the turnover battle. These teams are very close in all areas, and the outcome of the game could very well rest on an untimely turnover or two. Currently, the Rams lead the Canada West in turnover margin, with a +6. The Huskies are next with a +3. I have a feeling a fumble or interception, tonight, will lead to the game-winning points.
Dog Whisperer: For me, the bottom line is exactly that, the line play. If the Huskies can open holes and protect Burko, the offense will produce. If the D-Line can be stout and apply pressure on Mueller, the game goes to the Huskies.
Tom: I think a big key for the Huskies will be to avoid letting the Rams start on offence with a short field. This game should be as tough of a test for the secondary as last week’s game at UBC. Hopefully, Ram QB Marc Mueller is forced to lead the Regina offence to long drives if they hope to score.
2nd Down: What is it about Huskies/Rams games that makes people eager with anticipation?
Dallas: The foundation of the provincial football rivalry stretches back decades and has been kept alive for various reasons over the years. Even with the Huskies dominating the series since the Rams joined the CIS in 1999, the swagger and cockiness of the Rams has lingered from their junior days, which we saw demonstrated when they taunted and attempted to intimidate the Huskies before the 2009 playoff game and 2010 regular season finale. With all the players the Huskies recruit from Regina, the few recent recruits from the Hilltops that have joined the Rams, and the two or three recruits who attend both spring camps each year (like Corbin Eskelson and Richard Zacharias this year), there is a lot of familiarity between the teams, which also helps heat things up on the field and, inevitably, in the stands.
Dog Whisperer: This game holds special meaning for both programs. It is the established program against the converts. There is a special resentment that the Rams hold for the Huskies in so many ways! One, the Huskies are nationally recognized as a top tier program that almost always competes at the highest level. The Rams have an incredible reputation as a junior program, at a level very close to the Hilltops, and aspire to accomplish that at the CIS level and measure themselves against the Huskies. In our own way, this is “The Big Game,” like Cal vs. Stanford in the NCAA.
Tom: A lot of these players know each other from high school ball, and I believe that makes the game more important to all of them. I think this year’s game takes on added importance because it is the only time they will square off during the regular season, and the two teams would appear to be fairly evenly matched. And let’s not forgot that some of the statements coming from Regina’s head coach, over the years, have burned their way into the memory of Huskie players and, especially, their fans.
Ryan: I remember the very first time the Rams played a CIS game against the Huskies. People lined up for an hour and a half in the rain, before the gates opened, to get good seats. Everyone was expecting a Huskie blowout, but the Dogs found themselves down 11-1 at the end of the first quarter. The Huskies went on to win that game, but I think that the Rams gained a lot of respect for being able to compete, after coming over from the junior ranks. More recently, the rivalry between the teams has reached a fever pitch. This is likely because of the passionate fan base in Saskatoon being loud. Ram coaches have said that they were unprepared for the noise, which only makes Saskatoon fans cheer louder. That intensity from the stands translates onto the field.
3rd Down: Make a statistical prediction for this game.
Dog Whisperer: ONE Statistical prediction is for wimps! As usual, the Dog will go out there and predict the future. First, we will hold the Rams to less than 100 yards rushing. Two: the Huskies will force at least two turnovers. Three: we will rush for 130 yards. Four: the defence will FINALLY give us a pick 6.
Tom: My prediction is that the Huskies will continue to be effective on offence and score at least 30 points. I had a second prediction, but it happened to be the exact same as Dog Whisperer’s prediction regarding the Huskie’s rush defence, so I’ll stick with just one for this week.
Ryan: I am going to make two predictions this week: First, the Rams will make at least three mistakes due to the crowd noise. This could include things like false starts, timeouts, or a bad snap in shotgun formation. My second prediction is that the Huskies will have at least one run for over 40 yards.
Dallas: This week, with Stefan Charles likely out, the Huskies will have over 150 yards rushing between their backs. They will also return a Regina punt for a touchdown.
**Program alert: The Outsider TV pre-game show will be broadcasting live, this evening, from the alumni patio of the Graham Huskie clubhouse. The show will begin at 5:45 pm, and run until about 6:20 pm. Visit www.HuskieOutsider.com to watch the program.