Air, ground and a kick: Three Kubongo touchdowns on Friday night help Huskies stay undefeated

“This journey has been long. I won’t lie; I got a little emotional on the sidelines.”

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The post-game fireworks display played Ted Kubongo’s song at Griffiths Stadium on Saturday night – popping, thumping, ripping. Lots of noise, fun to watch.

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Kubongo walked with — and met opponents with — his entire body in Friday’s 43-22 University of Saskatchewan Huskies win over the visiting Manitoba Bisons. He is playing football for the first time since 2019, in the meantime thwarted by pandemic and injury. A year ago, he was sitting on his couch with a torn patellar tendon after previously playing at both the University of Maine and UBC.

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When… Friday happened. Three touchdowns – starting with a Huskie-record 102-yard kickoff return on the first play of the game. Then a catch of 12 meters. Then a run of 47 meters.

“The guy got the triple crown tonight,” said Huskies’ quarterback Mason Nyhus, referring to Kubongo’s majors coming through the air, on the ground and off a kick return.

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The previous return record was 95 yards, set by Errol Brown on September 19, 1992 against the Calgary Dinos. Kubongo was unaware that he had broken the 30-year-old standard until a reporter told him after the game.

“That’s news to me,” he said after hearing about the record. “I didn’t know that – wow. I just caught the ball, and the point is… it was crazy. I just had that feeling. I was literally at my house this morning, and I’m like… if I catch a ball, I’m going to speak it into existence; I’m going to send it back. It’s bizarre how it came to fruition.”

Kubongo had rushed 92 yards through Saskatchewan’s first four games—they’re now 5-0, heading into a Thanksgiving week farewell—and he dwarfed that entire Friday with nine carries for 121 yards and three catches for 37 more.

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The freshman Huskie said he really appreciates what’s happening.

“I was out for a year and a half,” he said. “I haven’t played football since 2019, so it’s definitely been a long time coming. This journey has been long. I won’t lie; I got a little emotional on the sidelines. I was overwhelmed by everything and I want to thank God – if “Had it not been for God and my faith, I wouldn’t be standing here now. I’m glad (Head Coach Scott) Flory gave me the chance to be part of this team, and I did my best.”

Huskies’ quarterback Mason Nyhus, for example, had hoped Kubongo would land in Saskatchewan.

“I had the pleasure of going to the (CFL’s) regional combination with him and saw first hand how amazing an athlete he was,” said Nyhus. “We talked a little bit there and talked out of season – I knew I wanted to get him here because he had that kind of potential. And he showed that tonight. I’m really proud that he got one of those break- played out games.”

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Kubongo did lose a fumble in the first half, so it wasn’t all perfect – but that reflected an odd 30-minute opening for the Huskies, who were awarded a whopping 12 penalties for 101 yards in that time. The total included four against one game, against four different players, which brought them back half a football field.

“Man, it kind of felt like shooting ourselves in the foot, a comedy of mistakes in the first half,” said Flory, whose team was 22-19 behind the now 2-3 Bisons at halftime. “And then we settled down, we came out in the second half and played like we should play, and we expect to play.”

The Huskies also got a four-yard touchdown from Kody Gutek, and a five-yard TD run from backup quarterback Ethan Watson. David Solie added field goals from 38 and 43 yards for a crowd of 4,598.

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Manitoba’s scoring came from Brendt Adams on a 14-yard catch and Jackson Tachinski on a one-yard run, while Niko DiFonte scored field goals from 17 and 37 yards.

Saskatchewan held Manitoba to just two first-downs in the second half.

The league is saying goodbye this week and the Huskies will host the Regina Rams on October 15th at 1pm

Nyhus, meanwhile, is torn between his love of football and his love of Thanksgiving turkey.

“I love football, so I’d love to keep playing,” he said when asked if he’s happy with a farewell week. “But my mom is there, and she’s going to have a nice Thanksgiving dinner. I like going to Regina (his hometown), but of course I want to keep playing football.”

kemitchell@postmedia.com

twitter.com/kmitchsp

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