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Game Preview: Huskies at Manitoba

Friday, October 17, 7:00 p.m.
Investor’s Group Field, Winnipeg
Broadcast available at www.ck750.com (pregame show at 6:30 p.m.).

Shane Buchanan escapes Bison defenders (Liam Richards/Electric Umbrella)

Records in 2014: Huskies: 4-1, second in Canada West (won 31-25 over UBC on October 4); Manitoba: 2-3, fourth in Canada West (lost 38-31 to Alberta on October 4

Head to head history: The Huskies have an 8-6 advantage over the Bisons since 2004. The Huskies won the week one match 44-24 in Saskatoon.

What’s on the line: The Bisons have a lot on the line. If they want to stay in the hunt for second place and a home playoff game, they must win this game. They also need to stay ahead of the winner of the UBC and Regina game, one of which would pull into a tie with the Bisons if they fall to 2-4.

For the Huskies, they want to make a statement that the first five games of the season were not a fluke. They have played well, but there is room for improvement and big win would solidify them in the top tier of the conference.

Win or lose, the Huskies will still be in second place as the Alberta Golden Bears, who play the Calgary Dinos at home, will still be behind the Huskies if both teams have a 4-2 record, as the Huskies currently have the tiebreaker thanks to their 42-41 win on September 13. However, the Huskies want to avoid a second place showdown with the improved Bears on October 25 and the Huskies know they will be in the drivers seat going into the last quarter of the season if they pull out a win against Manitoba on Friday.

Key players:

Saskatchewan

  • Defensive Lineman Timi Agbaje – Agbaje had a huge game against the Bisons in week one, getting 1.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles. Look for the big tackle to once again challenge the interior of the Bisons offensive line.
  • Offensive Lineman Drew Digout – Digout, a former CJFL all-Canadian and BCFC all-star on the Okanagan Sun, has been the leader of the offensive line with centre Brad Nehring out. Digout has been a force on the inside, and is often the lead blocker downfield. He was a major reason the Huskies were able to put up 158 yards rushing on a good UBC front seven two weeks ago.


Manitoba

  • Linebacker DJ Lalama – Llama has been a force lately, putting up 7.5 tackles, a sack and an interception last week in Alberta. The second-year player is quick in both the pass rush and good in coverage and will be a challenge for the Huskie offence to contend with.
  • Receiver Matt Sawyer – A teammate of Bisons’ quarterback Jordan Yantz with the Vancouver Island Raiders, Sawyer has been a favourite target of Yantz, pulling in 23 passes for 368 yards and three touchdowns. He was the leading receiver with 94 yards against the Huskies the last time these teams met and is a deep threat the Huskie defensive secondary will have to be aware of all game.

Key matchup: The Huskies offensive line will have their hands full with the Manitoba front seven. Manitoba leads the conference with 12 sacks, with tackle Evan Foster delivering four of those. The Huskies will have centre Brad Nehring back which should help with pass protection, as they gave up two sacks last week to UBC. Giving Drew Burko as much time as possible to read his receivers and let them get open will be necessary in this game, as it is likely to be a high-scoring shootout.

What to expect: Expect Manitoba to throw everything they have at the Huskies. This is going to be the toughest game of the year for this Saskatchewan squad, and they better be prepared.

Manitoba has lost narrowly to both the Calgary Dinos and the Alberta Golden Bears the last two games, both on the road. Manitoba is a much better team than their record indicates, and although they are still vulnerable on defence, they are explosive on offence, with or without Nic Demski, who has been injured for much of the season.

The Huskies will need to be much better on offence than they have lately. They have been hit-and-miss, looking brilliant one play and not executing a simple pitch-and-catch the next. They will need to execute at a consistently high level if they hope to pull this one off.

Winnipeg has not been kind to the Huskies over the years. Indeed, their season ended there in 2013. They will need to not only prepare for a tough and hungry Bisons squad, they will need to do it after a loooooooong bus trip.

That is the challenge that faces them. This game will show the mettle of this team, as it will be a battle from start to finish. If they can put together a full game and capitalize on the chances Manitoba will present to them, they could put up a big, confidence boosting win that will all but assure them of second place.

Hopefully, the Huskies are prepared and utilize their relative health to their advantage. They should be getting centre Brad Nehring, running back Jarvis James and cornerback Taylor Rehn back from injury. Let’s hope they come back with a win and are able to clinch second place at home against Alberta next week.

Go, Dogs, go!

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