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September 1, 2017

Bisons Game Recap | MB 23, SSK 44

Winnipeg, Manitoba - Manitoba Bison Football vs U of S September 1. Jeff Miller Bison Sports 2017

The University of Manitoba Bisons have hit their first major pothole on the road back to the Canada West playoffs and their quest for a Vanier Cup title.

The Bisons suffered through some major opening-night gaffes in their 2017 debut Friday night, falling 44-23 to the Saskatchewan Huskies in front of 1,501 at Investors Group Field.

Now the key is to ensure that pothole doesn’t open up into a giant sinkhole.

Ranked 10th in the country in the first U Sports poll, the Bisons were mauled early by the unranked Huskies, falling behind 27-6 by halftime before rallying to pull within 27-23 through three quarters and then sagging in the final 15 minutes.

In short, the Bisons looked like a team stumbling through their first dress rehearsal – they did not play an exhibition game this year – while the Huskies, who faced McMaster in a preseason tilt, were the far sharper squad.

“It felt like we were in practice mode. I don’t know how else to explain it,’ said Bisons head coach Brian Dobie afterward. “It didn’t feel like we were ready. At the end of the day, everybody’s responsible for that. Our players are responsible, but our coaches – me – we’re ultimately responsible for that.

“Our football team wasn’t ready enough. I’m already in the process of lining up an exhibition game for next year. You think I’m kidding… I’m not.”

The Huskies cranked out 563 yards total offence and were led by quarterback Kyle Siemens, who was brilliant in completing 31 of 40 passes for 419 yards and four touchdowns – two to Evan Kopchynski along with Mitch Hillis and Chad Braun – while also running for another score.

The Bisons normally high-octane attack was in gear for just one stretch in the third quarter, but coughed and sputtered for much of the night. Manitoba managed 340 yards offence, including just 215 through the air.

“The quarterback sets the pace of the game and I just wasn’t matching the level that we needed,” said Bisons quarterback Theo Deezar, who completed 18 of 31 passes for one TD – to Shai Ross – while being intercepted once.

“Obviously looking forward we have to prepare even harder. Expectations are that much higher… we have seven games left and we have to win them, especially if we want to be a playoff competitive team.

“At the end of the day the quarterback decides a lot of the outcome of the game and I just don’t think I played well today.”

The game marked the return of running back Jamel Lyles to U Sports football, after he spent last year starring in the Canadian Junior Football League. The Canada West rookie of the year in 2015 finished the day with 218 all-purposed yards and one TD, but was also the picture of frustration afterward.

“It was awesome to be back with the boys but that was definitely not expected,” said Lyles. “The outcome of the game is not something I was happy about. We just have to review the game, reflect and then move on to the next one. Come Monday we’re going to be focussed on UBC.”

The Bisons will be on the road to the left coast next weekend with a game against the Thunderbirds in Vancouver on Saturday, September 9th.