QUEBEC CITY– The stage is set for the Scotiabank Vanier Cup, presented by Levio, Saturday in Quebec City, where the Western Mustangs and Saskatchewan Huskies will battle for Canadian university football supremacy.
Kickoff for the U SPORTS national final is set for 1 p.m. Eastern (10 a.m. Pacific) at TELUS-Université Laval Stadium, which first welcomed the fall classic in 2009 and is now a seven-time host venue.
The championship match is televised live on CBC TV. The broadcast is also available online through CBCSports.ca and CBC Gem, and the CBC Sports App. The French broadcast will be available on TVASports.
This is the third confrontation between the perennial powerhouse programs in the Vanier Cup and both will be familiar territory when they battle for the 56th rendition of the championship. The last meeting between Western and Saskatchewan occurred in the 2018 Mitchell Bowl, where the Mustangs came away with a 47-24 victory.
The Mustangs are making their U SPORTS-leading 15th appearance in the Vanier Cup, having made their last trip to TELUS-Université Laval Stadium for the 2018 Vanier Cup, where Western lost against the host Laval Rouge et Or 34-20.
Saskatchewan is making its first appearance in the Vanier Cup since 2006 and tenth in program history. This will be the first time the Huskies will be bringing prairie football to Quebec City after dispatching the RSEQ Champion Montreal Carabins.
Western enters the duel with a 9-1 record, while Saskatchewan carries an 8-1 record on the year. Both squads are entering the showdown with confidence at a season-high after convincing victories in last Saturday’s Mitchell and Uteck Bowls.
At Western Alumni Stadium in London, ON, the Mustangs dominated on both sides of the ball in a 61-6 shellacking of the AUS Champion StFX X-Men to claim the 2021 Mitchell Bowl.
The Western run game was on full force in against the X-Men with 469 yards rushing and a whopping seven touchdowns in the game. First-year running back Edouard Wanadi stole the show for the Mustangs racking up 238 ground yards and three majors. By halftime, the nation’s top-scoring offence led 51-3.
The Huskies, meanwhile, managed to outscore the Montreal Carabins 13-1 in the fourth quarter to pull off a 14-10 victory in a much closer affair.
The Carabins, at home, led the entire game until senior running back Adam Machart scored a game-winning touchdown with five seconds remaining in the game to steal a victory from Montreal, silencing the enthusiastic hometown crowd.
One thing is for sure: both coaching staffs will have their troops ready heading into game time.
At the helm of the Mustangs is Greg Marshall, a name synonymous with Western football.
Marshall is a former All-Canadian running back for Western, having won the Hec Crighton Trophy 1980 as the most valuable player in Canadian university football. Marshall later went on to win a Grey Cup with the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos.
As both a player and coach, Marshall has won 21 Yates Cups and three Vanier Cups and has been named U SPORTS coach of the year three times to date, tying him with legendary coach Tuffy Knight.
For Saskatchewan, former Huskies offensive lineman and Canadian Football League hall-of-famer Scott Flory is the bench boss of the 2021 Uteck Bowl champions.
Flory joined the Huskies' coaching staff in August 2014. He was named head coach of the Huskies in March of 2017.
In his four seasons in charge of the Huskies, Flory has taken the team to the Hardy Cup three times - winning the program's 20th Canada West Championship with a victory over the Manitoba Bisons earlier this month.
Returning home to Saskatchewan after a 15-year career with the Montreal Alouettes in the CFL, Flory served as the team’s offensive coordinator from 2014-2016.
During Flory’s impressive CFL career, he was named a CFL All-Star nine times, a CFL East All-Star 11 times and handed the Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman Award twice. He also won three Grey Cup Championships with Montreal in 2002, 2009 and 2010. In 2018 he was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
Flory played with the Huskies from 1994 to 1998. Winning two Vanier Cup championships with the Huskies in 1996 and 1998, Flory was drafted to the CFL by the Montreal Alouettes in 1998 (third round, 15th overall). He was named a Canada West All-Star three times and an All-Canadian twice during his University career.
The Mustangs will look to keep their explosive run game rolling Saturday against the Huskies in an attempt to forge a path to their program’s eighth Vanier Cup.
All-Canadian Keon Edwards averaged a U SPORTS-high 139.7 rushing yards per game and nine regular-season touchdowns, while teammate and fellow running back Trey Humes averaged another 73.8 yards per game while punching in five majors in just four games.
In the Mitchell Bowl, Edwards ran nine times for 104 yards and a score, while Humes carried seven times for 91 yards and a trio of touchdowns. With the game out of reach, Edouard Wanadi took the spotlight, racking up 238 yards and three majors.
The three-headed monster in Western’s backfield is certainly impressive, but freshman quarterback Evan Hillock has been equally impressive. Hillock took over starting duties part way through the season for the Mustangs, averaging 231.5 passing yards through four regular-season contests, while throwing six touchdowns. Against the X-Men, Hillock went eight for 10 with 114 yards and a passing touchdown.
Although Western has the top-scoring offence in the league, their defence led by OUA Lineman of the Year Deionte Knight, allowed just 268.5 total yards per game - good for second in the nation.
Even with Western’s stout defence, Knight and the rest of the Mustangs' defence will have their hands full with Saskatchewan’s highly potent offence led by Canada West All-Star quarterback Mason Nyhus.
Nyhus averaged 275.5 passing yards per game in the regular season while ranking second in the nation with 16 touchdowns. Nyhus’ passing prowess helped propel the Huskies to an average of 36.1 points per game - second in the nation, behind Western.
Nyhus is accompanied by fifth-year running back Adam Machart who was the hero of the Uteck Bowl after scoring two touchdowns to propel the Huskies to victory over the top-ranked Montreal Carabins.
Machart led the Huskies with 83 yards per game on the ground during the regular season and two touchdowns. Machart also chipped in 14 catches in five games for 241 receiving yards.
On defence, Saskatchewan employed a defensive unit that limited their opponents to just 113 rushing yards per game, leading the Canada West conference and ranking fifth in the nation. Canada West defensive All-Stars Nathan Cherry and Uteck Bowl Defensive Player of the Game, Riley Pickett will face their toughest test of the year with Western’s powerful run game.