Around U Sports: Saskatchewan Huskies overcome 18-point halftime deficit to beat Manitoba Bisons

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Huskies

The first full week of the 2023 U Sports football season is officially in the books as Canada West opened their schedule after sitting out last week. It was a great slate of action across the country, complete with comebacks, surprises, and impressive debuts.

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 for the full season through the Vanier Cup in Kingston, Ont. on Saturday, Nov. 25.

Montreal Carabins, 43 — Concordia Stingers, 12

The Stingers kicked a field goal to make the score 17-11 at halftime before the Carabins blew off the doors in the second half. Hec Crighton Trophy hopeful Jonathan Sénécal, the reigning U Sports offensive player of the week, had another stellar performance as he threw for 376 yards and three touchdowns. Franck Tchembe and Dwante Morgan combined for over 100 yards and a touchdown along the ground for Concordia but it wasn’t enough as quarterback Olivier Roy threw two interceptions.

Sherbrooke Vert et Or, 14 — McGill Redbirds, 26

The star of second-year quarterback Eloa Latendresse-Regimbald continues to rise after he threw for 151 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 68 yards and one touchdown to lead the Redbirds to victory. Michael Morin led the way for Sherbroke with 10 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown but it wasn’t enough to get the Vert et Or their first win of the year. McGill only won one game last season and have already matched that total in 2023 after improving to 1-1 on the year.

Alberta Golden Bears, 33 — Calgary Dinos, 9

Second-year quarterback Eli Hetlinger picked up right where he left off for the Golden Bears, throwing for 380 yards and two touchdowns with both scores going to deep threat Carter Kettyle on completions of 70-plus yards. Dom Britton struggled in his first game under centre for the Dinos after winning the Canadian Bowl as a member of the Okanagan Sun in 2022, throwing for 118 yards and two interceptions. Calgary drew a crowd of 6,762 for this one, which is impressive considering the club went 1-7 last year.

Saskatchewan Huskies, 30 — Manitoba Bisons, 27

The Huskies overcame a 25-7 halftime deficit to avoid the upset on the road to start the season. Anton Amundrud struggled early but settled in nicely in his first career start for Saskatchewan, throwing for 313 yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions. Jackson Tachinski threw for 208 yards and three touchdowns for the Bisons and also led the team along the ground, rushing 10 times for 89 yards. He’ll have to look to take less punishment as the season goes along as the Huskies got home for four sacks, led by Presidents’ Trophy hopeful Nick Wiebe.

UBC Thunderbirds, 25 — Regina Rams, 10

UBC overcame almost 150 penalty yards to come away with a convincing road win to open their season. Hec Crighton Trophy hopeful Isaiah Knight carried the ball 20 times for 100 yards and caught three passes for 40 yards, while third-year receiver Sam Davenport caught a 61-yard touchdown pass from Garrett Rooker. The Rams struggled to get things going offensively as Noah Pelletier completed only 12-of-28 pass attempts for 138 yards before scoring the team’s only touchdown of the day on a late one-yard rush.

St. FX X-Men, 23 — Acadia Axemen, 6

Hec Crighton Trophy hopeful Malcolm Bussey ran the ball 18 times for 99 yards and caught three passes for 72 yards for the X-Men, though third-year quarterback Silas Fagnan scored the game’s only rushing touchdown. Ben Harrington iced the game for St. FX, returning a late fourth-quarter punt 83 yards for a touchdown. Acadia put up almost 300 yards of offence in the loss but were unable to convert their production into points as Winnipeg native Riley Naujoks threw two interceptions.

Saint Mary’s Huskies, 10 — Bishop’s Gaiters, 38

This game remained close until the Gaiters blew it open in the second half, scoring 21 points in the final quarter. David Chaloux ran for 83 yards and a touchdown for Bishop’s, while Liam Stewart scored the Huskies’ only touchdown of the day on an eight-yard pass from Zac Montgomery. Gabriel Royer, who received the Tony Proudfoot Trophy as the top defensive player in the AUS last year, made 7.5 total tackles, one tackle for loss, and one sack in the win.

