The University of Saskatchewan Huskies bounced back from their worst loss of the season last week with a big win against the Alberta Golden Bears. Not only did they come away with a strong, statement-making victory, but they clinched their 14th straight playoff spot in the process.
The Huskies took their time putting last week’s loss to the Bisons behind them, coming out slowly in the first quarter. The Bears scored a touchdown on their opening drive and had a 7-0 lead after the first quarter. It wasn’t until mid-way through the second that the Huskie offence came alive, putting together a 10-play, 90-yard drive that ended in a Kit Hillis touchdown.
From there, it was a back-and-forth game, with the Huskies and Bears matching each other drive-for-drive. The Huskie receivers had a big afternoon, with Julan Lynch scoring his first CIS touchdown and John Trumpy scoring two, hauling in a 40-yard pass from Drew Burko with 5:18 left in the quarter. The Huskies would take the lead heading into the locker room, with Denton Kolodzinski capping off a great, 80-yard drive with a 34-yard field goal, making the score 17-14.
Although the Bears would come out and tie the game up early in the third quarter, the Huskies dominated the second half, putting up 24 points before the Bears answered with a late touchdown. The Huskies dominated in all three phases of the game, with Keegan Arnyek putting an exclamation on the second-half, taking a missed field goal 115 yards for a touchdown.
The Huskie defence had an excellent afternoon, especially in the second half. Although they gave up over 500 yards of offfence to the Bears, they took away scoring chances by causing turnovers and stuffing the run in the second half. Mark Ingram had another stellar game for the Huskies, snagging two interceptions, giving him a conference-leading six on the year, while leading the team with nine tackles.
For the first time in three games, the Huskies put up a sack, with Timi Agbaje getting his second sack of the year. The Huskies had three tackles for a loss and two pass breakups on the afternoon, a good performance that should give them confidence heading into the playoffs. The Bears missed wide-open receivers a couple times, something the Huskies will need to work on the next two weeks, but overall, the secondary had a decent game.
Offensively, this game was highlighted by the play of rookie running back Tyler Chow. Chow is a future star in this league, showing he is not only an elusive runner but will be a serious receiving threat. Chow finished the day with 38 yards on 11 carries and 78 yards on eight catches. He would have had a better day rushing had two of his runs not been called back because of penalties.
The Huskies had an excellent day on offence, with Hillis, Trumpy, and Lynch being joined by Andre Lalonde, Jarvis James and Brydon Ozmun as having an impact on this game. However, the biggest improvement this week was at the quarterback position, where Drew Burko really stepped up his game, completing 70 per cent of his passes for 360 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also added 15 yards rushing on the afternoon. Burko played with precision and passion and was the offensive MVP of the game.
This was a good game that made a statement to the rest of the Canada West that this team is capable of big things. Hopefully they are able to keep this going next week in UBC, but the Huskies, having wrapped up not only a playoff spot but having clinched second place thanks to the Regina Rams win over Manitoba on Saturday, have little to play for. UBC, on the other hand, can still make the playoffs and is in a dogfight in the last week with Manitoba, Regina and Alberta for the last two spots.
If Saturday’s game is any indication, the Huskies are making strides to be ready for a playoff run. Hopefully they come back from Vancouver healthy and ready to host their first playoff game since November 6, 2010.