November 2, 2012, REGINA, Sask. – The University of Regina Rams advanced to the Hardy Cup with a 31-9 victory over Saskatchewan on Friday night in a Canada West semifinal at a snowy Mosaic Stadium.
The two teams were separated by just one point at halftime as the U of R held a 10-9 lead through two quarters, but the second half was all Rams. Regina scored three touchdowns in the span of just over 11 minutes and didn’t allow a single point in the game’s final 30 minutes.
Normally used almost exclusively as a quarterback in short-yardage situations, Friday’s breakout star was slotback Landon Buch. He came into the game with two catches in his career, but exploded for six catches and 130 receiving yards in Friday’s win. He also scored two touchdowns, one of which came on a two-yard plunge in the third quarter after stellar Buch catches extended the U of R’s drive twice, and the other on a 63-yard catch-and-run that essentially sealed the victory midway through the fourth quarter. If that wasn’t enough, Buch was also credited with a fumble recovery on the kickoff following his first touchdown.
Marc Mueller completed 21 of his 32 passes for the Rams and ended up with 393 yards and three touchdowns. Buch led the U of R in both receptions and receiving yards, and Kolten Solomon finished with five catches for 97 yards including a 59-yard touchdown reception on the last play of the third quarter. Jay Smith had four catches for 68 yards, while Addison Richards had three catches for 76 yards.
Michael Kiapway led Regina’s ground game with 74 rushing yards.
Ryan Wellman led the U of R’s defence with a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a pass breakup. Chris Sciog had a team-high five total tackles, while Stefan Charles had the team’s lone sack. It was the second consecutive game that the Rams’ defence hasn’t allowed a point, as Saskatchewan’s nine points came on a fumble return touchdown and a conceded safety.
Saskatchewan quarterback Drew Burko completed 11 of his 28 passes for 134 yards. Kit Hillis led the team’s receiving corps with four catches, while Shane Buchanan had a team-high 69 rushing yards for the Huskies.
Bryce McCall led the Saskatchewan defence with 10.5 tackles and forced the fumble that led to Luke Thiel’s fumble return touchdown. Ben Rush and Seamus Neary both had sacks for the Huskies, while Mitch Friesen led all players with three pass breakups.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Huskies scored the first points of the game off a conceded safety early in the second. The visitors then scored the game’s first major shortly thereafter, as a hit by McCall forced a Dillon Dawson fumble and Thiel picked it up and ran it five yards to the end zone to give Saskatchewan a 9-0 lead.
But Thiel’s touchdown turned out to be the last time Saskatchewan would score.
Taylor Wandler got the Rams on the board with a field goal on the ensuing possession, and after the U of R’s defence forced a two-and-out Mueller engineered the team’s first touchdown drive of the game. He found Jay Smith for a 36-yard catch-and-run to get to Saskatchewan’s 35-yard line and hit Jared Janotta on 3rd-and-6 to extend the drive. Mueller then finished the drive with a 25-yard lob to Addison Richards in the end zone, giving the Rams a 10-9 lead they took into halftime.
Midway through the third quarter, Buch took over. With the Rams on 2nd-and-21 following an undisciplined penalty midway through the third quarter, he caught a 30-yard pass to extend the drive and two plays later made another great catch on a 15-yard pass across the middle to give the Rams another first down. Buch finished off the drive himself, taking a third-down snap from the two-yard line and breaking the plane to give the Rams a 17-9 advantage.
Buch was right in the middle of it on the ensuing kickoff, as Wellman forced a Jeff Moore fumble on the return and it glanced off Buch and went out of bounds. That gave the ball right back to the Rams, though they weren’t able to convert the turnover into points.
The Rams extended the lead on the last play of the third quarter. Mueller found Solomon with a long pass to the right sideline, and Solomon cut back inside and took it 59 yards to the house to give the U of R a 24-9 advantage heading into the fourth.
Mueller’s long pass to Buch on the right sideline just under seven minutes into the fourth quarter basically put the game away for the Rams, giving them a three-possession lead.
The Rams will now prepare for their fifth appearance in the Hardy Cup, as they’ll square off with the winner of Saturday’s semifinal between Calgary and Manitoba. The conference championship game will be hosted by Calgary if the Dinos advance, and will be at Mosaic Stadium in Regina if the Bisons get through the No. 3-ranked U of C.
The Hardy Cup is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 10 at 2 p.m.