In the minutes following the University of Regina Rams massive playoff win over their provincial rivals the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, a large crowd began to form just outside of the players tunnel at Mosaic stadium.
The noise level steadily rose as the Rams faithful recounted the night’s victory, and then, at the first sight of green and gold, erupted.
It was a well-deserved ovation for the home team, whose 31-9 victory over the Huskies advances them to the Hardy Cup for the first time since 2007.
“It feels great to beat our biggest rival at home. It’s a big deal,” said Rams quarterback Marc Mueller. “One of our goals was to have a home playoff game and win it, and now we’ve got three more goals that we’ve got to achieve.”
Despite the blowout final score, the game was very much in doubt through much of the first half.
On a snow-swept Taylor Field, that could only mean playoff football in Saskatchewan, the two teams battled to a scoreless first quarter.
After the Rams conceded a safety that put the Huskies ahead 2-0 early in the second, the Rams made matters worse by fumbling deep in their own end. The Huskies managed to scoop up the ball and walk in for a touchdown, improving their lead to 9-0.
But those would be the last points the Huskies could manage.
The early deficit seemed to spark Mueller, who led the team downfield on the next possession for a Taylor Wandler field goal.
After the defence held the Huskies to a two-and-out, Mueller returned for another big drive that ended in a 25-yard touchdown reception to second-year wide receiver Addison Richards, putting the Rams in front 10-9 going into halftime.
As the two teams came back out for the second half, the snow didn’t seem to let up one bit – and neither did the Rams.
Back-to-back clutch grabs from third-year slotback, Landon Buch, put the Rams in the redzone, and the drive was capped with a TD when Buch deservingly punched it in himself on a third-down gamble.
“You can’t contain our receivers for that long,” Mueller explained. “We have too many good guys, and too many guys who step up and make the play. Landon Buch steps up, Addison Richards steps up, Kolten Solomon…you can’t contain us for all 60 minutes.” – Marc Mueller
Before the end of the third quarter, Mueller found fourth-year WR, Kolten Solomon, down the Huskies sideline, who scrambled 59 yards for the score, making it 24-9 Rams.
A 53-yard TD reception to Buch for his second major of the night would cap the scoring in the fourth quarter, bringing the Rams scoring spree to 31 unanswered points.
Mueller went 21 of 32 in the win, throwing for 393 yards and three touchdowns.
The Rams huge second half has been an enduring trend throughout the season.
“You can’t contain our receivers for that long,” Mueller explained. “We have too many good guys, and too many guys who step up and make the play. Landon Buch steps up, Addison Richards steps up, Kolten Solomon … you can’t contain us for all 60 minutes.”
The big story of the semi-final victory was Buch, who caught six passes for 130 yards, two TDs and a fumble recovery.
“It feels great,” Buch said after the win. “To get to the Hardy Cup is a pretty big deal, so I think everyone is excited.”
The huge win over their hated rivals only serves to boost the team’s morale heading into next week’s game against the Calgary Dinos.
“Everyone knows we hate each other, so it makes it that much more special for sure,” Buch said. “I think we did a good job on them, did our tasks, executed well, and yeah, we’ve got some good confidence going into next week.”
“Either way, it’s going to be a tough game,” Mueller said. “They’re big, they’re physical, we’ve just got to match it.”
The Calgary Dinos defeated the Manitoba Bisons 57-18 on Saturday, setting up what’s sure to be an exciting showdown for Canada West football supremacy between the Rams and Dinos.
The 76th Hardy Cup will be broadcast nationwide on TSN.
Kickoff is slated for 2pm on Saturday, Nov. 10.
Photo courtesy Tenielle Bogdan