SASKATOON – An outstanding defensive effort in the second half allowed the Saskatchewan Huskies to pull out a thrilling 28-23 victory over the Alberta Golden Bears in CW semifinal action on Saturday afternoon.
The win sets up a classic Hardy Cup rematch as the Huskies are now primed to travel to Calgary to take on the Dinos for the right to be called best in the west for the second year in a row.
While the Huskies' potent offence and U SPORTS leading rusher Adam Machart have capture most of the headlines this season, it was Saskatchewan's defence that made the difference. With the game close after half, the Huskies intercepted Brad Launhardt on three-straight drives to give their offence some breathing room.
Staring in the first playoff game of his U SPORTS career, Mason Nyhus had his most prolific game as a Huskie throwing for 336 yards and one touchdown. Machart was again dominant on the ground, rushing for 160 yards as well as hauling in five catches for another 42.
Despite the interceptions Launhardt was efficient on the day, completing 20 passes for 209 yards while also rushing for a pair of touchdowns. Daniel Bubelenyi was electric for the visitors, finishing the day with 122 yards receiving, including an 80-yard touchdown.
Alberta started off the game on fire. The visitors quieted the Huskies' faithful as they mounted an eight-play 86-yard drive capped off by a lunge from Launhardt for the 7-0 lead.
That lead was doubled on the very next Golden Bears drive.
Launhardt found Bubelenyi behind the Huskies' secondary and the receiver did the rest, breaking in all alone for the major.
From there Saskatchewan was able to rally.
After a field goal from David Solie and the defence forcing a safety, Nyhus capped off a 78-yard drive with a touchdown pass to Baker to cut the deficit.
Launhardt wasn't done in the first half however and another one-yard plunge from the quarterback sent the teams into the halftime break with Alberta leading 21-15.
The second half belonged to the Huskies.
Nelson Lokombo, Ramsey Derbas and Ben Whiting picked off Launhardt on three-straight drives. Machart capitalized on the short field after the first turnover and two more field goals from Solie gave the Huskies the lead at 25-21.
Alberta continued to push late and a safety with under two minutes remaining brought them to within a touchdown but clutch pass knockdowns from Nicholas Dheilly and Charlie Ringland allowed the Huskies to hold on for their first home playoff victory since the 2009 season.