Put up or shut up
There’s certainly no love lost between the University of Regina Rams and their provincial rivals, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
Because of their proximity, the rosters of both teams are full of players who know each other, and know each other well.
“We want to be the best, and they want to be the best,” said veteran defensive back Jamir Walker, before the Rams game against the Huskies on Sept. 21. “It’s two teams going at each other, and we know each other very well, because some of us are from Saskatoon. There’s always bad blood, but that’s just the way it goes.”
In recent years the Rams have been stymied by the Huskies.
Going back to the 2008 season, they’ve won just one game in eight attempts against their bitter rival.
“They’ve beat us more than we’ve beat them, so we kind of want to even that out,” Walker said. “I’ve only beaten them I think once in my career here… I’m just kind of tired of losing to these guys.”
The Rams woes are even worse when playing at Griffiths Stadium in Saskatoon, where they haven’t won since 2007.
Veteran Rams quarterback Marc Mueller knows all about the pressures of playing in hostile territory.
“Once we roll into Saskatoon on Friday we know we are public enemy number one,” he said. “Any game on the road in the Canada West is difficult, but especially playing in Saskatoon, it’s loud, it’s crazy, and it’s a lot of fun.”
Walker offered a similar thought.
“My blood boils a little bit when I think about playing at the U of S,” he said. “I love playing there. It’s a great atmosphere. I love playing in front of the fans, and trying to get them to shut up for a second.”
Mueller, Walker, and the rest of the Regina Rams were given a great opportunity to do just that on Friday, in front of an estimated 9,033 people – an unofficial Canada West attendance record.
The number is made even more impressive by the fact that capacity at Griffiths Stadium is only 6,171.
“My blood boils a little bit when I think about playing at the U of S." – Jamir Walker
For most of the game, the record-number of spectators were not disappointed.
On the Huskies opening drive, rookie U of S quarterback, Drew Burko, looked sharp running the no-huddle offense – as he would for much of the first half – but the eight-yard drive resulted only in a single point off a missed field goal.
The lack of execution was a common theme for the Huskies, and one that would ultimately cost them the game.
The Rams, however, made the most of their red-zone opportunities, and took a 14-12 lead into halftime.
But as Regina continues to prove, the second half is where this team plays its best football.
The third quarter saw three consecutive Rams touchdowns, and the lead increase to 35-12 in favour of the visitors.
Fourth-year wide receiver, Kolten Solomon, caught two touchdown passes and rushed for another, becoming the first Rams player to score three TDs in a game since Jordan Sisco did it back in 2009.
Second-year running back, Michael Kiapway, continued his break-out season, rushing for 84 yards and two TDs of his own.
But it’s no secret that this offense lives and dies with its signal caller.
Fortunately for the Rams, Mueller only seems to be getting better with each game.
Despite absorbing several punishing hits from the Huskies D-line, Mueller completed 29 of 37 passes on his way to a 78.4 per cent completion record – a Rams single-game record.
The offense racked up the points in the third, and the defense held strong in the fourth, withstanding a late-game surge by the Huskies.
Final score: 35-26 Rams.
Half way through the 2012 season, the Rams are 3-1 and tied for second place in Canada West with the University of Manitoba Bisons.
The two teams will clash this week at Mosaic Stadium, with sole possession of second place on the line.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on Friday night.