We continue the trip from West to East. Next stop: Saskatoon.
CAN the Huskies “Prove It '09” showing that back to back eliminations in the Canada West semi final were exceptions and not the rules?
WILL the Huskies be able to fill the void at running back left by Dathan Thomas?
IS there a player on the defensive line who can step up and pressure the quaterback now that Ivan Brown has moved to the CFL?
2008 recap and record — (6-36-2). For the second straight season, 2008 ended in a loss in the Canada West semi-final. The Huskies earned home field advantage in the playoffs by virtue of their first place finish, but didn’t take advantage. Simon Fraser came to Griffiths Stadium and beat the Huskies 40-30. It was the only time in 2008 the U of S walked off their own field with a loss. Aside from that, it was a solid season for both the offence and defense, finishing first in both categories scoring 217 points and giving up 83.
Setting up ’09 — The Husky players got together in the off-season and decided on the slogan “Prove it 09”. From 2002 to 2006 the Huskies were the team to beat in the Canada West, going to 4 Vanier Cups over the 5 seasons. The last two years have not been as good and the veteran players are trying to prove the winning mentality still exists in Saskatoon. The Huskies offence starts up the middle. Laurence Nixon returns as the team’s starting pivot. Last year he threw for 1531 yards in 6 games. Nixon will be happy to see wide receivers Travis Gorski and Scott McHenry staring back at him in the huddle. The team’s top receivers combined for 64 catches and 969 yards last season. The running backs will need to fill the void left by Dathon Thomas. The other running backs on last year’s roster only accounted for 3 touchdowns. Defensively, Bryce McCall came in last year to fill the void left by Dylan Barker and exceeded all expectations. McCall may not match his 5 interceptions from last season, but will continue to be a leader on defence. The season starts with a stern test at home as the defending Canada West champs, the Calgary Dinos, come to Saskatoon on September 4th.
Stepping out — WR Carl Phillips, TE Dan Houle, DE Ivan Brown, DE Jordy Burrows, RB Dathan Thomas (injured, not on this year’s roster). Brown finished last season with 30.5 total tackles and finished 6th in the CIS and second in the Can West with 7 sacks. He is passing up his final season of CIS eligibility by staying with the Montreal Alouettes. The Als selected Brown in the 4th round, with the 31st pick overall.
Stepping up — QB Laurence Nixon, WR Travis Gorski, WR Scott Mchenry, OL Ben Heenan, OL Hubert Buydens, LB Taylor Wallace, DB Bryce Mccall, DB Jon Krahenbil
Returning starters — 10 offence, 10 defence
Future reference — The Huskies always rely heavily on Saskatoon Hilltops players – this year is no different. Zack Hart, Mitch Friesen and Shayne Dueck are expected to help. The U of s also welcomes seven players from the U19 Canada Cup team. The tournament’s defensive MVP, Seamus Neary, is staying at home in Saskatchewan to play for the Huskies. The other Canada Cup players include: RB Jeff Hassler (Alberta), OL Brad Nehring (Alberta), DL Levi Steinhauer (Sask), DL Joel Seutter (Alberta), LB Stephen Derinewski (Alberta) and DB Luke Thiel (Sask).
Coach & coordinators — This will be the 26th season of Brian Towriss stalking the Huskies' sideline as the head coach. He has compiled an incredible record of 30-13 in the playoffs, alongside his 129 career regular season victories. Towriss has three Vanier Cups to his name, the latest in 1998.
Stadium/atmosphere — There are very few places in the country opposing players fear more than Griffiths Stadium. The Huskies have compiled an 18-4 record at home in the regular season over the past 5 years. In the playoffs the Huskies are even better at home, with a 6-1 mark in the past 5 seasons. The stadium fits 7,000 and it is a disappointment if it is not sold out. Alongside good football there are pyrotechnics, an inflatable dog named Jake and screaming fans. Doesn’t get much better than that.
Alumni in CFL — Ivan Brown (Montreal), Graeme Bell (Edmonton), Dylan Barker (Hamilton), Paul Woldu (Montreal), Scott Flori (Montreal), Dean Makowsky (Saskatchewan), Kelly Bates (BC), Jordan Rempel (Hamilton), Jamie Boreham (Saskatchewan), Chad Rempel (Toronto)
Stock up or stock down — Up. A division title is hard to move up from, but in Saskatoon it is Hardy Cup or bust. The last two years have been a bust. The Huskies have a question mark at running back, however they return a lot of starters on both sides of the ball. Taking care of business on the road against the U of A, SFU and Regina will be crucial to a good season.
Schedule (all times local):
Friday September 4th vs. Calgary, 7:00 pm (Shaw TV)
Friday September 11th vs. Regina, 7:00 pm (Sasktel Max)
Friday September 25th @ U of A, 7:00 pm
Friday October 2nd @ Simon Fraser, 7:00 pm
Friday October 9th vs. UBC, 7:00pm (Shaw TV)
Saturday October 17th @ Manitoba, Noon
Friday October 23rd vs. U of A, 7:00 pm
Friday October 30th @ Regina, 7:00 pm (Sasktel Max)
All games on ck750.com