The Saskatchewan Huskies are back in the Vanier Cup.
After last season's heartbreaking defeat to the Western Mustangs in last year's Vanier Cup, the focus of the program has been a return to this exact stage — the biggest and brightest stage in Canadian university football. The Huskies accomplished said goal this past weekend, thanks to a 36-19 win over the St. Francis Xavier X-Men in the Uteck Bowl.
While the Huskies have been inside the top-four of the U SPORTS Top 10 all year long, since Week 1, the No. 1 ranked team has been those aforementioned Mustangs. Since the season got underway, Western has been favoured to get back to the Vanier — a game they were set to host in their own backyard. But in last Saturday's Mitchell Bowl, the Laval Rouge et Or spoiled those plans and joined the Huskies in punching their ticket to the 57th Vanier Cup with a 27-20 comeback victory over the host Mustangs.
And as fate would have it, that all sets up this — a meeting between the Huskies and Rouge et Or, as two of U SPORTS most historic programs renew a legendary rivalry.
For the first time since the 2006 Vanier Cup, Saskatchewan and Laval will do battle. 16 years after the Rouge et Or broke the Huskies hearts on their home turf, the pair of programs will meet in a national championship, once again.
That frigid November afternoon in 2006 that saw more than 12,000 fans file into Griffiths was the last of three-straight seasons which all saw Laval and Saskatchewan meet on the national stage. In the 2004 Vanier Cup, Huskies lost 7-1 to the Rouge et Or. A year later, Saskatchewan got their revenge with a 29-27 win in the Mitchell Bowl — the program's first-ever win over Laval.
Until last season, 2006 was also the last time the Huskies would reach the Vanier Cup. But Huskies head coach Scott Flory has quickly returned the program into the nation's elite since taking the helm in 2017. Saskatchewan has won three of the last four Hardy Cups — paving the way for a trio of national semifinal appearances. Now, after back-to-back Uteck Bowl victories comes a second-straight Vanier Cup appearance.
But ultimately, it isn't about getting this far just to get this far. There's still work to do — the final hurdle remains.
In the offseason, longtime legendary Huskies head coach Brian Towriss looked back on the 2021 season by saying: "This whole thing kind of parallels what happened from 1987-89. They just keep taking one more step and one more step."
The Huskies are hoping that they can take that next step on Saturday afternoon and win their fourth national championship in program history.
- This will be the fifth meeting between the Huskies and Rouge et Or and the third in the Vanier Cup.
- Five members of the current Huskies coaching staff played in 2006 Vanier Cup — Braden Suchan, Bret Thompson, Paul Woldu, Tony Michalchuk and Dan Houle.
- Saturday's meeting will be a matchup of a pair of the conference MVP's in Saskatchewan quarterback Mason Nyhus and Laval receiver Kevin Mital.
- The Vanier Cup will feature two of the nation's most prolific passers. Rouge et Or quarterback Arnaud Desjardins and Nyhus were the only two quarterbacks to surpass 300 passing yards-per-game this season. Nyhus tossed for 344.9 yards-per-game, while Desjardins was second to the Regina, Sask. product with 319.4 passing yards-per-game.
- During the regular-season, Saskatchewan and Laval ranked one-two in the nation in yards-per-game. The Huskies mark of 479.4 was just 8.6 more than the Rouge et Or.
- Both programs enter Saturday with matching 10-1 records after 7-1 regular-seasons. Laval's lone loss was to the rival Montreal Carabins back in Week 2. The Rouge et Or ultimately defeated the Carabins in the Dunsmore Cup, which serves as the RSEQ championship, 24-25 — thanks to a game-winning rouge on the game's final play.
- As of Wednesday afternoon, the Saturday forceast for London calls for a high of seven degrees, with wind gusting to 23km/h.
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.