River Landing wasn’t alone in hosting a fireworks festival in Saskatoon on Friday evening.
The University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team had a fiery display of its own, beating the University of Alberta Golden Bears 42-0 to open the season at Griffiths Stadium in Nutrien Park.
“I think it’s not a fluke that we went and did the things we went and did today,” Huskies quarterback Kyle Siemens said of the win.
“There’s a lot of elements that go into a football game and one of those is physical toughness. I think our team was very physically tough.”
Tough was just the start of it. A Huskies team that finished last season at 2-6, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2000 and appeared at the bottom of a recent Canada West pre-season coaches poll wasn’t expected to win when the night began. They certainly weren’t supposed to dominate every detail of the game either.
“We were underdogs,” Huskies defensive back Nelson Lokombo said after leading the way defensively with two interceptions. “Everybody has low expectations for us.”
“It means a lot to go out there and put that many points up. We just wanted to send a message, you know?”
Fireworks shooting from the goal posts after a Huskies touchdown became a familiar celebration for fans Friday night. For head coach Scott Flory, he’s tempered his excitement after a 2-0 start to the 2017 season quickly turned into a six-game losing streak.
“We are bound and determined not to let history repeat itself,” Flory said. “We haven’t proved anything yet.”
To the Golden Bears, they proved to be one tough opponent, capitalizing with big plays on offence and shutting down any potential big plays coming the other way, which is what seemed to please Flory most.
“You see some of the development of our younger guys,” he said. “We took some lumps last year. That’s encouraging that we’ve got guys that are there and we grew and developed.”
After a slow start to the game, the Huskies opened an 18-0 halftime lead thanks to a touchdown throw and run in the second quarter from Siemens — who completed 12 of 18 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns.
His offensive line ensured his uniform ended the night as clean as it began, not allowing a defender within arms reach.
As the defence began to lock the game down in the second half, the points kept coming and coming for the Huskies.
Sam Baker caught five passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns, while fellow receiver Joey Trumpy had a highlight reel catch near the end of the game for his first U Sports touchdown.
Huskies kicker Sean Stenger proved no dominating win is complete without gracing the record books. Stenger broke the team’s scoring record, putting up 12 points in the win to reach 254 for his career. Dave Osiowy had 247 points playing with the Huskies from 1974 to 1978.
Even though there are aren’t many better ways to start a football season, Siemens echoed his coach’s thoughts on proving this isn’t the same team as last year.
“We’re pretty excited about tonight, but we know there’s a lot of football left to play,” he said.
Saskatchewan will travel to Winnipeg next week to face the University of Manitoba Bisons before returning to Griffiths on Sept. 11.