By University of Saskatchewan Athletics
Despite trailing by 16 points in the first-quarter, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football rallied off 38 unanswered and ultimately defeated the Manitoba Bisons 45-17 in the 84th Hardy Cup at Griffiths Stadium.
The Huskies were playing in their third-consecutive Hardy Cup and went on to win their second conference title in thee seasons and ultimately, the 20th in program history.
With the win, Saskatchewan earns a trip to Quebec for the 2021 Uteck Bowl — which serves as the national semi-final — as they take on the RSEQ Champion Montreal Carabins next Saturday.
“It feels good,” said Huskies head coach Scott Flory.
Meanwhile, after reaching the Hardy Cup for the first-time since 2014, the Bisons fell just short of winning the big-game, ultimately cutting short a year which saw them finish 4-2 in conference play, before a convincing win over Alberta in last weekend’s semifinal.
“We just lost in the Hardy Cup, but I can’t wait for next year. This is a really good football team,” said Dobie. “We’re not going away.”
Saskatchewan had the honour of hosting the game on home field for the first-time since 2009, but it was Manitoba who came out of the gates firing. The visitors punched in two early majors – a Jackson Tachinski one-yard run and a Michael Richott 56-yard scamper — to lead by 16 points just 12:43 into the ball game.
“I think we came out. We kind of lost our minds there at the beginning of the game, spotted them 16 their right off the hop,” said Flory.
But from then on it was pure domination from Saskatchewan. A Riley Pickett sack in the late stages of the first quarter led to a Manitoba safety, ultimately providing momentum for the home side.
The Huskies went on to trim the deficit to just four at half-time after a 44-yard kick from David Solie as the clock expired. Saskatchewan had been a third-quarter team all season long and the Hardy Cup was no exception, as they outscored the visitors 14-0 in the quarter to take their first lead of the game — one they would never relinquish.
Adam Machart was the difference maker. His scores of three and four-yards in the quarter were instrumental in the comeback. The fourth-year back ended his day with three majors on the day after a first-quarter receiving score and tallied 223 yards on 20 carries and five receptions for 28 yards through the air.
“Machart is a stud,” said Huskies quarterback Mason Nyhus. “It makes my life pretty easy when I can give him the ball and he’s taken it for 10-20 (yards).”
“He’s a big-time leader for us and he makes big-time plays. I’m very proud of him.”
“Any one of the backs rushing the ball, they just grind you down. It’s such a methodical offence,” said Dobie.
Nyhus threw for 220 yards and a score, with Sam Baker leading the way with 71 of those yards on seven receptions.
“Really, it comes down to quarterback play, especially in the pass game, because everything goes through him and Mason played a hell of a game,” said Flory.
Tachinski, who was making his Hardy Cup debut, threw for 144 yards on 14-24 passing.
On the defensive side of the ball, Lane Novak was a standout for Saskatchewan. He had a game-high eight tackles and more importantly, a key interception of Tachinski in the third-quarter. His pick led to Machart’s third major of the day, which extended the Huskies lead to 12.
“That was a big play,” said Novak. “For me to make that play, that was pretty cool.”
“Whether or not that was the break in that Manitoba team or not, that was definitely a cool spot to be in.”
Following that, a Colton Klassen 17-yard score made the score 38-16, all but sealing a Saskatchewan win.
“I’m just over overwhelmed with emotion,” said Novak, when asked about the win. “I’m so unbelievably happy for all the older guys. This is our fifth-year’s last game that they’ll play at Griffiths. This was the first time for the Hardy Cup being here since 2009 and it was a great game.”
Next up for Saskatchewan is that aforementioned trip to Montreal for the Uteck Bowl.
“Our guys know, we’re not done. We got two more games and that’s what our eyes are on,” said Flory.