If the goal is to be at your best walking into any championship game, the Western Mustangs and the Saskatchewan Huskies are right where they want to be in Quebec City.
Western’s defence has allowed exactly nine points in their last 10 quarters of football. The Mustangs have outscored their opponents 174-42 in post-season games and 24 of the points scored against them came in the first half of their first playoff game against the Waterloo Warriors. Western shut out the Warriors in the second half of that game.
The Mustang offence is built on a running game that rushed for 469 yards in a national semi-final last weekend. It boasts OUA rushing champion Keen Edwards, talented veteran Trey Humes and first-year standout Edouard Wanadi. The true engine of what the Mustangs do on the ground is their offensive line. Head coach Greg Marshall calls it, “one of the best that I have ever coached.”
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The Huskies can identify what Western does because they do some very similar things. They blew through the University of British Columbia 39-17 and then crushed the Manitoba Bisons 49-17 on their way to a national semi-final that matched the U of S up against a very talented Montreal Carabins squad. Saskatchewan put together an 83-yard drive late in the game and scored a touchdown with five seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to win 14-10.
The Huskies may lean a little more to the passing game led by quarterback Mason Nyhus who ranked second in the country with 16 touchdown passes this year but they also boast a two-headed backfield in running backs Adam Machart and Josh Ewanchyna.
The Huskies defence held its opposition to an average of 113 rushing yards per game so that will be one of the key matchups in what is expected to be a chilly December day at Laval Stadium. The expected high is -14 C.
Both schools rank in the top-five for Vanier Cup victories. The Mustangs lead the way with seven. Saskatchewan has won three.
In 1994 Western and the Huskies combined for one of the most memorable University championships ever.
Quarterbacks Warren Goldie of the Mustangs and Brent Schneider of Saskatchewan marched their offences up and down the field at what was then the SkyDome in Toronto, Ont., and the Huskies found themselves up 37-34 with 1:04 remaining.
Goldie and Western got to within a 42-yard field goal and Mustang kicker Frank Jagas nailed it to force overtime.
After Jagas and U of S kicker Akis Georgeacacos exchanged field goals in the first overtime, the teams headed to double overtime where Jagas put Western ahead by three points with yet another field goal and then Mustang defensive back Anthony Lane sealed a national championship as he returned a punt 77-yards for a touchdown in a 50-40 Western win.
The weather may make it tough to score 90 points on Saturday but with the talent on both sides of the ball, just about anything is possible in what lines up to be an excellent matchup to decide a champion in Canadian university football for the first time since 2019.
Notes: On Friday night Deionte Knight was named the USports Most Outstanding Lineman in 2021. Knight, Mustang offensive lineman Elliot Beamer, receiver Savaughn Magnaye-Jones and defensive back Danny Valente were named first team All-Canadians. Second-team all Canadians for Western included offensive linemen Zach Fry and Phillip Grohovac, running back Keon Edwards and defensive tackle Malcolm Hinds.