The University of Saskatchewan Huskies brushed off the snow — and competition — in a battle of provincial university football powerhouses at Griffiths Stadium Friday night.
Taking on the University of Regina Rams during an unusually early snowfall in Saskatoon, the Huskies toppled their rivals 33-20 to remain second place in the Canada West conference.
“That’s Canada West, this is an incredibly competitive conference top-to-bottom,” Huskies head coach Scott Flory said after the snowy game.
“That’s why I love this game, the ups and downs and the highs and lows … I’m so proud of our guys the way they fought.”
Nothing came easy during a game that had a mix of wind, sleet and snow.
The weather wreaked havoc on ball control, most notably Regina Rams quarterback Noah Picton. The standout pivot completed 21 of 34 passes for 271 yards and zero touchdowns, but threw three interceptions — one was returned for a touchdown and two were thrown in the Huskies end zone.
A week after allowing Calgary quarterback Adam Sinagra to throw for 569 yards and come within arms reach of a national passing record, the suspect Huskies secondary became menacing and left Picton scratching his head, down 21-3 at halftime.
Rams head coach Steve Bryce left the field Friday thinking his team didn’t show its best.
“I said, ‘We’re too good a team to play like this,” Bryce said.
Huskies defensive back Jacob Solie was happy to bury a disappointing game last week by keeping the Rams potent offence in check all night.
“It felt really good. Our defensive backs knew we had a target on our backs knowing how good (Picton) is coming in (to this game),” he said. “The stats showed for itself that we came prepared.”
After two Colton Klassen touchdowns to start the game, it was Solie who turned the momentum the Huskies way when he intercepted a risky Picton throw and followed his blockers for a 64-yard touchdown with only 43 seconds remaining in the first half.
“(The ball) felt really grippy, so I was like ‘You know what? I’ll take this for a little bit and see what happens,'” Solie said, recalling his thoughts as he intercepted the ball. “It turned out it worked in my favour.”
The lead that almost slipped away
Up 23-3 in the third quarter, Huskies quarterback Kyle Siemens found Jesse Kuntz wide open with an eight-yard strike on third down to extend the lead to 30-3. A touchdown was wiped off the board two plays earlier due to an offensive penalty which forced the Huskies into the third-down gamble.
After that, the Rams took control of the game, making for a nervous final quarter.
Kyle Borsa sandwiched a Aldo Gavin field goal with touchdown runs of two yards and 27 yards to make the score 30-20 with 12 minutes remaining.
After forcing a fumble at midfield, the Rams once again marched down the Huskies end looking to make it a one-score game. With 7:06 remaining, Picton had his pass attempt tipped at the line of scrimmage, sending the ball wayward into the end zone.
A diving Huskies’ Bowan Lewis ended up withe fingertip interception to end another Rams drive.
The Rams high-flying attack came up short, scoring its first touchdown with 3:39 remaining in the third quarter. In five trips to the red zone, the Rams managed just one touchdown.
Colton Klassen left Friday’s game after catching six passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns. He was injured on a low hit from Rams’ Robbie Lowes as Klassen turned to follow the play developing on the other side of the field.
The Huskies receiving corps is already depleted as starters Sam Baker and Joseph Trumpy are both nursing injuries.
Regina stays in third place in Canada West standings with a 2-2 record following the loss. Saskatchewan moves to 3-1 with the win, already besting their total from 2017.
“We’re not looking at back, we’re looking at forward,” Flory said. “We’re in the here and the now. We’re just trying to get better everyday.”