EDMONTON – The University of Alberta Golden Bears football team’s inability to make the big play offensively cost them on Friday night, as they fell to the Saskatchewan Huskies 43-17 at Griffiths Stadium in Saskatoon.
Despite holding onto the ball for more than 35 minutes on Friday, three costly turnovers (including a red zone interception), held Alberta to just 17 points against the Huskies. While not nearly on the field for as long as Alberta, Saskatchewan’s offence brought an explosive factor, scoring a pair of 40+ yard TD passes.
What did work for Alberta was the play of fifth-year Bears running back Ed Ilnicki, who once again paced the Alberta offence. Ilnicki was tremendous from the first possession on, finishing with 199 yards on 26 carries. However, Ilnicki’s strong night was nullified by the play of the two Bears quarterbacks. Brad Baker and Ben Kopczynski combined to go just 15-26 for 168 yards and one touchdown, with Baker throwing a pair of picks.
Huskies starter Kyle Siemens was tremendous by comparison for Saskatchewan on Friday, throwing for 271 yards and five touchdowns. One thing that worked well for Siemens was his ability to spread the ball around, with four different receivers catching a TD pass.
The Golden Bears lack of offensive production was evident in the first half - as 276 yards of offence, 123 of which from Ilnicki - led to just six points on the scoreboard. Alberta’s defence, however, held Saskatchewan in check, limiting them to just 14 first-half points.
Siemen’s third TD of the game in the third quarter, coupled with a stalled Alberta offence, was all the momentum the Huskies needed to put the game out of reach. Head coach Chris Morris’ attempt to spark the Bears by switching quarterbacks was met with no positive results, as neither Baker nor Kopczynski could engineer any long drives in the second half.
The second half was also when Siemens cut lose, taking the top off the Alberta defence with a pair of long TD passes. Siemens found Sam Baker for a 53-yard bomb just two minutes into the third quarter, while also finding Mitch Hillis for a 43-yarder later in the fourth.
Alberta’s lone major of the game came late in the fourth quarter, as Kopczynski found rookie standout Nathan Rowe in the endzone for the second time this season.
With the win, the Saskatchewan Huskies improve to 2-0 this season, after a win against the Manitoba Bisons last weekend. Alberta, meanwhile, falls to 0-2 to start the season for the second-consecutive season. Saskatchewan will put their undefeated mark on the line next weekend, as they take on the UBC Thunderbirds in Vancouver. The Golden Bears will visit the 1-1 Regina Rams next Saturday, in their first visit to the new Mosaic Stadium. Both games will be available on Canada West TV.