Around U Sports: Saskatchewan Huskies clinch first place in Canada West with win over Regina Rams

Photo courtesy: Liam Richards/Huskies Athletics

Sports is all about competition and there were plenty of hotly-contested rivalry games this past weekend in Edmonton, Saskatoon, and Quebec City. The playoffs are starting to take shape with only two weeks remaining in the regular season and an upset between two RSEQ heavyweights has seen a new team move atop the conference standings.

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 through the Vanier Cup on Saturday, Nov. 26.

No. 8 Regina Rams, 20 — No. 2 Saskatchewan Huskies, 23

The Huskies clinched first place in Canada West after narrowly beating their provincial rivals for the second time this season. Second-year running back Ryker Frank led the game in rushing and receiving — he recorded 18 carries for 86 yards and one touchdown and eight receptions for 132 yards — while Saskatchewan’s defence intercepted first-year quarterback Noah Pelletier three times. It seems likely that these two teams will meet again in the postseason and that game should be a doozy.

Mount Allison Mounties, 13 — Saint Mary’s Huskies, 21

The Huskies greatly improved their chances of hosting a playoff game after overcoming a 10-3 halftime deficit to improve to 3-2. Second-year defensive back Ryan Butler recorded a pick-six off Justin Vogels to kickstart the comeback and the defence came up big late in the fourth quarter when they forced a turnover on downs following a seven-play, 71-yard drive that ended just eleven yards shy of the goal line.

No. 6 St. FX X-Men, 46 — Acadia Axemen, 11

St. FX officially clinched first place in the AUS as second-year quarterback Silas Fagnan tied a career-high with four touchdown passes, while second-year running back Malcolm Bussey rushed 11 times for 191 yards and two touchdowns, marking his fourth 100-yard game of the year. Now 0-7, Acadia will wrap up its regular season next week against Bishop’s where they’ll look to avoid their first winless season since the turn of the century.

No. 10 Sherbrooke Vert et Or, 36 — McGill Redbirds, 50

The Redbirds got their first win of the season off a dominant performance from first-year quarterback Eloa Latendresse-Regimbald, who threw for 290 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 75 yards and three touchdowns. The defence also chipped in on the scoresheet as second-year linebacker Costa Papanikolaou returned a fumble 30 yards for a touchdown after defensive lineman Nassib Hassouna Jr. strip-sacked Sherbrooke quarterback Anthony Robichaud.

Guelph Gryphons, 25 — No. 9 Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, 38

First-year quarterback Jake Helfrich had a nice bounce-back game for Guelph but it was overshadowed by Wilfrid Laurier running backs Quentin Scott and Tanner Nelmes, who combined for 48 carries for 269 yards and three touchdowns. The Gryphons have been arguably the most disappointing team in the country this season and will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2011, while the Golden Hawks are likely to host a postseason game.

Waterloo Warriors, 18 — Carleton Ravens, 36

The Ravens held the visitors scoreless in the second half, intercepting second-year quarterback Nolan Kaban three times in the third and fourth quarters. Fifth-year quarterback Tanner DeJong threw for 284 yards and two touchdowns in the win, while fourth-year defensive lineman Shaiheem Charles-Brown made two sacks. Gordon Lam, who went unselected in the 2022 CFL Draft, made 10 catches for a season-high 184 yards for the Warriors.

Windsor Lancers, 18 — No. 1 Western Mustangs, 50

The final score may have been lopsided but the Lancers put up an impressive fight against the country’s top-ranked team and trailed by only seven points heading into the fourth quarter. Second-year receiver Seth Robertson caught seven passes for a career-high 163 yards and a touchdown for Western, while third-year defensive lineman Bruce Maas made a career-high two sacks. The Mustangs will look to complete the regular season with a perfect record next week when they take on the Ottawa Gee-Gees.

No. 7 Ottawa Gee-Gees, 66 — York Lions, 0

Two words: blood bath. Jean-Paul Cimankinda, a seventh-round pick of the Edmonton Elks in the 2022 CFL Draft, ran for a season-high 231 yards and two touchdowns and now leads all of U Sports in rushing yards per game with 132.7. York has finished the season 1-7 after scoring just 43 points all year. Their lone win came after McMaster forfeited what was originally a 39-1 victory for the Marauders due to the use of an ineligible player.

Calgary Dinos, 24 — Alberta Golden Bears, 11

The Dinos finally got their first win of the season, avoiding the possibility of going winless for the first time since 1966. Second-year quarterback Daniel Sananes threw for 317 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions in the win, while first-year defensive back Jordan Chizda returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown. The Golden Bears have lost three straight games but still have a shot to make the playoffs with next week’s game against Manitoba looming large.

McMaster Marauders, 10 — No. 5 Queen’s Golden Gaels, 14

The Marauders came close to pulling off a big upset in Kingston before coughing up a five-point fourth-quarter lead. McMaster’s defence limited the opposition to 195 yards of offence and held star running back Anthony Soles to a season-low 18 rushing yards. Queen’s sacked fifth-year quarterback Andreas Dueck four times, including a massive sack from fifth-year defensive lineman Van Wishart on McMaster’s final drive in the fourth quarter.

Manitoba Bisons, 21 — UBC Thunderbirds, 27

UBC avenged last month’s narrow loss in Winnipeg with a win that has given them sole possession of third place in Canada West. Second-year running back Isaiah Knight had a second-straight 100-yard rushing game with 19 carries for 122 yards, while second-year receiver Jason Soriano made seven catches for a season-high 117 yards and one touchdown. Bisons’ quarterback Des Catellier threw two touchdown passes to third-year receiver A.K. Gassama and led his team in rushing with eight carries for 83 yards.

No. 3 Montreal Carabins, 3 — No. 4 Laval Rouge et Or, 22

The Rouge et Or snapped a five-game losing streak against their rivals to the southwest in front of a rocking crowd of 18,173. The club’s defence limited the visitors to just 205 yards of total offence, while second-year quarterback Arnaud Desjardins threw touchdown passes to Édouard Arsenault and Kevin Mital. The win gave Laval head coach Glen Constantin his 197th career victory, setting a new all-time U Sports football record.

The Toronto Varsity Blues (3-4), Bishop’s Gaiters (2-3), and Concordia Stingers (1-5) were on a bye this past week.

U Sports football standings

Canada West (CW)

Saskatchewan Huskies, 6-0
Regina Rams, 4-2
UBC Thunderbirds, 3-3
Alberta Golden Bears, 2-4
Manitoba Bisons, 2-4
Calgary Dinos, 1-5

Ontario University Athletics (OUA)

Western Mustangs, 7-0
Queen’s Golden Gaels, 6-1
Ottawa Gee-Gees, 6-1
Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, 5-2
Carleton Ravens, 4-3
Windsor Lancers, 3-4
Toronto Varsity Blues, 3-4
McMaster Marauders, 2-5
Guelph Gryphons, 1-6
Waterloo Warriors, 1-6
York Lions, 1-7

Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ)

Laval Rouge et Or, 6-1
Montreal Carabins, 5-1
Sherbrooke Vert et Or, 3-4
Concordia Stingers, 1-5
McGill Redbirds, 1-5

Atlantic University Sport (AUS)

St. FX X-Men, 6-0
Mount Allison Mounties, 4-3
Saint Mary’s Huskies, 3-2
Bishop’s Gaiters, 2-3
Acadia Axemen, 0-7

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.