Around U Sports: Western, Montreal win heavyweight battles to remain undefeated

Photo courtesy: Western Athletics

The third week of the U Sports football season is officially in the books, bringing with it a pair of heavyweight matchups. We’re still only through the first three weeks of the schedule, but the standings are quickly starting to take shape across the country’s four conferences.

Around U Sports is a weekly feature on 3DownNation that will take readers across the country each week to summarize collegiate football action, highlighting standout performances and tracking possible playoff matchups. It will run throughout the regular season through the Vanier Cup on Saturday, Nov. 26.

McGill Redbirds, 13 — Sherbrooke Vert et Or, 21

McGill limited Sherbrooke to only 11 first downs and 174 yards of offence but it wasn’t enough to get their first win of the season. The play of the game came early in the fourth quarter when Alexandre-Karl Boudreau recovered a fumbled punt return for what ended up being the game-winning points. The Vert et Or have now improved to 2-1 on the season after getting crushed by Laval in the first week of the regular season.

No. 9 UBC Thunderbirds, 10 — No. 2 Saskatchewan Huskies, 29

Mason Nyhus continued his early campaign for the Hec Crighton Trophy, completing 73.7 percent of his passes for 362 yards and two touchdowns for the Huskies. Second-year running back Ryker Frank recorded the second 100-yard game of his U Sports career, while Nathan Jule, John Stoll, and Connor Delahey all beat UBC’s strong offensive line to sack Garrett Rooker.

Calgary Dinos, 24 — No. 7 Regina Rams, 32

The Dinos outscored the Rams 15-0 in the fourth quarter but it still wasn’t enough to get their first win of the season. Second-year receiver D’Sean Mimbs overcame two big drops in last week’s win over Manitoba to lead this game with five catches for 123 yards and one touchdown, while fifth-year defensive lineman Anthony Bennett continued his hot start with a sack and a pick-six.

Manitoba Bisons, 11 — Alberta Golden Bears, 34

The Golden Bears ran away with this one early, taking advantage of two turnovers to outscore the Bisons 24-0 in the second quarter. Veteran quarterback Des Catellier got pulled at halftime in favour of second-year Jackson Tachinski for Manitoba, while Eli Hetlinger continued a strong first year with Alberta, completing 67.9 percent of his passes for 352 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception.

Saint Mary’s Huskies, 6 — No. 10 Mount Allison Mounties, 10

If you’re a fan of offence, this was probably a good game for you to avoid. The Huskies and Mounties combined for 16 points, 18 punts, six turnovers, and 444 yards of offence, which didn’t exactly make for an electrifying contest. The game’s lone touchdown was scored by fourth-year receiver Lucas Cormier on a 32-yard reception from backup quarterback Justin Vogels.

Acadia Axemen, 10 — No. 6 St. FX X-Men, 24

Acadia got off to a poor start in this one and never really recovered after falling behind 21-3 by halftime. Second-year running back Malcolm Bussey continued his strong start to the season for St. FX, rushing for 152 yards and a touchdown. The X-Men have yet to lose a regular season game since the canceled 2020 U Sports season, extending their winning streak to nine games.

Guelph Gryphons, 41 — No. 8 Waterloo Warriors, 35

The Gryphons may have saved their season by knocking off the Warriors following a disappointing 0-2 start to the year. Former University of South Carolina quarterback Jake Helfrich had a breakout game, completing 19-of-32 pass attempts for 370 yards and three touchdowns, while highly-ranked 2023 CFL Draft-eligible receiver Clark Barnes did not play due to injury.

Ottawa Gee-Gees, 20 — McMaster Marauders, 14

Winnipeg native Andreas Dueck led a late touchdown drive for the Marauders but it wasn’t enough to complete the comeback at Ron Joyce Stadium. McMaster has now fallen to 0-3 after forfeiting last week’s 39-1 victory over York due to the use of an ineligible player. Big-bodied running back Jean-Paul Cimankinda carried the load for the Gee-Gees, rushing 20 times for 102 yards and a touchdown.

York Lions, 14 — Carleton Ravens, 45

The Ravens scored 21 points on special teams as Shaiheem Charles-Brown recovered a fumbled punt return in the end zone, Denny Ferdinand returned a punt 57 yards for a touchdown, and Ben Huckabone scooped and scored on an impressive punt block. This game was called midway through the fourth quarter following a lengthy medical delay after a member of the Lions reportedly suffered a bout of heatstroke.

Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, 25 — Toronto Varsity Blues, 20

Toronto’s up-and-coming quarterback Kinsale Philip had a decent day through the air with 192 yards and a touchdown but was held in check along the ground, rushing 11 times for just 23 yards. Second-year running back Quentin Scott came only one yard away from his second career 100-yard game with the Golden Hawks, recording 14 carries for 99 yards and a touchdown.

No. 4 Laval Rouge et Or, 18 — No. 3 Montreal Carabins, 21

Montreal’s defence swarmed the Rouge et Or in this battle of RSEQ heavyweights with second-year linebacker Nicky Farinaccio leading the way with seven total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, and one forced fumble. Hec Crighton Trophy hopeful Jonathan Sénécal had a bit of an off day for the Carabins despite the win, completing 24-of-43 pass attempts for 294 yards and two interceptions.

No. 5 Queen’s Golden Gaels, 11 — No. 1 Western Mustangs, 35

The up-and-coming Golden Gaels failed to hang with the perennial powerhouse Mustangs, getting thoroughly beaten in front of a sold-out crowd of 7,985. Western’s second-year quarterback Evan Hillock threw three touchdown passes on only 12 completions, while the running back duo of Keon Edwards and Eduoard Wanadi combined for 28 carries for 223 yards and one touchdown.

The three teams on a bye this past weekend were Bishop’s (1-1), Concordia (0-2), and Windsor (1-1). This upcoming week of U Sports action gets underway on Friday, Sept. 16 with games between Sherbrooke (2-1) and Montreal (2-0), UBC (1-1) and Manitoba (0-2), and Alberta (1-1) and Calgary (0-2).

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.