Erik Glavic, Blake Nill and the Calgary Dinos are bringing sexy storylines back to Halifax.
That recent headline in The Onion, "ESPN Completely Misses Brett Favre vs. Green Bay Packers Storyline," comes to mind after Calgary (39-38 over Saskatchewan) and Saint Mary's (31-22 over St. FX) held up their ends of the bargain on Saturday. Like Glavic (The Man himself quite literally after passing for 479 and rushing for 106 to beat the Green Dogs) told the Calgary Herald, people have only been waking up itching to see this fight for the past 10 months.
Michael Faulds limping on to the field to throw one last pass in Western's Yates Cup loss is storybook, or at least rates a thumbs-up on TSN's The Sports Reporters, but arguments will be that Glavic's arc was just as dramatic in its own right should be heard. He had a long road back from the major knee injury he suffered in the 2007 Uteck Bowl and the effects lingered into this season. Against a hostile crowd, he brought Calgary back from a two-score margin to win, and also converted a pair of second-and-20s against a good Huskies defence.
The media will run the Glavic-Nill angle into the ground — which is kind of what the eastern Huskies will fix on doing to the Dinos — but it goes deeper. The Huskies' long-standing pipeline into Alberta has produced half of their defensive starters, including the D-linemen Austin McLennan and Dan Schutte, middle linebacker Ryan King, outside 'backers Leroy Fontaine and Jeff Hecht and free safety Saleem Borhot, plus cornerback Quinton Meaders had a tryout with the CFL's Stampeders. That should add to the drama, plus it's a storyline which might rate more play as the week goes along. It shouldn't have many dull moments; as unfortunate though it may be only one game gets a real-time national audience, at least it's this one.
A lot of the spin will probably paint Calgary as all offence vs. more well-rounded Saint Mary's, with the Huskies being depicted as the only team left which can give Laval a game. The Huskies are more stable in areas which need to be an immutable, especially the kicking game with Justin Palardy (Calgary's Aaron Ifield had a punt blocked for a touchdown).
Game capsules are below the jump (and apologies for the late posts, between SSN Canada, a busy Saturday night on the Ottawa Sun sports desk, this hobby had to be back-burnered).
Canada West final
Calgary 39, Saskatchewan 38 — Half the fun with Calgary and Queen's is wondering how many of their nine lives were used up Saturday.
The Dinos moved up and down the field all day and still needed a Glavic TD with 2:04 left and an unsuccessful Huskies field goal try in the final 20 seconds (Mr. Everything Grant Shaw is the last player who should ever feel like a goat, since he's not) to get out of Griffiths with the win which eluded them the first time.
Calgary's defence was just a rumour, but Glavic earned his share of wow-eeees. He picked up two second-and-longs where it was 20-plus for a first down, and kept the Dinos in it despite twice going down by nine points (9-0 early and 38-29). Richard Snyder also had a career game (222 yards on seven receptions), helping the Dinos win despite their other two triplets, slotback Anthony Parker (just 46 rushing-receiving yards) and Matt Walter (118 from scrimmage) did not leave a huge dent on the stat sheet.
As in the Yates, it was less than someone lost than someone had to win. Saskatchewan had brilliance all over the field, from QB Laurence Nixon (who passed 35 times for 422 yards) and fifth-year RB Tyler O'Gorman (24 rushes for 162 yards).
The problem with dwelling on Shaw's missed 35-yarder is that it was his sixth attempt of the game. The Huskies, not unlike Western and St. FX down East, were in a game which demanded scoring in denominations of seven instead of three. That's the reality even without second-guessing the actual play-calling. The one really egregious "settle" was kicking a nine-yard field goal after passing on second-and-goal from the Dinos' 1-yard line. (Apparently a signal was missed and Nixon was supposed to try a quarterback sneak.)
That said, it was a curious sequence on Huskies' penultimate possession, after Calgary had kicked a field goal to pull within 38-32. Saskatchewan threw a pass to Travis Gorski (another veteran who had a big game) that went for a three-yard loss, then after an incompletion, had to punt. Captain Obvious would point out that was a bad time for a two-and-out.
Saskatchewan's graduating fifth-year players include the likes of guard Hubert Buydens, Presidents' Trophy-nominated linebacker Taylor Wallace, O'Gorman, Jon Krahenbil and receivers Scott McHenry and Cory Jones. Nixon, if memory serves, has a year left to play but is also a fifth-year student.
Saint Mary's 31, St. Francis Xavier 22 — The Huskies' offence arrived only 2½ quarters late, but their defence was there all along. One does wonder why these Loney Bowl letdowns have been an annual phenomenon for Saint Mary's, but it's inconclusive whether it carries over to the next week.
Craig Leger (21 rushes, 182 yards) carried the mail for SMU, which more than made do without Devon Jones (another Albertan on SMU!). SMU QB Jack Creighton, who'll be by far the youngest QB starting next week, had decent numbers (12-of-25, 216 yards).
One reading of this game was that St. FX's ballhawking defence and special teams kept it close. Takeaways that led to 13 X points kept it close, 17-16, through three quarters (along with a fumble-return TD by Dylan Hollohan, another recovery and a Nick Riva interception deep in SMU territory that set up field goals.) Saint Mary's defence allowed St. FX only one drive longer than 50 yards
Two swing plays were MacLennan stopping St. FX's James Green (31 rushes, 169 yards in his last game) on a third-and-2 gamble. The Huskies came back with a 72-yard drive to open an eight-point lead, aided by a roughing-the-kicker penalty moved the ball to the one-yard line. (As noted, this season major fouls are marched off in full instead of half the distance to the goal line, which paid off for the Huskies.)
Leger also had three big fourth-quarter runs of 17, 37 and 26 yards to help the Huskies slowly pull away. Jeff Zelinski also made the sealing play, tackling St. FX's Nic Guest two yards short on a final third-down play with about 1:15 left.
X quarterback Steve Snyder was held in check (26 pass attempts for 86 yards) in his final game.
(A special thanks to Huskies Football Outsider, which has been a model team-specific blog all season and is easily the best blog on CIS football outside Quebec.)