The University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team is moving on to the Hardy Cup Final for the third straight season after defeating the UBC Thunderbirds 39-17 in the Canada West semifinal on Nov. 13, 2021. The Huskies are now set to host the Hardy Cup at Griffiths Stadium for the first time since 2009.
While the game ended in a 22-point victory for the Huskies, it remained a close contest all the way up until the fourth quarter. The game was broken open after a 17-point explosion in the fourth quarter. Two touchdown passes from quarterback Mason Nyhus along with a David Solie field goal were instrumental in ending the Thunderbirds’ season.
The Huskies defence immediately set the tone with an interception on the third play of the game by second-year linebacker Connor Delahey.
The Huskies would proceed to jump to a 10-point lead in the first quarter following three rouges and a 14-yard touchdown run by fourth-year running back Adam Machart.
Despite Machart’s touchdown run, a Huskies offence that ranked second overall in rushing during the regular season only generated 65 total running yards. UBC nearly doubled this production, with a total of 129 rushing yards on the ground.
Luckily for the Huskies, UBC’s advantage in rushing yards was neutralized by their accumulation of penalties. The Thunderbirds were penalized 10 times for 110 yards, whereas the Huskies only drew 5 penalties for 30 yards.
The Huskies’ discipline was bolstered by Nyhus’s performance, which allowed the team to prevail against UBC.
Nyhus threw an uncharacteristic interception early in the second quarter, which led to UBC controlling the quarter and outscoring the Huskies 10-3. UBC’s dominance was short lived as the Huskies rallied in the second half to close out the game.
Nyhus came out in the second half aggressively, finishing the game with 381 passing yards and three touchdowns. The Canada West all-star led the Huskies down the field setting up three scores and a field goal to squash any chance the Thunderbirds had at a comeback. Two of the three scores were to receivers Sam Baker and Daniel Perry.
“We got Baker … an all-star… I think he’s earned a couple of them but he got his first one this year, so I’m really happy for him,” said standout fifth-year receiver Colton Klassen in an interview with the Sheaf detailing Baker’s importance to this high powered offense.
“Dan Perry [is] another receiver that’s … really stepped up and shown what he can do,” said Klassen.
Baker and Perry combined for 15 receptions for 291 yards and two touchdowns against UBC and were instrumental in squashing UBC’s chances of a comeback.
After conceding a scoring drive to start the fourth quarter, the defence locked in and kept the Thunderbirds off the scoresheet for the remainder of the game. Despite facing adversity, the mentality of the Huskies was to win no matter the circumstance, which was evident Saturday afternoon.
“At the end of the day I think the most important and impressive stat is the 5-1 [regular season record]… Winning is the number one goal for us” said third-year linebacker Nick Wiebe when asked about the confidence the team was playing with heading into the postseason.
“All the stats, the numbers, and the all stars are awesome. But at the end of the day, if we come out of the game with a [win], nobody really cares.”
Wiebe and the defensive unit followed those comments up with an interception and three sacks against UBC’s offence.
In their exhibition game against the Bisons earlier this year, Griffiths Stadium was “buzzing,” said first-year linebacker Zach Zary. Griffiths Stadium should once again be electric as the Huskies host the Manitoba Bisons on Nov. 20 in the Hardy Cup Final.
As the Huskies prepare to play for their 20th Hardy Cup and continue their 11-game undefeated streak at home, Zary says the team has one mission in mind: “Protect our house.”
Photos: Nicholas Saretzky | Contributing Photojournalist