Given the stunning conclusion of the Panda Game – last week's OUA.tv Marquee Matchup – the Carleton Ravens (2-1) and Laurier Golden Hawks (2-1) will have their work cut out for them if they want to produce an equally entertaining sequel.
But even if there's no game-winning 55-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass with zero seconds on the clock, the Week 5 OUA.tv Marquee Matchup presented by Pizza Pizza should be a very competitive and exciting game between two up-and-coming teams eyeing a playoff spot.
Laurier will be well-rested coming off a bye-week and will be playing its homecoming game in front of what is expected to be a rowdy and packed University Stadium.
Carleton is coming off the emotional Panda Game victory against cross-town rival Ottawa, but head coach Steve Sumarah is more than ready to put last Saturday behind him.
"The biggest thing we have to do now is throw last week away. I told the guys, 'no more talking about the Panda Game.' Once it ends, it ends. The good teams are able to do that week to week, win or lose," said Sumarah. "We're facing a very good team, coming off a bye week, playing in its homecoming game. Calling it a challenge is an understatement; it's almost a perfect storm of factors coming into Saturday."
Laurier head coach Michael Faulds is also trying to use Carleton's Panda Game win to ensure that his team does not overlook an opponent that, in just its second season since re-launching its program, is starting to turn some heads.
"There's no team with as much confidence right now (as Carleton)," said Faulds. "We treat every game like a playoff game, but I told our guys yesterday there are definitely playoff implications to this game."
By no means is Carleton an easy opponent, but for a Golden Hawks team that closes out its season against Western, McMaster, and Guelph, it will be crucial to their playoff hopes to grab a home win against a more evenly-matched adversary.
"You never want to look ahead of your schedule, but this is a game that, later in the year, you don't want to have regrets about," said Faulds.
An aspect of Carleton's Panda Game performance being overlooked is the 307 total rushing yards allowed. The Ravens will be going against Dillon Campbell, the league's leading rusher, who is presently averaging a shade under 10 yards per carry and over 230 yards per game. If the Ravens don't tighten up their rush defence, it could be a very long afternoon.
"(Campbell) is your focus," said Samarah. "It's phenomenal what he's been doing and give a ton of credit to the Laurier offensive line. You have to find a way to at least contain him, because you aren't going to stop him."
Faulds echoed the sentiments of his opposing coach, giving credit to the team's o-line as well as well as acknowledging Campbell as not only the team's best player, but its hardest worker.
OUA and CIS Offensive Player of the Week Nathaniel Behar, who made the game winning catch against Ottawa, will be relied upon heavily again by the Carleton offence. Like the lead up to the Panda Game, Coach Samarah has not named a starting quarterback heading into this week's matchup. Nick Gorgichuk threw for 318 yards and two touchdowns against Ottawa, but it was Jesse Mills – the team's starter the first two games – who was called in to chuck the now-famous Hail Mary pass. Carleton will also need to do more to establish the run after getting just 139 yards on the ground against Ottawa.
For Laurier, expect the offence to run through Campbell once again, but don't count out a passing attack led by quarterback James Fracas. The league leader in completion percentage (72.2%) has thrown six touchdowns and zero interceptions. He will face a tough test against a Ravens defence that ranks tied for second in OUA with five team interceptions.
Only in Week 5, OUA's playoff race is already shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory. Neither Laurier nor Carleton made the postseason in 2013, so they will be leaving it all on the line Saturday as they chase down a coveted playoff spot.
Be sure to tune in to OUA.tv on Saturday at 1 p.m. for the Marquee Matchup presented by Pizza Pizza, as well as all the other action around OUA!
Marquee Matchup By The Numbers
10 – Quarterback sacks for the Golden Hawks defence, ranking them fourth in the league. The Ravens will have to find a way to protect their pivot against a fierce Laurier defensive line.
1 – Pass thrown by Jesse Mills in the Panda Game. The team's starter to begin the season sat in place of Nick Gorgichuk, but Mills came off the bench to fire the game-winning Hail Mary to Nathaniel Behar.
26 – Tackles for Ravens defensive back Nathaniel Hamlin. He leads OUA averaging 9.0 tackles per game.