Saturday, 20 October 2018

Huskies’ defence bashes Bisons – U of S playoff bound

Tristian Koronkiewicz (#90) celebrates his defensive touchdown.
    Tristian Koronkiewicz lived out a defensive lineman’s dream.
    On Saturday at Griffiths Stadium, Koronkiewicz’s University of Saskatchewan Huskies jumped out to a 20-4 second-half edge on the University of Manitoba Bisons after the two sides were locked in a 4-4 tie at halftime of their U Sports regular season clash.
    With the Huskies defense having knocked Bisons starting quarterback Des Catellier out of the contest with an injury, Bisons backup quarterback Jamie Ybarra fumbled the ball away late in the fourth quarter, while under pressure.
    Koronkiewicz, who plays defensive end, scooped up the loose ball and raced 39 yards for a touchdown to put the Huskies up 27-4 with 2:33 to play in the fourth quarter. That score held up as the final outcome to the delight of most of the 2,440 spectators in attendance.
Huskies LB Thomas Whiting nails Bisons RB Jamel Lyles.
    “During an interview earlier in the week, I said no words describe a sack,” said Koronkiewicz, who is in his fifth and final year of eligibility with the Huskies. “No words describe that feeling.
    “I saw the ball on the ground, picked it up and I just gave all I got to get to that end zone.”
    Koronkiewicz’s major score provided some amusement for Huskies head coach Scott Flory.
    “The first think he (Koronkiewicz) said to me was how about that ball security,” said Flory with a chuckle. “We work on that every day one.
    “I’m really proud of Tristan (Koronkiewicz) and the way he has responded this season. He absolutely deserves all the accolades he gets for what he has done for this football team without a doubt.”
    While Koronkiewicz’s touchdown capped a solid afternoon performance by the Huskies, the victory they earned was a key one.
The Bisons defence corrals Huskie RB Tyler Chow (#5) in the early going.
    Their win combined with the fact the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds downed the University of Alberta Golden Bears 30-11 in Vancouver, B.C., also on Saturday allowed the Huskies lock up a playoff berth. U of S returns to the post-season after a one-year absence.
    The Huskies and Thunderbirds have identical 4-3 records, but the Thunderbirds hold the Canada West Conference standings tiebreaker winning the lone regular season encounter between the two sides. UBC sits second in Canada West, while the Huskies are in third place.
    The Bisons fell to 3-4 to sit fourth in Canada West, but they clinched a playoff berth with the Golden Bears loss to the Thunderbirds. 
The Huskies celebrate a safety from LB Thomas Whiting.
    The Golden Bears fell to 2-5, but with one regular season game to play, they can’t catch the Bisons, who won both regular season clashes between the two squads to gain the standings tiebreaker.
    For Koronkiewicz, the chance to return to the post-season is special.
    “It is my last kick at the can, so I want to be able to prolong my career as much as I can,” said Koronkiewicz. “We seized that opportunity today.
    “Now, I have that for sure two more weeks of football, and we just have to keep it riding.”
QB Kyle Siemens completed 22-of-26 passes for 262 yards.
    Overall, the Huskies defence had a dominate performance on Saturday limiting the Bisons to 298 yards of total offence, while piling up four sacks. Koronkiewicz along with linebacker Thomas Whiting, defensive tackle Evan Machibroda and defensive end Riley Pickett all had one sack each.
    Catellier completed 12-of-18 passes for the Bisons for only 142 yards before being knocked out of the game on Machibroda’s sack in the fourth quarter. Bisons star running back Jamel Lyles carried the ball 10 times for just 26 yards.
    Bisons backup running back Victor St. Pierre-Laviolette managed to cause some headaches gaining 108 yards rushing on eight carries.
    Koronkiewicz collected three individual tackles to go with his sack and scoop and score.
    “We had a fantastic game plan coming in, and we need to contain Jamel Lyles,” said Koronkiewicz. “I think we did that early.
RB Tyler Chow dives into the end zone for a touchdown.
    “That made them try to pass the ball a little more, and then we got after the quarterback and contained him. Des (Catellier) is a great athlete.
    “He flies around. He extends plays with his legs. We kept him from doing that today, and I think that helped a lot for sure.”
    The Bisons did get on the board first, when kicker Brad Mikoluff nailed an 18-yard field goal to cap an 82-yard offensive drive with 4:16 to play in the first quarter.
    Before the first quarter ended, the Huskies forced Mikoluff to concede a safety due to bad field position to cut the Bisons lead to 3-2.
    Early in the second quarter, Mikoluff scored a rouge off an 84-yard punt with a strong wind to give the Bisons a 4-2 edge.
    With 1:59 to play in the second quarter, the Huskies tied things up at 4-4, when Whiting sacked Catellier in his own end zone for a safety.
The Huskies defence stops Bisons RB Victor St. Pierre-Laviolette.
    Flory wasn’t surprised neither side was able to break out in the first half.
    “That is a good football team,” said Flory referring to the Bisons. “In the first half obviously, it was tight.
    “There was a lot of good defensive effort on both sides. We have to find a way to put the ball in the end zone. I challenged the offence a little bit at halftime, and they responded as well as the defence.”
    The Huskies went ahead with 5:22 remaining in the third quarter, when fifth-year star running back Tyler Chow took a short eight-yard pass from fifth-year star quarterback Kyle Siemens into the end zone for a major score. The drive ending in Chow’s touchdown catch covered 107 yards in seven plays and gave the Huskies an 11-4 lead.
The Huskies faithful get into singing “Sweet Caroline.”
    Early in the fourth quarter, Huskies star kicker Sean Stenger missed a 30-yard field goal, but the hosts scored a rouge off that miss to go up 12-4.
    U of S proceeded to put together another long scoring drive that covered 97 yards in nine plays and was capped by a Chow touchdown run from three yards out to give the Huskies a 19-4 advantage.
    Chow ran the ball 17 times for 82 yards and caught three passes for 26 yards to go with his two major scores.
    “I couldn’t have done it without the O-line,” said Chow. “They’ve been playing stellar all year.
“I have to thank them. I wouldn’t be anywhere without them.”
    Stenger scored another rouge on the ensuing kickoff following Chow’s touchdown run to put the Huskies up 20-4.
Joseph Trumpy (#82) secures a catch for the Huskies.
    That set the stage for Koronkiewicz to cap the win with his defensive touchdown.
Siemens completed 22-of-26 passes for 262 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He ran the ball six times for a team high 84 yards.
    Before Saturday’s game, the Huskies had lost their previous two games and Siemens was pulled in the squad’s last outing, which was a 20-10 setback to the Thunderbirds on Oct. 12 in Vancouver. 
    Siemens said it was big for the Huskies to end their two-game skid.
    “We have a great group of guys,” said Siemens. “Adversity has hit us a lot throughout this season.
Colton Klassen (#7) looks to turn upfield for the Huskies.
    “We’ve responded well every single time. I’m pretty proud of that and pretty proud of the guys.”
    The Huskies close the regular season this coming Friday, when they travel to Regina to face the University of Regina Rams (1-6) at 7 p.m. at Mosaic Stadium. 
    The Rams had to forfeit three wins this season due to using an ineligible player.
    U of S can finish second in Canada West and host a conference semifinal playoff game with a win over the Rams combined with a Thunderbirds loss to the Bisons, when those two teams meet this coming Saturday in Winnipeg, Man.
    Chow said his Huskies just have to worry about their next task at hand in playing the Rams.
The Huskies and Bisons shake hands after Saturday’s game.
    “We are not going to take them lightly,” said Chow. “The Rams are a great team, and we just have to stay focused.”

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