The Huskies went on the road and suffered an 8 point loss at the hands of the unbeaten and #1 ranked Calgary Dinosaurs on Saturday. While certainly disappointing to not come away with a win, the Dogs played their hearts out and gave a serious challenge to the best team in the nation. Before beginning our final edition of “Three Downs,” Dallas and I wish to express our appreciation to all of the Huskies who exhausted their eligibility on Saturday; we wish you the best of luck with your future endeavours and hope to see you cheering on the Dogs at Griffiths Stadium next fall.
1st down: What is your reaction to the semifinal loss?
Dallas: I’m not surprised they lost, as Calgary is so strong. The Huskies gave Calgary all they could and were leading for most of the game, but Calgary’s talent and experience were the difference on this day, as they were able to convert on their opportunities in the second half where the Huskies were not able to.
While the result was not as bad as it could have been, it was still a loss in the first round of the playoffs, the sixth consecutive for this program. This is a trend that can’t continue.
Tom: I loved the fire and effort that we saw from the Dogs on Saturday, even though the game ended in defeat. But as Dallas said, the Huskies are stuck in a playoff rut, and we’ve experienced steady playoff disappointment for roughly a decade now; the status quo isn’t working and answers need to be found.
2nd down: What does Calgary take away from a fairly narrow victory?
Tom: Not that I’d expect them to, but the Dinos can’t take victory for granted these next three weeks. They are a very talented team – more than any other team in the country – but the Huskies provided a reminder that other programs can play good football as well.
Dallas: I think Calgary should be happy they were able to overcome a deficit and wear down the Huskies in the second half. It showed they can win the tough games in addition to the big blowouts. They will need to use this game to prepare for the hot UBC team that blew out the Bisons on the weekend. This game will be tougher than it would have been a month ago, and their former coach will certainly have the Thunderbirds ready to roll and complete the upset that the Huskies were unable to pull off.
3rd down: Moving forward, what do the Huskies have to do to challenge Calgary in this conference?
Dallas: To challenge Calgary, UBC and Manitoba, the teams that are all ahead of them in several areas right now, they will have to make some tough decisions. BT has said a couple of times now that Calgary’s speed and size make a difference and that we have to catch up in this area. This means a massive recruiting season ahead and likely means a significant turnover in players this offseason.
Clearly, some changes need to be made to keep up with the top teams in the conference. The other teams have caught up to the Huskies when it comes to facilities and are slowly catching up in areas like gameday presentation and marketing. The Huskies used to be able to pull recruits from larger universities in bigger cities with the promise of being on a competetive team that would at least challenge for a champioship. I’m not convinced that’s the case right now.
I’m not sure what changes have to be made – that is for people much smarter than me to decide. However, I know the status quo will keep delivering the same result and things must be changed to pull this program back into the upper echelon of the conference and the CIS.
Tom: If people are waiting for teams like Calgary and the improving TBirds to come back to the pack, I suspect they will be waiting for a long time. The Huskies will have to raise their game in all areas to meet the expectations that are likely shared by coaches, players, and fans. It starts with acquiring talent, and that means that Coach Towriss arguably has his most important recruiting season in front of him since the Huskies won their first Vanier Cup back in 1990. But it can’t just stop there; the coaching staff has been very pleased with their recruiting these last several years and yet that hasn’t been enough to get this program back on top in Canada West and challenging for national titles. So they’re going to have to look to themselves to see what they can do differently to put their players in a better place to succeed. I’ll echo Dallas and say I’m not qualified to state what needs to be done differently, but after watching every home game for the last 15 years I’m comfortable in saying that without change we’ll continue to battle Alberta and Regina for the final spot in the playoffs as opposed to regaining our place as the top dog in the conference.