The University of Saskatchewan Huskies’ bid for their fourth Vanier Cup in program history ended on Dec. 4 as they fell 27-21 to the Western Mustangs.
The Dogs immediately found themselves trailing as the Mustangs scored on their first possession of the game. A 25-yard touchdown run by Western running-back Trey Humes capped off a quick five-play drive to put the Mustangs up by seven points less than three minutes into the contest.
Unfazed by the early Western score, the Huskies continued to execute the game plan that saw them victorious in last week’s defensive showdown in the Uteck Bowl against the Montreal Carabins — run the ball and stop the run.
A stout defensive performance limited the Mustangs to just three points from a field-goal for the rest of the half. The defensive showing was bolstered by key runs on offence by fourth-year running back Adam Machart, allowing the Huskies to claw their way back into the game.
The Huskies’ offence capitalized on Machart’s running game with two field goals by fourth-year kicker David Solie. A twenty-two yard touchdown pass by fourth-year quarterback Mason Nyhus to third-year receiver Daniel Perry helped the Huskies jump out to a narrow 12-10 lead at halftime.
But this strong play by Saskatchewan was short lived, as a combination of missed opportunities and the Mustangs’ brilliant second half game plan saw victory escape the Huskies’ paws.
The first possession of the second half opened the floodgates for the Mustangs. The Huskies turned the ball over when third-year running back Josh Ewanchyna failed to pick up a one-yard gain on third down on the Mustangs’ 32-yard line.
This turnover on downs set the Mustangs in great field position and they immediately took advantage on a two-play drive with quarterback Evan Hillock finding receiver Griffin Campbell on a 50-yard touchdown pass.
Another missed field goal from Solie and a turnover on downs with the offence in field-goal range loomed large as the Huskies finished the game with six potential second half points on the board.
Despite their struggling offence, the Huskies’ defence did their best to contain a Western offence, which was just coming off of a 61-point explosion against St. Francis Xavier in the Mitchell Bowl. The Huskies’ defensive unit held Western star running-back Keon Edwards to just 47 rushing yards, his second lowest mark in the season.
However, this valiant effort by the Huskies’ defense was eventually neutralized by other contributors on the Mustangs’ offence. Another touchdown pass to Campbell, along with the Mustangs combining to rush for 214 yards, saw the game slip out of the Huskies’ reach.
The impressive play by the Mustangs’ offence was complimented by their defence as they refused to allow the Huskies to gain any momentum for the remainder of the game. Holding Machart to 79 yards rushing and forcing four punts with another turnover on downs were crucial in stopping the high-powered Huskies offence.
A late touchdown run by Ewanchyna turned the contest into a one-touchdown game with less than 30 seconds left. However, this late Huskies’ offence breakthrough was insufficient in completing a comeback as the Mustangs held on to win their eighth Vanier Cup in program history.
This loss ends a remarkable season that saw the Huskies register a 5-1 regular season record, not having lost a game since Sept. 25. The team also boasted ten Canada West all-stars in their return to play after a pandemic-riddled 2020. Head coach Scott Flory’s experience, combined with the terrific talent at every position, makes the Huskies a threat for another deep playoff run when they return to play in the 2022 season.
Photos: Nicholas Saretzky | Contributing Photojournalist