Forty years ago, in 1973, the University of Manitoba football team beat the Saskatchewan Huskies in a playoff game. Never since have they beat 'em in the post-season.
Bisons coach Brian Dobie can still recall that game in flashes. He was on that team, just a rookie wide receiver back in 1973.
'They're gonna play us tough. Every play is going to matter'
He remembers they played it out of the Velodrome -- yes, the old Velodrome at Polo Park, before it was ripped down -- and how Huskies quarterback Dave Pickett's arm threatened to dominate the game. The Bisons defence shifted to accommodate the threat, minimized the Huskies air attack, and won the game 21-8.
"I remember making a big catch, and dropping an easy pass," said Dobie Thursday with a laugh. "I don't remember much about my part in the game, but I still remember the catch, 'cause it was a diving catch. And I dropped one right piece-of-cake in my mitts."
Afterwards, Dobie thought the team would go all the way, take the Vanier Cup and get etched into Canadian college football history. Instead, their starting quarterback broke his leg shortly into the national semifinal, and the road to the championship ran off a cliff. Still, those were the days. To be young, and tasting the thrill of winning games. Even now, the coach thinks about that campaign.
"It was a great ride," aid Dobie. "It was pretty exciting. It always comes back to me, I always think about that year. We didn't win the Vanier Cup, but I remember going through that experience as a player... that's always stuck with me here, when we've had those opportunities."
Well it's history now, long since passed. Heck, some current Bisons players' parents were just toddlers in 1973.
As the team prepared this week to face the Huskies in the Canada West semifinal tonight at Investors Group Field, many didn't even know it's been 40 years since the Bisons won this matchup in the playoffs.
"I'm sure coach will bring that up in practice today," said receiver Nic Demski with an impish grin -- he knows how Dobie is full of stories.
Hopefully, Demski agreed, a shot to earmark this year in Bisons history will get the team fired up. More fired up, we mean. They're gunning hard for this one already.
All season they talked about how badly they wanted to host a playoff game at IGF and the one they got could be a beauty. During the regular season, the Bisons faced the Huskies twice, earning a split. Both tilts were tight: 33-26 in October, 36-34 in September.
"They're gonna play us tough," said star Bisons running back Anthony Coombs. "Every play is going to matter."
The Huskies play hard, the Bisons have big offensive guns. The Bisons have made a few tweaks to the game plan designed to take advantage of the Huskies' system and maybe put the visitors' defence in a little disarray.
From there, the offence will look to win the day on star running back Coombs' fleet feet, pivot Jordan Yantz' strikes (he was second in the conference in passing yards this season) and receivers who have been effective at finding their way to dangerous positions.
What hurts the home team: A battered offensive line, so bruised up Dobie wasn't certain who would be able to go Thursday.
"We'll see where we're at," he said. "Those guys need to rise above. Their pain threshholds needs to rise, and they need to have a big game for us and overcome their own personal adversity."
Fans can see how it all plays out tonight at IGF. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. The game will be televised on Shaw TV and at canadawest.tv.