The University of Saskatchewan Huskies are heading back to the Vanier Cup for a second consecutive year, riding a late surge to a 36-19 victory over the St. FX X-Men in Saturday’s Uteck Bowl.
The Canada West champions were heavily favoured heading into the national semi-final but struggled early on the road in Antigonish. The 17-point loss by St. FX is the smallest margin of defeat for an AUS school in a national playoff game since 2014, with most of Saskatchewan’s points coming in the fourth quarter.
A stout X-Men defence held the Huskies to a 6-6 tie at the half, forcing four fumbles, including one on the goalline to stop a Ryker Frank touchdown. Frank would get in the endzone on the very first drive of the third quarter but the X-Men tied the game back up at 13 heading into the final frame on a spectacular scrambling touchdown from quarterback Silas Fagnan.
Saskatchewan finally caught a break when the ball awkwardly slipped out of Fagnan’s hands on consecutive plays mid-way through the fourth, resulting in the X-Men conceding a safety. Their western opponents never relinquished the lead and receiver Daniel Wiebe wove 41 yards through the defence for a touchdown on the next series. Less than a minute later, defensive back John Stoll made the lead insurmountable with a 26-yard pick-six.
The Atlantic underdogs battled back with a 38-yard touchdown pass to Ben Harrington late in the game, but Huskies’ quarterback Mason Nyhus iced things with a 26-yard touchdown strike to Daniel Perry with less than a minute remaining. Finn Marcotte-Cribb sealed the victory with a final interception on the ensuing hail mary.
Nyhus finished the game 30-38 for 327 yards and two touchdowns, finding Wiebe six times for 117 yards and a score. Ryker Frank carried the ball 20 times for 134 yards and a touchdown.
AUS MVP Malcolm Bussey was held to 11 carries for 58 yards, adding 23 more through the air while swinging out of the St. FX backfield. Fagnan went 17-of-36 for 258 yards, one touchdown and two picks.
The Huskies now advance to the Vanier Cup next week in London, Ontario, where they’ll face the winner of the Mitchell Bowl between Western and Laval.