In the only battle of CIS Top 10 ranked teams in week two of the 2012 football season, the #10 Manitoba Bisons won a thrilling 31-28 game over the #8 Saskatchewan Huskies on Saturday, September 8 at University Stadium (U of Manitoba campus).
The game was the first of two meetings this season between the two teams and had four lead changes (three in the second half).
With the win, Manitoba moves into a tie atop the Canada West conference standings with #3 Calgary at 2-0 record while Saskatchewan suffers their first loss and drops to 1-1 and in a tie for third in the conference.
In the back-and-forth affair, Manitoba rallied back after the visitors took a late fourth quarter lead as they stormed back on a six play, 75 yard drive that had a gutsy third and 11 call on the Huskies’ 31 yard line against the wind. The Bisons completed a 24 yard pass from fifth year Cam Clark (Walley, BC) to fifth year Brendon Bowman (Winnipeg) to keep the ball moving. The home side completed the drive when Clark found week one CIS Special Teams Player of the Week Nic Demski in the corner of the end zone for a five yard pass and the winning major. The touchdown put the Bisons ahead for good at 31-26 with 2:02 left on the clock.
The Huskies received a late safety (less than a minute left) as Manitoba elected not to punt in the ferocious wind that howled as much as 60 km/h during the contest. Then Saskatchewan got the ball back and had one last chance but came up short when starting rookie Huskies’ QB Drew Burko (Saskatoon) completed a pass to third year receiver Kit Hillis (Saskatoon) but was short of the first down marker with 19 seconds left in the game.
The game was a battle for field position all day as the wind really was a defining factor for the majority of the game. Saskatchewan had the wind at their back to start and parlayed it to a 14-0 first quarter lead. Burko scampered for an 18 yard run while the Huskies received three safeties from Manitoba because they were pinned deep in their own zone. In the second, Manitoba sliced the lead in half from a six yard pass from Clark to third year halfback Bryan Giesbrecht (Winnipeg). At halftime, Saskatchewan was up 14-7.
In the second half, the home side erupted with 15 unanswered points with the wind as the Bisons quickly tied the game up on a one yard run by second year running back Kienan LaFrance (Winnipeg). Next, after missing game one, 2011 CIS First team All-Canadian and International Bowl MVP Anthony Coombs (Winnipeg) made his presence felt with a quick 85 pass and run for a touchdown. It was the fourth longest pass play in Bison team history. The Huskies had a rouge and Bison fourth year kicker Nick Boyd (Vancouver) rung up a 26 yard field goal and the Bisons lead 25-15 after three.
The excitement continued into the fourth as Saskatchewan rallied when Jeremy Andrew (Regina) ran straight up the middle for a 11 yard TD run and Huskies’ second year kicker Cole Samson (Prince Albert, SK) added a rouge and nailed a 42 yard FG, that was predicated on recovering a fumble on special teams, to put the team in green and white ahead for the final time before Manitoba’s late winning score.
“The team is only 2-0 and it is early in the season but this is result that we worked for and hoped for this week, said Bison football head coach Brian Dobie, in his 17th year at the helm, after the game. “Last year, we would have lost this game but this year we made the plays and executed down the stretch when we had to. There was no panic on our team but it was a battle out there against a tough Saskatchewan team.”
In team stats, Manitoba had 31 to Saskatchewan 28 in first downs; rushing yards were Saskatchewan at 167 and Manitoba at 66; Manitoba had 317 passing yards to Huskies 290; total offence was 435-330 for the Huskies; turnovers (outside of third down conversions) had Saskatchewan with zero to Manitoba’s three; Saskatchewan controlled time of possession with 33:38 to 26:22 and penalties were 9-60 yards for Manitoba and Saskatchewan with 7-90 yards.
Individually, the visitors had Burko with a strong game. He threw for 290 passing yards on 23-29 (79%) and he added 29 rushing yards with one TD. Andrew was top rusher with 113 net yards on 23 carries while Hillis was top game receiver with 121 yards on 11 grabs. Mitch Stevens (Saskatoon) added 90 yards on four receptions. Denton Kolodzinski (Saskatoon) had a 42.8 punt average.
For the Bisons, Clark was top game passer with his first 300 yard in his CIS career after 317 yards from 18-33 and three TDs along with one pick. Coombs had two catches for 90 yards and 1 TD; Xavier Johnson (Delta, BC) added five grabs for 87 receiving yards and Bowman with three for 46 yards. Bowman also does double duty as punter and had a 38.0 average while LaFrance had 37 rushing yards on 12 carries and Coombs with 32 yards on 13 rushes.
On defence, Saskatchewan was led by Bryce McCall (Regina) with 6.5 tackles and one diving interception. Travoy Martinez (Dallas, TX) had 5.0 tackles and one break-up while Luke Thiel (Regina) and Joel Seutter (Sherwood Park, AB) had 5.0 tackles with Thiel also with one break-up and Seutter with a tackle for a loss. The Huskies also had two forced fumbles and recoveries.
Manitoba defence was led by Thomas Hall (Winnipeg) and Lauren Kroeker (Stonewall, MB) both with 7.5 total tackles and Hall had one break-up while Kroeker had two break-ups and a huge 2.5 sacks. Bami Adewale (Brampton, ON) also added 7.0 tackles and the team also registered three more break-ups during the win.
Manitoba (2-0) now host the four-time and defending Canada West champion Calgary Dinos (2-0) at University Stadium on Saturday, September 15 at 1 p.m. CT during the annual Homecoming Game. This match will be available via canadawest.tv and radio at umfm.com. While, Saskatchewan (1-1) travels to play at the UBC Thunderbirds (0-2) on Saturday, September 15 at 2 p.m. PT. The Huskies-Thunderbirds game will be the SHAW TV Game of the Week.