Saturday, 2 November 2019

Down go the Golden Bears, Huskies advance to defend Hardy Cup

The Huskies celebrate a touchdown run from Adam Machart (#20).
    The University of Alberta Golden Bears landed the first big blows, but the University of Saskatchewan Huskies rallied back to win the fight.
    When the dust settled on Saturday at Griffiths Stadium, the Huskies came away with a 28-23 victory over the Golden Bears in a Canada West semifinal played before 1,191 spectators. It marked the first time the Huskies won a U Sports playoff game at home since downing the University of Regina Rams 53-23 on Nov. 7, 2009.
    The win over the Golden Bears, who finished at 4-5 overall, allows the Huskies, who improved to 6-3 overall, to advance to the Hardy Cup to defend their Canada West title. They will face the University of Calgary Dinos, who are 7-2 overall, in Calgary for a second straight conference title tilt with this year’s final slated in seven days time on Saturday, Nov. 9.
Mason Nyhus threw for 334 yards for the Huskies.
    “It was a great feeling,” said Huskies defensive end Nicholas Dheilly, who had three tackles in the win over the Golden Bears. “We kind of came off a little slow.
    “We let up a few points in the first (quarter). We kind of settled it down after halftime. We just told each other it is on us, and we have to go make some plays out there.
    “Our defence held it down.”
    In the clash between the Huskies and Golden Bears, the visitors jumped quickly out to a 14-0 lead.      On the first offensive series of the contest, the Golden Bears drove 86 yards on eight plays, and quarterback Brad Launhardt capped the series with a one-yard touchdown run.
    On the Golden Bears second possession, Launhardt hit fifth-year receiver Daniel Bubelenyi with an 80-yard touchdown bomb to give the visitors a two-major advantage.
The Golden Bears celebrate a TD catch from Daniel Bubelenyi (#13).
    “They punched us in the mouth pretty good,” said Huskies quarterback Mason Nyhus. “They pulled out all the stops.
    “We expected them to. They are a very good team. We just had to stay high, stay calm and stick to our game.”
    With 36 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Huskies kicker David Solie booted a 32-yard field goal to cut the Golden Bears lead to 14-3.
    On the first play of the second quarter, an errant long snap went over the head of Golden Bears punter Reece Oldenburg, who was forced to boot the ball through his own end zone giving up a safety cutting his squad’s edge to 14-5.
    The Huskies proceeded to trim the Golden Bears edge to 14-12, when quarterback Mason Nyhus hit veteran receiver Sam Baker for a nine-yard touchdown pass with 9:43 remaining in the second quarter.
Brad Launhardt threw for 285 yards for the Golden Bears.
    The Golden Bears responded pushing their lead out to 21-12, when Launhardt scored a major on a two-yard run with 5:35 remaining in the second quarter.
    Before the first half ended, Solie hit a 29-yard field goal to cut the Golden Bears advantage to 21-15.
    “Sometimes you need to take a deep breath and just play,” said Huskies head coach Scott Flory. “That is what I encouraged them to do in the second half, and they did.”
    The game’s momentum changed at the start of the third quarter, when the Golden Bears saw their first three drives halt due to respective interceptions coming from Huskies defenders Nelson Lokombo, super rookie Ramsey Derbas and fifth-year veteran Ben Whiting.
Sam Baker (#85) caught seven passes for 107 and one TD for the Huskies.
    Following Lokombo’s interception, the Huskies drove 51 yards in seven plays culminating in a seven-yard touchdown run by star running back Adam Machart to take a 22-21 lead.
    After Derbas’s interception, the Huskies started a drive at the Golden Bears 15 yard line. U of S wasn’t able to get a first down, but Solie hit a 22-yard field goal to give the Huskies a 25-21 advantage.
    Lokombo was pumped to see the defence get interceptions on three straight series.
    “It was awesome,” said Lokombo. “It just goes to show that we’ve prepared the way we are supposed to, and it shows in the game.”
    Lokombo topped the Huskies with four interceptions during the regular season, but he didn’t have one over the course of the squad’s final four regular season contests. The Abbotsford, B.C., product was pumped to get another one on Saturday.
Ramsey Derbas celebrates making an interception for the Huskies.
    “It felt nice,” said Lokombo. “I was really shocked that it was coming.
    “I looked up, and the ball was there.”
    Solie proceeded to hit a 30-yard field goal with 9:03 remaining in the fourth quarter to put the Huskies up 28-21.
    Inside of the final three minutes of the fourth quarter, the Golden Bears drove down to the Huskies nine yard line for a first and goal. U of A would turn the ball over on downs.
    The Huskies ended up conceding a safety with 35.1 seconds to play in the fourth quarter to round out the game’s final outcome at 28-23. An errant long snap on a punt went over head of Solie, who doubles as the Huskies punter, and he kicked the ball through his own end zone to give up two points.
    Launhardt threw three straight incompletions on the ensuing and final U of A series.
Ben Whiting (#4) make an interception for the Huskies.
    Nyhus knelt down twice to run out the final seconds on the clock.
    The Regina, Sask., product completed 29-of-44 passes for 334 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for the Huskies. Baker caught seven of those throws for 107 yards to go with his major score.
    Flory thought Nyhus had one of his best games on Saturday.
    “I know he (Nyhus) was feeling it,” said Flory. “He and Sam (Baker) have a special connection.
    “It is what we anticipated coming out of him. He (Nyhus) had an awesome game. I am proud of him.”
    Machart ran the ball 23 times for 162 yards to go with his one major score.
    Launhardt completed 20-of-36 passes for 285 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Bubelenyi topped the Golden Bears with 122 receiving yards on three catches.
Adam Machart had another huge game for the Huskies.
    U of A was held to 36 yards rushing as a team.
    Connor Delahey posted six total tackles and one sack for the Huskies. He played most of the contest at middle linebacker after Tom Whiting left the contest early in the first quarter with an injury.
    Defensive back Clovis Lumeka and defensive tackle Evan Machibroda both had sacks for the Huskies.
    Linebacker Josiah Schakel led the Golden Bears with 10 total tackles. Defensive back Matthew Peterson had a sack for the Golden Bears.
    Flory was pleased with how his team’s defence rebounded in the second half after a bit of a rough first half.
    “They just made adjustments,” said Flory. “It all breaks down to one-on-one football.
    “It breaks down to you versus me or me versus you and who is going to win. Our guys, they manned up in the second half and they said, ‘We’re just going to be better.’ They were.
The Huskies faithful enjoys “Sweet Caroline.”
    “Guys make plays, and that is what we needed to do.”
    In Saturday’s other Canada West semifinal, the Dinos slipped past the University of Manitoba Bisons 47-46 in Calgary. The Bisons finished the campaign with a 4-5 overall record.
    The Huskies beat the Dinos 43-18 in last year’s Hardy Cup in Calgary. The two sides met just once this season back on Sept. 27, when the Huskies downed the Dinos 29-15 at Griffiths.
    Nyhus, who is in his third year of U Sports eligibility, was the Huskies backup quarterback last season, and he is looking forward to starting in this year’s Hardy Cup.
Jonathan Leggett (#95) and the Huskies are all smiles after Saturday’s win.
    “Obviously, it is pretty different,” said Nyhus. “The body is a bit more sore this year for sure.
    “It is still that same energy. This team is great. We have a great leadership group on this team.
    “I am just very excited to be going to Calgary.”

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