Carleton Ravens, 15 — Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, 20

The Golden Hawks were forced to punt 12 times and generated only 285 yards of offence but got a second-straight win on the strength of rushing touchdowns from quarterback Taylor Elgersma and running back Quentin Scott. Carleton scored a late touchdown on a pass from Tristan Lefebvre to Ben Huckabone and got the ball back with 31 seconds remaining but Lefebvre was sacked on three consecutive plays to close things out.

York Lions, 32 — Waterloo Warriors, 53

Waterloo’s ground game was dominant in this one as Quinten Springer, Anthony Miller, Adrian John Popielec-Henry, and Tal Ibrahim combined for 37 carries for 375 yards and three touchdowns. Second-year quarterback Nick Orr also ran for a touchdown along with two through the air to James Basalyga. It was still a relatively lopsided loss for the Lions, though it was far from the 83-0 beatdown they suffered against Western last week. Alfred Olay returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, while Owen Webb threw two touchdown passes.

Ottawa Gee-Gees, 15 — Toronto Varsity Blues, 10

If you like field goals, this was the game for you. 2023 CFL Draft pick Campbell Fair kicked five of them from distances of 40, 40, 31, 30, and 16 yards to give his team the win, accounting for all of Ottawa’s points. Amlicar Polk, no longer stuck behind Jean-Paul Cimankinda on the depth chart, ran for 191 yards for the Gee-Gees, though he failed to reach the end zone. The Varsity Blues struggled to get anything going on offence as quarterback Kinsale Philip threw for 100 yards and ran 14 times for 64 yards and the game’s lone touchdown.

Guelph Gryphons, 18 — Windsor Lancers, 41

The Gryphons did enough in the fourth quarter to make the final score more respectable but the Lancers took it to them at Alumni Field, leading 33-4 at the start of the fourth quarter. Danny Skelton threw two touchdown passes for Windsor, while Weabge Mombo and Joey Zorn both rushed for over 100 yards. Fourth-year defensive lineman Kolade Amusan practically lived in Guelph’s backfield, recording three sacks for the Lancers. First-year quarterback Marshall McCray finished the game with more rushing yards (70) than passing yards (55) for the Gryphons.

McMaster Marauders, 22 — Western Mustangs, 34

Western’s usually dominant ground game came to a screeching halt against the Marauders as Keon Edwards recorded nine carries for only 23 yards and a touchdown, snapping his 12-game streak of rushing for at least 100 yards. Third-year quarterback Evan Hillock made up the difference for the Mustangs as he threw for 388 yards and two touchdowns, hitting Jamal Mohsen and Seth Robertson for scores. McMaster took possession at their own 24-yard-line with a little over one minute remaining and game still within reach, though Keagan Hall threw a pick-six to Max Nixon.

The Queen’s Golden Gaels (OUA), Laval Rouge et Or (RSEQ), and Mount Allison Mounties (AUS) were on a bye this past week.

U Sports standings

Canada West (CW)

Alberta Golden Bears 1-0
No. 9 UBC Thunderbirds 1-0
No. 3 Saskatchewan Huskies 1-0
No. 10 Manitoba Bisons 0-1
Regina Rams 0-1
Calgary Dinos 0-1

Ontario University Athletics (OUA)

No. 2 Western Mustangs 2-0
Windsor Lancers 2-0
No. 8 Ottawa Gee-Gees 2-0
No. 6 Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks 2-0
Waterloo Warriors 1-1
Guelph Gryphons 1-1
No. 7 Queen’s Golden Gaels 0-1
Carleton Ravens 0-1
McMaster Marauders 0-2
Toronto Varsity Blues 0-2
York Lions 0-2

Réseau du Sport Etudiant (RSEQ)

No. 4 Montreal Carabins 2-0
No. 1 Laval Rouge et Or 1-0
McGill Redbirds 1-1
Concordia Stingers 0-1
Sherbrooke Vert et Or 0-2

Atlantic University Sport (AUS)

No. 5 St. FX X-Men 2-0
Acadia Axemen 1-1
Bishop’s Gaiters 1-1
Mount Allison Mounties 0-1
Saint Mary’s Huskies 0-1

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.