The task at hand is a big one.
Always is when going up against Saskatchewan footballers.
So the University of Calgary Dinos know they’ll have to make themselves a little larger, especially when dealing with both lines of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in Saturday’s 82nd Hardy Cup, the Canada West Conference football championship, at McMahon Stadium (1 p.m., CanadaWest.tv).
“They have a lot of big boys, and they’re coached really well,” said Dinos fifth-year defensive end Joel Van Pelt, the conference’s top lineman award winner. “I think theirs is the best o-line other than our own in our conference. They’re one of the most physical o-lines we play. We have to make sure we know all our plays really well and get as much film on them as we can.
“We have to set the tone.
“We can’t just play down and be lackadaisical.
“We have to take it to them.”
Taking it to them effectively would mean a third straight conference title and ninth in 11 seasons for the Dinos (9-0) — plus a spot in the national semifinal tilt one week later.
The Huskies (6-3), meanwhile, are looking for their first Canada West crown since 2006. The last time they were in the Hardy Cup was in 2009.
But that doesn’t make the Saskatchewan side any less dangerous.
“They’ve got great talent, especially along the lines,” said Dinos head coach Wayne Harris. “They play very disciplined football, and the Huskies are definitely playing that style of football. They definitely play their systems well.”
The payoff for being disciplined came last week in the Canada West semifinal that saw them rally late to win a 31-28 overtime thriller over the host UBC Thunderbirds.
In that game, the large offensive line kept up its end of the gameplan, grinding away at the host T-Birds to put the Huskies in position to pull off the upset.
QB Kyle Siemens went 19-of-31 for 222 passing yards, while running back Tyler Chow hit the holes for 86 yards on 20 carries.
“Their quarterback might be the most underrated guy in our conference,” Harris said. “He’s had a great career — he’s in his fifth year. He’s going to be highly motivated to come out and play well. Same thing with Chow. Chow looks like he’s running well right now.”
Siemens is a dual-threat QB, putting up an average of 264.6 passing yards per game while throwing 16 touchdowns against six interceptions. He’s added 291 more yards along the ground.
And backfield mate Chow ran for 640 yards in eight regular-season games, averaging 80 yards per game, the second-highest total in the conference.
“They really took advantage of Chow in the passing game as well as in the running game near the end of the last game, and that’s what really solidified their win,” said Van Pelt, a 22-year-old, 6-foot-4, 260-pounder from Calgary and a leader of the Dinos defence that also features linebackers Boston Rowe and Grant McDonald, the team’s two leading tacklers with 50 and 46 respectively.
“I think we have to be really gap-sound,” Van Pelt continued. “We have to make sure we execute our assignments correctly. We have to make sure we get into that gap, so that the linebackers can fill when we make the running backs bounce.”
Van Pelt & Co. did a staunch job last week in containing the leading rusher in the conference, Jamel Lyles, to just 23 yards on 10 carries in a 37-13 semifinal bounce of the visiting Manitoba Bisons.
More of that this week will go a long ways in helping the Dinos defend the Hardy Cup.
But it is a large challenge against the Huskies.
“We’re doing really well now up front (on the defensive line),” Van Pelt said. “I’m really impressed with the guys who have all stepped up into that gap that the older guys left last year.
“We’re getting a lot better just as a d-line working together, doing what we have to do to get a win.”
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