U of S Huskies face Di­nos in west fi­nal

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - NEWS - KEVIN MITCHELL kemitchell@post­media.com twit­ter.com/ kmitchsp

Kyle Siemens had two chances to ex­tend his foot­ball ca­reer, and the first didn’t go so well.

He found his sweet spot on the sec­ond, which is why the Uni­ver­sity of Saskatchewan Huskies quar­ter­back is pre­par­ing for Satur­day ’s 2 p.m. Canada West fi­nal against the host Cal­gary Di­nos — a game earned by a come-from-be­hind 3128 over­time play­off win over the UBC Thun­der­birds last Satur­day.

“It was a lit­tle sad be­fore we got happy, but I’m proud of how we fought through it,” Siemens said while pre­par­ing for the team’s first con­fer­ence fi­nal since 2009.

Siemens threw an in­ter­cep­tion with 1:15 left in the UBC game while trail­ing 28-21. That pick could have spelled the end of both his sea­son and his ca­reer. But the Thun­der­birds took just 24 sec­onds off the clock be­fore hav­ing to punt, and from there, Siemens en­gi­neered a four-play, 47-yard touch­down drive. It ended when Jesse Kuntz caught a pre­ci­sion Siemens toss from 14 yards out with 21 sec­onds left on the clock.

That sent the game into over­time, and Saskatchewan won on Sean Stenger’s 38-yard field goal.

“I was upset with my­self. It was a throw I should not have made,” Siemens said of the mo­ments af­ter that in­ter­cep­tion, which — if the de­fence hadn’t held — could have been his fi­nal throw as a Cana­dian col­le­giate quar­ter­back.

“But on the side­line, there wasn’t a sense of panic or a sense of, ‘This game’s over.’ It was, ‘We’re go­ing to get the ball back and get an­other chance here’ — it was about calm­ing my­self down and think­ing about the next drive.”

With mem­o­ries of that game still fresh, the un­der­dog Huskies pre­pare for a 9-0 Di­nos team. Cal­gary has played in 11 straight con­fer­ence fi­nals, and won nine.

Saskatchewan hasn’t reached the game since 2009, and had lost eight straight play­off games be­fore edg­ing UBC.

“I was in Grade 10 at that time,” Siemens says of the Huskies’ 2009 ap­pear­ance — won 39-38 by Cal­gary, af­ter Saskatchewan’s Grant Shaw missed a 35-yard field goal with nine sec­onds to play.

Siemens is now a uni­ver­sity se­nior. His ca­reer is week-to-week. He’s sec­ond in team ca­reer pass­ing yards, and Cal­gary head coach Wayne Har­ris calls him “the most un­der­rated guy in our con­fer­ence.”

“He’s a guy,” says Huskies’ head coach Scott Flory, “that’s re­sponded ev­ery time there’s been some ad­ver­sity, or he’s been chal­lenged by the coach­ing staff or by his team­mates. He’s stepped up. He had that pick with un­der two min­utes, and it was kind of an out-of-body ex­pe­ri­ence — it’s to­tally un­char­ac­ter­is­tic for him to even throw that ball. But our de­fence made a great stop, we got the op­por­tu­nity again, and he was re­ally good down that fi­nal stretch. The throw to send it to over­time was a great throw — low and away, it was a great ball. We ex­pect that out of Kyle. He’s our fifth-year quar­ter­back, and he’s the leader of our foot­ball team.”

The win­ner of Satur­day’s game makes a road trip to the na­tional semi­fi­nal, the Mitchell Bowl, against the On­tario cham­pion — ei­ther Guelph or West­ern.

The Vanier Cup goes Nov. 24 in Que­bec City.

“The deeper you go and the fur­ther you get along, the sense of ur­gency, ev­ery­thing, gets tight­ened up and ratch­eted up that much more,” says Flory, whose Huskies are 6-3. “The im­por­tance of ev­ery sin­gle down is stressed that much more mov­ing for­ward. We know it comes down to a hand­ful of plays, and you just never know when those are go­ing to come. You’ve got to be at your best for the 60-plus plays you get in the game.”


Fifth-year U off S Huskies quar­ter­back Kyle Siemens hopes to ex­tend his ca­reer an­other game with a vic­tory in Cal­gary.

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