A win is a win, no matter how you do it.
After losing two in a row, the Huskies needed a win badly, and luckily the non-playoff Regina Rams were on the schedule. In spite of being the favourites to win the game, they once again took the hard road to a victory, pulling away in the fourth quarter after a sloppy, turnover filled game that was far too close for far too long.
The defence came out ready to play, holding the Regina offence to three first downs in the first quarter and forcing three two-and-outs and one safety and a Braxton Lawrence interception. The Huskies offence was able to turn the Lawrence interception into Dexter Janke’s first of two touchdowns on the day, going up 9-0, but were unable to move the ball much outside of that drive, going two-and-out three times and fumbling the ball away on another drive. The Huskies only had 39 yards of offence in the opening frame.
Regina quarterback Cayman Shutter’s really bad day at the office continued in the second quarter, as the Huskies intercepted him three more times, setting the offence up in Regina territory twice. Once again, the offence couldn’t take advantage, punting the ball away once and fumbling it away after the second interception. The Huskies seemed to be trying to keep up with the Rams in turnovers, answering the four Regina interceptions with three fumbles of their own.
Luckily, the offence came to life late in the quarter. Following an 18-yard Rory Copithorn touchdown pass from Shutter, which narrowed the score to 9-7, the offence put together a nine-play, 88-yard drive that put the Huskies up 16-7 heading into the locker room.
The offence got rolling a little better in the second half, putting together a 70 yard drive that ended in a Denton Kolodzinski 21-yard field goal. However, the next two drives would end with Drew Burko being intercepted, shifting momentum back to the Rams. That shift didn’t last long, as Cayman Shutter’s bad day would continue when Keegan Arnyek intercepted him and returned the ball 44-yards to the Regina 12. A late hit out-of-bounds would set the Huskies up at the Regina one, and Janke, in as the short-yardage quarterback, would take the ball in over the pile, making the score 26-7.
The fourth quarter didn’t feature many long drives, but it did show that the Huskies could still run the ball. The ground game has been ineffective for several games, but Jarvis James came in and put up 44 yards on six carries, showing an elusiveness and quickness that should earn him more playing time. The Huskies were able to capitalize with a touchdown following their sixth interception of the day, this one coming from Corey Edington on backup Regina quarterback John Kiesman. Burko found a streaking Kit Hillis up the seam following the interception, and Hillis went through two Regina tacklers for his first touchdown of the season.
Up 33-7, the Huskies had the game virtually wrapped up, but the Rams kept coming. Kiesman threw up a long pass on first down and near the goal line, it appeared that Edington would have his second interception of the season. However, the ball bounced off his pads and into the hands of Ram’s receiver Richie Sindani in the endzone. Regina would add a two-point convert, but that would be as close as they would get, with the final score ending up 33-15 for the Huskies.
While it was satisfying to see the Huskies beat the Rams for a second straight time and reassert themselves as the premiere football team in the province, it was evident that the offence still needs a lot of work. The same problems that have plagued them the past three games were still there, plus they turned the ball over six times, with two interceptions and four fumbles lost.
If they are going to win against the Bisons on Friday in Winnipeg, they will have to clean the turnovers up and get the offence rolling consistently. The Bisons showed they are a very good team both times they played the Huskies, and this will be a hard-earned victory if the Huskies come out of Manitoba with a win.
The Huskies are capable of a victory, and history has shown that a less-than-stellar season can be quickly turned around in the playoffs. The Huskies limped into the 2002 playoffs, losers of two of their last three and owners of a 4-4 record, pulling off upset victories over the unbeaten Bisons and the heavily favoured Rams, both on the road. They would end up going to the Vanier Cup that year.
In 2006, the Huskies also lost two of their final three games before going on a tear in the playoffs. Once again, they would go into Winnipeg and beat an undefeated Manitoba team that beat them by 19 points three weeks earlier in Saskatoon. This would be another Vanier run, this time to the game they hosted at Griffiths.
All the teams are now 0-0 and the Huskies are heading into a city which they have done well in in the past. If they can figure out how to move the ball better and finish off drives while keeping Manitoba’s big weapons in check, they just might come out on top again.