Home sweet homecoming

The University of Manitoba Bisons football team added to their first win of the season last week, coming back from a first half deficit to beat the No. 4 University of Saskatchewan Huskies by a score of 26-16 this past Saturday. Playing in only their second home game of the season, the Bisons rose to the occasion before 3,500 fans. The team forced three Saskatchewan turnovers, including a fumble recovery for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter that gave the home team the lead in a game where momentum swung back and forth.

The game between the two prairie rivals was sure to be interesting, as Saskatchewan came into the game undefeated and ranked fourth in the CIS.
The Bisons were hoping to avenge a 64-3 thrashing at the hands of the Huskies in a 2010 game at Saskatchewan. Beyond the most recent beat down, since 2003 the Bisons had only mustered three wins in their last ten games against the Huskies. Throw in a boisterous crowd for the Bisons at the last homecoming game being played at the current stadium before next year’s move into the new Blue Bomber stadium and this was bound to be an intense game. Residence students from all over campus participated in the pre-game Spirit Cup, giving the home team an added boost. Numerous fraternities and sororities including Delta Kappa Epsilon created a lively tailgating atmosphere before the game.

The Bisons came out slow to start the game. Playing into a strong wind the Bisons were shut out after 15 minutes of play as Saskatchewan took a 12-0 in the first quarter, thanks in large part to a 68-yard fumble recovery by defensive lineman David Rybinski and a late field goal. The Bisons began to show some life in the second quarter as QB Khaleal Williams and the rest of the Bisons offence put together three strong drives that went deep into Saskatchewan territory. Unfortunately, the Bisons were unable to capitalize on the first two drives and came away with two singles for their efforts. On their third solid drive, kicker Nick Boyd booted a 27-yard field goal to cut the deficit to seven points. At the half, Saskatchewan led 12-5 over the Bisons.

Special teams mistakes and a strong breeze wreaked havoc for the Huskies throughout the second half. With the Manitoba offence starting to hit their stride, Bison QB Khaleal Williams organized an 11-play, 90-yard drive early in the third quarter that took up five minutes and culminated in a 15-yard passing touchdown to Bison WR Tyson Takasaki, tying the score at 12-12. For the remainder of the third quarter, the Bisons and Huskies traded punts in a battle for field position. Saskatchewan managed to string a drive together and kick a field goal, adding a late single that made the score 16-12 in favour of the Huskies heading into the fourth quarter.

On the very first play of the fourth quarter, Saskatchewan’s Jerit Lambert fumbled a Manitoba punt inside Saskatchewan’s 5-yard line. Bison DB Grayson Wells recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown, which gave the Bisons a 19-16 lead after the convert and brought the crowd back into the game. The play seemed to shift the momentum of the entire game towards the Bisons as the team’s defence took over, allowing no points in the fourth quarter and forcing two interceptions.

Nick Boyd, who went 3/5 in field goal attempts, kicked two more field goals late in the fourth quarter. Punter Brendon Bowman maintained a punting average of 37 yards per punt, including a booming punt of 64 yards that helped the Bisons maintain good field position when they had the wind at their backs during the fourth quarter. The Bisons hung on for the 26-16 victory and improved their record to 2-1, while the Huskies fell to 2-1 and suffered their first loss of the young season.

Next week, the Bisons will travel to Vancouver to play a road game against the UBC Thunderbirds on Sept. 24. The Huskies will hit the road to play the University of Calgary Dinos in Calgary.

All Bisons football games can be heard live on 101.5 UMFM.