In a wild back and forth game Friday, the U of M Bisons mounted a failed comeback late in the fourth quarter, dropping the home opener 48-46 to the No. 10 ranked University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
The visiting Huskies were on the board first midway through the opening quarter with a field goal by Sean Stenger. The 29 -yard kick sailed through the uprights for a 3 -0 Saskatchewan lead.
The home side came charging back with a touchdown of its own to take the lead four minutes later.
On the next drive, Des Catellier connected with Macho Bockru for the score, following a quick two-yard run by Jamel Lyles, and a convert by Brad Mikoluff made it 7 -3 Manitoba.
The Bisons’ lead was short lived, however, as the Huskies worked back down field and Kyle Siemens found Joey Trumpy deep in the Bisons endzone with a 17-yard pass for the score. Saskatchewan added a one-point convert by Stenger, and the first quarter ended at 10 -7 Huskies.
Saskatchewan stretched its lead early in the second quarter. Siemens handed the ball to Colton Klassen who went wide and left, cutting through the Bisons defence for the score. Stenger added the convert for a 17 -7 Huskies lead.
Dylan Schrot answered for the herd on the next drive when he caught a toss from Catellier and stretched out to squeak in for the touchdown.
Mikoluff added another convert to cut Saskatchewan’s lead to 17-14.
Manitoba almost took the lead back late in the first half when Shai Ross slipped coverage and tore downfield. Catellier threw a pass his way but it was just out of his grasp. The herd settled for a Mikoluff field goal and a 17-17 tie.
The Huskies got close to a touchdown of their own on the next drive but got no closer than the Bisons three yard line. On the field goal attempt, Stenger went wide.
Manitoba finally got the lead back with the last play of the first half. The herd made it as far as the Saskatchewan 48-yard-line and Mikoluff sent it the rest of the way for a 20-17 Bisons lead.
The second half did not start out well for the home team, as a fumble turned the ball over at the 25-yard-line. Siemens found Tyler Chow open, who carried it in for the touchdown and a 27-20 Huskies lead following a convert.
Following another Manitoba fumble, Saskatchewan drove down the field, ending in a Siemens score and Stenger convert to make it 34-20.
But the herd did not stay down. Catellier found Bockru again and he carried it down the side lines for a 68-yard touchdown. The convert brought Manitoba to within a touchdown, behind 34-27.
“We know our strengths and we took advantage of it,” Bokru said postgame. “Throw game, pass game, everyone was executing, doing what they had to do.”
His quarterback was less diplomatic in his response, saying the Huskies “put a rookie on our best receiver and they paid the price.”
It was the visiting side with bad luck on the next drive, as Schneider Charles picked off a Huskies pass and blew through the offensive line for a touchdown. Manitoba was penalized on the play but the touchdown and convert stuck for a 34 -34 tie.
Mikoluff added another field goal, giving Manitoba a tight 37 -34 lead in the fourth quarter, but Saskatchewan responded with another Klassen touchdown to make it 41 -37.
The dagger came late in the game as a Catellier pass was intercepted by Payton Hall and returned for a 90-yard touchdown. Stenger added the convert for a 48-37 Huskies lead.
Manitoba rallied for a field goal and late Schrot touchdown, but the two-point convert failed and Saskatchewan walked away with a 48-46 win.
The Bisons will be back in action on Saturday, Sept. 15 , when they take on the University of Alberta Golden Bears. Kickoff is 2 pm CDT at Investors Group Field.