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Game Preview: Huskies vs. Golden Bears

Saturday, October 25, 1:30 p.m.
Griffiths Stadium
Broadcast available at www.ck750.com (pregame show at 1:00 p.m.).

Photo by Derek Mortensen/Electric Umbrella

Records coming in: Huskies: 4-2, second in Canada West (lost 41-8 in Manitoba last week); Alberta: 3-3, third in Canada West (lost 52-37 to Calgary last week).

Head to head history: The Huskies have a narrow 14-3 record over the Bears in the last decade. The Huskies won 42-41 over the Bears when these teams last met on September 13

What’s on the line: With a two-point victory or greater, Alberta would not only move into second place, but win the season series with the Huskies, giving them the tie-breaker should the teams finish with an identical record.

The Huskies need a victory to not only keep them ahead of the Bears and the Bisons (who play in Regina this weekend), but also to put the 33-point debacle from last Friday in Manitoba behind them.

The Huskies will clinch a playoff spot with a UBC loss to Calgary, which would extend their playoff streak to 14 straight years. However, a win against the Bears and a Calgary win will not clinch second place and a home playoff game for the Huskies. The Huskies will also need a Manitoba loss to Regina to clinch second. Should Manitoba beat Regina, which is likely, it would come down to a the last week of the season, which has the Huskies traveling to UBC and Manitoba hosting Calgary. Should the Huskies and Manitoba finish with the same record, Manitoba would take the higher position, as they have won the season series thanks to their week six throttling of the Huskies.

It’s unlikely, but there is still an outside chance the Huskies could miss the playoffs at this point.

Key players:

Saskatchewan

Quarterback Drew Burko – Burko has seen his production drop steadily, from 343 yards and two touchdowns against Regina three weeks ago, to 212 yards and one touchdown against UBC two weeks ago, to 164 yards and no touchdowns against Manitoba last week. If the Huskies are to have success and finally do something in the playoffs, it will need Drew Burko to lead this offence and play much better than he has been over the last month.

Linebacker Richard Zacharias – Zacharias led the team in tackles last week with 11. He was one of the few players who showed up on defence and will be counted on for his leadership again this week. Perhaps Zacharias will be the one to get the team’s first quarterback sack since the game against Regina on September 27.


Alberta

Running Back Ed Illnicki – Illnicki is currently third in the conference with 435 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. He is a tough runner with deceptive speed who will test the Huskies defence.

Linebacker Connor Ralph – Ralph leads the Canada West with 48 tackles, plus he has added two sacks, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery. The fourth-year player will be a thorn in the side of Huskies’ offence all game long.

Roster moves: The Huskies will be without guard Mat Leung, who was lost for the season. Cornerback Taylor Rehn is also out for the season. Centre Brad Nehring is expected to be back.

What to expect: I expect the Huskies to come out strong and put up a big lead early. That is the best way to put the previous week’s game behind them.

This team is far too talented to put up a game like that. As soon as they realize their own potential and start playing and coaching to their full capacity, they will be tough to beat.

There is no better time than now to prove they are one of the teams to beat. Alberta is nipping at their heels, one game back at 3-3, and seem to be getting better as the season is going on. However, Alberta has been vulnerable on the road and are not as strong as they looked the last time these teams met. The Huskies are the better team and should come out with a big win, but it is up to them if they are willing to do that.

There is a lot to remain optimistic about with this team. They have excellent skilled players at receiver and running back and a decent offensive line that is getting its leader, Brad Nehring, back at centre. They also have a potentially great front seven on defence and several skilled players, like Mark Ingram and Chris Friesen, in the secondary. When you look at the roster, it is not surprising they’re sitting at 4-2 and are in second place.

However, outside of the first game against Manitoba and the game against Calgary, they have not played as a well-executing team that goes all-out on every play for the full game. Their results of late fall on the shoulders of both the players and coaches, and both have significant room for improvement.

This is a good team that the potential to be great. If the Huskies believe in themselves, trust their abilities and start to outwork other teams, a long playoff run might still be in the cards.

The Huskies have two games to get better. I remain optimistic they will address the problems that have plagued them for the last few weeks, as the trip to Manitoba was proof positive that there is a lot to fix. They will want to do this to secure a playoff spot, to secure a home playoff game, and to honour their fifth-year seniors with a big win in the last regular season home game of the year.

Come out and enjoy the first afternoon game since November 6, 2010, which was also against Alberta. Hopefully the outcome will be far different than that game turned out.

Go, Dogs, go!

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