It’s a feeling returning members of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team have felt before, but one that doesn’t come any easier.
For the second straight year, the Huskies found themselves on the losing end of Canada’s largest prize in university football, dropping a 30-24 decision in the 57th Vanier Cup to the Laval Rouge de Or on Saturday afternoon in London, Ontario.
Tied 17-17 at halftime, the Huskies struggled to contain Laval’s offence, which carved up field for several long drives including a trick pivotal touchdown pass by Hec Crighton Trophy winner and Laval receiver Kevin Matel to David Dallaire early in the fourth quarter.
Saskatchewan registered the first touchdown of the day in the opening minutes of the second quarter, as fifth-year quarterback Mason Nyhus went for it on third and goal, and was able to find Everett Iverson in the end zone to jump ahead 10-3.
That lead was short-lived for the Huskies, however, with the Rouge et Or answering immediately courtesy of running back Kalenga Muganda scampering in to tie the game.
Following a 68-yard carry by Ted Kubongo to set up the Huskies deep in Laval territory, Nyhus threw his second touchdown of the game with 8:36 remaining in the first half to Rhett Vavra to re-take the lead 17-11.
Laval was able to pick up a pair of field goals from Vincent Blanchard before halftime to tie the score again, including a 49-yard attempt that became the second-longest successful field goal in Vanier Cup history.
A go-ahead touchdown for the Huskies was called back in the third quarter after a muffed punt return by Laval, however the Canada West champions were flagged for a no-yards penalty, negating the special teams score.
In his final game in a Saskatchewan uniform, Nyhus threw his final U Sports touchdown to Daniel Wiebe, with five minutes remaining in the game, to pull the Huskies within three points of the Rouge et Or.
Another Blanchard field goal and a stop on third and long in the game’s final seconds was enough to seal it for Laval, earning the team a record 11th Vanier Cup title on Saturday.
Still searching for their first Vanier Cup since 1998, the Huskies have lost each of their last six appearances in the U Sports championship game dating back to 2002.