Most importantly, the victory punches the Huskies ticket back to the Vanier Cup for the second year in a row, as the program continues its pursuit of a fourth national championship in school history.
"It's obviously a pretty cool feeling," said Mason Nyhus, when asked about going back to the Vanier Cup. "It's one of those things where we did it last year, but it took a long time. I think it was a 15-year drought for the Huskies not going to the Vanier. I think it's pretty cool to get back there."
"We definitely thought all year that we needed to be here — we got here. Everybody's happy to be here, but we're not satisfied yet. We got one more so we got to get after it," said defensive back John Stoll.
The win improved the Huskies record to 2-0 all-time against the X-Men, with the pair of programs lone meeting coming back in the 1996 Vanier Cup – a game the green-and-white won 31-12, thanks to 31 unanswered points in the second half. Much like was the case on that Saturday night in Toronto some 25 years ago, a Saskatchewan second-half surge proved to be the difference today in Antigonish.
The Huskies found themselves in a tightly-contested battle for the second-straight week. While in the Hardy Cup it was a Jordin Rusnack receiving touchdown and Finn Marcotte-Cribb pick-six that helped the Huskies pull away from the Thunderbirds and advance to the Antigonish — a new duo stepped up today in the Uteck Bowl as Daniel Wiebe and Stoll starred as heroes on the national stage.
With the game tied at 13-13, Wiebe hauled in three consecutive passes — including a game-breaking 41-yard catch-and-run, as he scampered down the sideline and shrugged off a flurry of X-Men defenders en route to the endzone. Wiebe's sixth reception of the day gave the Huskies their first lead since the 10:53 mark of the second-quarter.
Less than a minute later, it was the Saskatchewan defence that stepped up. Stoll intercepted a Silas Fagnan pass and ran it back 26 yards for the touchdown. The Melville, Sask. product's second pick-six of the season extended the Huskies lead to 16 with just 5:27 remaining in the fourth-quarter.
From there, the Huskies were able to run out the clock, while Nyhus threw a 26-yard touchdown strike to Daniel Perry to all but seal the win.
Ryker Frank paced the Saskatchewan offence throughout the day, racking up 134 yards on 20 carries. Frank's two-yard touchdown in the third-quarter gave the Huskies their first touchdown of the afternoon. Nyhus threw for 327 yards and two touchdowns on 30-38 passing, earning him Nike Player of the Game honours alongside Stoll.
"They're a good defence. We had to take some stuff underneath. The receivers getting yards-after-catch (was big)," said Nyhus, who was 8-9 passing for 143 yards in the fourth-quarter.
The loss was the first of the season for St. Francis Xavier, who advanced through the AUS with an 8-0 regular-season record before claiming the Loney Bowl last week. Silas Fagnan threw for 258 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions on 17-36 passing for the X-Men — with 98 of those yards going to Zachary Houde who stepped up throughout the afternoon.
"They're a good team. Any U SPORTS football team is a good team. They were undefeated in their conference for a reason. I respect a lot of those players — they're all good players. They fought hard today — I respect that team a lot," said Nyhus.
Katley Joseph and Nick Wiebe each had five total tackles for a Huskies defence that had two sacks on the day — one apiece from fifth-year Jonathan Leggett and William Charlie Parks, who earned the start in place of an injured Connor Delahey. Delahey is expected to be back next week, according to Flory.
Up next for Saskatchewan is the Vanier Cup where they will take on the Laval Rouge et Or. The Rouge et Or claimed the Mitchell Bowl on Saturday thanks to a 27-20 win over the Western Mustangs. The Vanier Cup will be played next Saturday afternoon in London, Ont. at Western Alumni Stadium.
"We know we're going to have a tough test. Whoever wins tonight is going to be a good team. It's going to be interesting," said Nyhus, prior to the Rouge et Or defeating the Mustangs. "We had a good test here today and we're going to have another tough one next Saturday."
"We will be better next week," said Huskies head coach Scott Flory. "I know we're going to bounce back — we haven't played our best football game yet. There's only going to be two teams left playing football. Let's understand that. I know we're going to be better next week. It's going to be a ton of fun."
Kick off for the Vanier Cup is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. The game will be televised on CBC, as well as streamed on CBC's digital platforms — cbcsports.ca, CBC Gem and the CBC Sports YouTube Channel.