Saturday, 19 September 2015

Huskies dominate on the ground

The Huskies defence stuffs Rams tailback Atlee Simon.
    The University of Saskatchewan Huskies weren’t going to get beaten on the ground this time.
    In opening the Canada West football season with two straight losses, the Huskies gave up an average of just over 260 yards rushing in each of those contests. On Friday night at Griffiths Stadium, the Dogs game up only 53 yards rushing to the visiting University of Regina Rams in earning a 33-18 victory before 6,476 spectators.
    Rams star tailback Atlee Simon, who ran for 396 yards in his club’s first two games, only managed 33 yards running on 11 carries against the Huskies. The U of S starting defensive line of Evan Machibroda, Liam Graham, Tristian Koronkiewicz and Donovan Dale needed to answer the bell, and they did.
    On offence, the Huskies hit top gear with their running attack piling up a season high 230 yards rushing as a team. Feature back Tyler Chow collected 124 yards on 15 carries, while change of pace back Shane Buchanan ran the ball 14 times for 87 tough yards between the tackles scoring one touchdown.
    The effectiveness of the Huskies rushing attack allowed fourth-year quarterback Drew Burko to have his most effective game of the season completing 19-of-30 passes for 243 yards, three touchdown strikes and no interceptions. Receiver Mitch Hillis was the main target catching nine passes for 135 yards and two scores.
    The Huskies (1-2) weren’t perfect and did make mistakes, but Friday’s effort was a total team victory, which caused the Rams to remain winless at 0-3.
    Early on, it appeared the Huskies struggles were going to continue. The Rams opened the scoring in the first quarter on a nine play, 95-yard drive culminating in a two-yard TD run by Simon. The score was set up when Rams quarterback Noah Picton hit Riley Wilson on a 31-yard post pattern that set the visitors up on the Huskies two.
Shane Buchanan rumbles downfield for the Huskies.
    The Dogs cut the gap to 7-5 on a field goal and safety before the game’s momentum really swung in their favour. On the ensuing kickoff after the Rams gave up a safety to make the contest a two-point game in the second quarter, Yol Piok had a monster return for the Huskies to set the hosts up at the Rams 15. Two plays later, Burko hit Hillis for a 15-yard scoring strike to put the Huskies up 12-7.
    A short time later, Huskies defensive back Chris Friesen intercepted Picton and returned the pick 42 yards to the Rams 15. Two plays later, Burko hit Piok for a 13-yard scoring toss to put the Huskies up 19-7.
    The Rams kicked a field goal just before halftime to cut the Huskies edge to 19-10. That set the stage for the Huskies to overcome another bad trend.
    In their first two contests, the Dogs scored a total of 14 combine points in the second halves of both those outings. They matched that total in the second half against the Rams.
    After U of S linebacker Dane Bishop recovered a Rams fumble in the third quarter, the Huskies manufactured a seven play, 65-yard scoring drive that was capped by a two-yard Buchanan TD run.
The Huskies kick cover unit takes down Ryan Schienbein of the Rams.
    Early in the fourth quarter, the Huskies recovered a Rams fumble on a punt return and turned that gift into another seven points, when Burko hit Hillis for a nine-yard scoring strike to put the hosts up 33-10.
    The Rams closed the game’s scoring when Noah Picton hit Mitchell Picton on a 37-yard scoring strike, and the two proceeded to connect on a two-point convert attempt.    
    Noah Picton had success through the air completing 28 of 43 passes for 422 yards, which included hitting Wilson six times for 141 yards. The Rams couldn’t survive the turnovers they committed and the fact they couldn’t run the ball.
    The Huskies looked better than they had all season and took a big step forward. They will try to keep taking steps forward in the current Canadian Interuniversity Sport season this coming Friday, when they travel to Vancouver to face the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.
    Following that clash, the Huskies face the powerhouse U of Calgary Dinos (3-0) in a home and home series. The Huskies and Dinos meet on Oct. 3 in Calgary and again on Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. at Griffiths Stadium.

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