2021 Vanier Cup: what you need to know about the Saskatchewan Huskies

Photo courtesy: Josh Schaefer/Huskie Athletics/GetMyPhoto.ca

The University of Saskatchewan Huskies are prairie tough and fun to watch.

Head coach Scott Flory and his staff have put together a talented roster that utilizes a physical brand of football to win. The majority of players on the roster are from Saskie and represent the province with pride.

Flory has the Huskies in the Vanier Cup for the first time since 2006 — Saskatchewan is the only Canada West team ever to appear in three straight Canadian university championship games. Saturday’s meeting with Western University provides the chance for the program to earn their first national title since 1998 when Flory was an All-Canadian offensive lineman wearing green and white.

Photo courtesy: Josh Schaefer/Huskie Athletics/GetMyPhoto.ca

His current starting o-line is just as tall and weighs more on average than the Roughriders, both are six-foot-four with the Huskies bringing more poundage to the field, 307 versus 294 for the CFL team. Six-foot-seven, 330-pound Noah Zerr and six-foot-eight, 335-pound Nicholas Summach bookend the group at left and right tackle respectively.

No. 8 QB Mason Nyhus, No. 20 RB Adam Machart. Photo courtesy: University of Saskatchewan Athletics

That unit protects quarterback Mason Nyhus who had a 16-to-2 TD-INT ratio during the regular season. Nyhus has dynamic running back Adam Machart in the backfield and his 13-yard game-winning touchdown in the Uteck Bowl booked a ticket to Quebec City. Machart set the season-season school rushing record with 1,334 yards in eight regular season games during the 2019 season and is currently the No. 1 rated RB eligible for the 2022 CFL Draft.

Three-down league picks Sam Baker and Colton Klassen provide playmaking targets for Nyhus while Daniel Perry has emerged as a trusted receiver who can come up with critical catches for Saskatchewan. Perry stepped in for Jesse Kuntz who tore the ACL ligament in his knee during an exhibition game against Manitoba.

Riley Pickett and Nathan Cherry set the tone for the Huskies front on defence. Both young men have produced outstanding seasons from their respective defensive end spots. Jonathan Leggett and Carson Bell do yeoman’s work inside at defensive tackle, creating favourable match-ups for Pickett and Cherry while trying to keep the linebackers free to read and react.

No. 43 Saskatchewan Huskies LB Nick Wiebe. Photo courtesy: Josh Schaefer/Huskie Athletics/GetMyPhoto.ca

Behind them University of Oregon transfer Nick Wiebe anchors the defence in many ways. He makes the calls and checks, ensures players are lined up correctly, stuffs the run, moves quickly sideline-to-sideline, makes plays in pass coverage and leads. Wiebe has the potential to be a starter in the CFL and if his testing numbers are high end the NFL could take a look.

Watching Wiebe is worth the price of admission and your time. He’s an instinctual defender who has helped raise the game of the entire unit under the tutelage of Warren Muzika. Saskatchewan’s defensive coordinator won two Vanier Cups and a Presidents’ Trophy as the Most Outstanding Defensive Player in Canada during his playing days with the Huskies in the late 1990s.

Wiebe and Muzika will need to bring intensity at Stade Telus to stop the Mustangs from running wild with the nation’s leading rusher Keon Edwards, Trey Humes and Edouard Wanadi — Western head coach Greg Marshall directs the best rush attack in the country. The match-up pits strength versus strength and intriguing entertainment when the game kicks-off on CBC at 1 p.m. ET Saturday afternoon.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.