The University of Saskatchewan Huskies football program is once again the best team in the Canada West conference after defeating the University of Manitoba Bisons 45-17 on Saturday afternoon to claim the 84th Hardy Cup, the 20th in the history of the Program.
The team was led offensively by four-year-old running back and Canada West All-Star Adam Machart, who amassed 223 yards on 20 carries and finished the afternoon with a trio of touchdowns.
However, the result was that the dogs did not get the start they were looking for.
After moving the chains 54 yards to the Bisons’ side of the middle, quarterback Mason Nyhus was intercepted by Arjay Shelley, who returned him to Saskatchewan territory on a 65-yard dash.
Three plays later, Jackson Tachinski called his own number and threw the ball from the yard line to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.
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With just five minutes into the first quarter, the Bisons looked set for a big day when running back Michael Ritchott smashed through a hole and ran down the middle of the field en route to a 53-yard touchdown, the longest run of the afternoon for any team. .
“I think we came out too excited, like we lost our minds at the beginning of the game, we saw 16 of them from the beginning,” said head coach Scott Flory. “But you know what, nobody was fazed, nobody panicked, there was calm at all times and the boys responded, they just kept playing.”
Machart agreed that “there was no panic.”
“We weren’t worried,” he said. “We know the team that we are and we know what we are capable of. It was something like, we gave them 16 points, let’s find out here, eliminate the mistakes and go play some football. “
First-year linebacker Lane Novak added that the team “came off a little slow” but recovered.
“We recovered together, we figured it out, we figured out what we were going to do on defense, we made our adjustments and wow! We just played excellent.”
The Huskies took until the end of the quarter to start getting some traction on offense. Machart gobbled 19 yards on a pair of runs before Ryker Frank added nine on the ground to end the fourth.
The continuation of the series in the second quarter led to the dirt as Machart topped things off with a seven-yard run to make it 16-9.
“I mean, we have as many explosive plays on the ground as we do in the air,” Flory said. “So it’s pretty cool when you’ve got a litany on your back and the offensive line really escalates.”
And, as has been the history of the Huskies all season, the team went off full blast to open the third quarter.
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After a catch of Nathan Cherry forced Manitoba to kick in their initial possession, the dogs made them pay. Machart exploded with runs of 12 and 25 yards before culminating the 57-yard drive with a three-yard dash for a touchdown, giving Saskatchewan their first lead of the afternoon.
The team never looked back, adding a four-yard Machart in the third and a 17-yard end zone hitch by Colton Klassen in the final game of the fifth year at Griffiths Stadium. Frank added the last nail in the Bisons’ coffin, igniting the jets with minutes to go as he rumbled for a 50-yard touchdown to seal the Hardy Cup victory.
The team’s veterans are no strangers to the West Canada championship game, having played in it for three consecutive seasons, but this round they were asked for more and as they have done all season, they delivered.
“Machart is a stud, he’s a great player and one of my best friends here in Saskatoon,” Nyhus said. “It makes my life pretty easy when I can give him the ball and he takes it for 10 or 20, and he was also fantastic in the passing game, with checkdowns and all that.”
His performance at the Hardy Cup has now opened the door to an opportunity that no Huskies player has experienced: winning a national semifinal to earn a Vanier Cup birth.
“I think what we did in 2018 (when the Huskies lost to the Western Mustangs in the semifinal) is we showed that we are a team that deserves to be there,” Machart said. “I think the difference now is that we are a team that deserves to win that game, that’s the difference.”
It will take a while for the team to celebrate the victory, although the duration varies depending on who you ask.
“I think it’s Coach Flory’s mandate, 30 minutes of celebration and then you move on to next week,” Novak said. “We are going to celebrate this. We are going to enjoy this as a team in the dressing room. “
“I’ll give it 12 hours, that’s all,” Machart said. “It will be a good 12 hours.”
When that time is up, the team is ready to prepare for an unknown enemy in the Uteck Bowl: the RSEQ champions and the nation’s highest-ranked team, the Montreal Carabins.
“I’ve seen about three-quarters of a game, I haven’t seen much of them, but our staff have,” Flory said. “We were getting ready for the Bisons, but you can’t stop trying to get a little ahead of it, but trust me, my Saturday night no champagne will rise, I’ll be watching football.
“We are entering a stadium where none of our guys have been or played. I mean, I’ve been there so I can paint the picture for you. But in the end, we are going to take control, we are going to make it our home. “
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