Tuesday, 15 September 2015

It's must win time for Huskies football

Huskies RB Tyler Chow  breaks away from the Bisons.
    It may only be Week 3 of the Canada West football season, but the University of Saskatchewan Huskies have to play with some urgency now.
    After dropping a 38-26 decision to the University of Alberta Golden Bears last Friday in Edmonton, the Huskies, who entered the 2015 campaign with expectations of challenging for the Vanier Cup, fell to 0-2. If they fall to the University of Regina Rams (0-2) this coming Friday on home turf at Griffiths Stadium (7 p.m. start) in a battle of winless teams, the Huskies would be an unthinkable 0-3.
    It is hard for anyone to recall the last time the Huskies opened a football campaign at 0-3. They last missed the post-season in 2000 with a 2-6 mark but started out 2-2 before closing out on a four-game skid in the final season with star Vanier Cup winning quarterback Ryan Reid calling signals.
    It is still possible for a team to dig itself out of an 0-3 hole, win Canada West and challenge for a Canadian Interuniversity Sport title, but that is a very hard road to travel. It is more optimal to be 1-2 going into the final five games of the Canada West regular season.
    After going 6-2 in 2014 and hosting a home playoff game for the first time since 2010, big things were expected of the Huskies this season. They improved as the 2014 campaign moved on and returned a large number of veterans for the 2015 campaign.
    Unfortunately, it seems like the hangover from last year’s post-season loss to the University of Manitoba Bisons in the Canada West semifinal round is still present. In that contest, the Huskies held a 37-18 third quarter lead before falling 47-39.
    The comeback came because the Bisons scored 14 points off a pair of interceptions including a pick-six, a major off a blocked punt, a field goal off a fumble and a safety caused by a bad snap. The setback was also the sixth in a row in the post-season for the Dogs.
The Huskies have had big troubles making run stops like this.
    The Huskies began 2015 by thumping the Wilfred Laurier Golden Hawks 33-10 in an August exhibition tilt at Griffiths Stadium. U of S proceeded to open the Canada West regular season dropping a 34-28 decision at home on Sept. 4 to the Bisons before losing last Friday in Edmonton. A couple of disturbing trends could be seen in both games.
    In the opening week loss to the Bisons, the Huskies only scored six points in the second half, and they surrendered 514 yards of total offence in the contest including 246 yards on the ground. Fourth-year quarterback Drew Burko threw four costly interceptions for the Huskies, which turned out to be the key factor in the loss.
    Burko was up front saying he had to learn from his mistakes during various media interviews leading up to the clash with the Golden Bears. He handled the aftermath of the loss to the Bisons better than most professional quarterbacks.
    Huskies head coach Brian Towriss was also great with the media in his classic and accountable tell it like it is style, which included pointing out the Bisons made a couple of outstanding plays on two of Burko’s picks.
    Burko couldn’t be faulted in the setback to the Golden Bears. He completed 30 of 51 passes for 333 yards without throwing an interception. The Huskies led 18-0 at halftime before the wheels fell off.
    Playing before 3,200 spectators at Foote Field, the Golden Bears outscored the Huskies 38-8 in the second half in a surprising comeback win. U of A also piled up 583 yards of offence including 283 yards on the ground.
    The Huskies inability to score in the second half and the fact they are allowing opponents to gain way too many yards – especially on the ground – is startling. The huge rushing totals the Dogs are giving up basically means their defensive line is being dominated at the line of scrimmage. If they don’t get tougher on the defensive side of the ball, the 2015 campaign will become a long one on the adversity front.
    When the offence hits a rut, they might want to take a page out of their past to get out of it. In the early 2000s when the offence stalled, the Huskies would give the ball to power back Tyler Siwak, who ran through people gaining five and six yards in a cloud of dust. So impressive were Siwak’s power runs that the crowds at Griffiths routinely rose to their feet and saluted with loud ovations.
Power runner Andre Lalonde has been a seldom used option by the Huskies.
    The Dog have that type of back in Andre Lalonde, who was nicknamed “The Bowling Ball” during his time with the Canadian Junior Football League’s Saskatoon Hilltops. Lalonde has four touches over two games, and he needs to be utilized more. Tyler Chow is a great feature back, but Lalonde brings a change of pace that is much needed.
    The Huskies need to get the bad trends turned around now in their next game against the Rams. If they don’t, the Dogs may face an avalanche they won’t be able to recover from.
    In a twist, the Rams fell by close margins in their first two games, so they need to be feeling some urgency as well. The U of R fell at home in Week 1 to the Golden Bears 29-22 and dropped a 27-20 decision in Week 2 to the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in Vancouver.
    U of S needs to be the more desperate team on Friday, if they hope to take the first step to turn things around and start meeting high expectations.

    If you have any comments you want to pass on about this blog post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.