Saturday's Top 10 matchup between the No.6 Guelph Gryphons and No.4 Western Mustangs did not live up to all of the hype. It surpassed it. In an instant classic from Alumni Stadium, a 41 yard field goal from Daniel Ferraro (Mississauga, Ont.) with 1.7 seconds left on the clock would give the Gryphons a 49-46 victory over their arch rivals, the Western Mustangs (5-2). With the win, the Gryphons secure a first round bye and a spot in the OUA semifinals.
Despite windy conditions both quarterbacks were able to put up some big numbers on the day, and you had a feeling that this one could turn into a shootout after the opening possession of the game. With the wind in his face, Guelph quarterback Jazz Lindsey (Markham, Ont.) would march his Gryphons 97 yards on 10 plays on the game's first possession, capped off by a two yard touchdown pass to Mason Swift (Sooke, B.C.) that made it 7-0 Gryphons. Guelph led 10-6 after the opening quarter. The fun was just getting started.
In the second quarter, it was Western's turn to march down the field against the wind. Mustangs quarterback Will Finch (Burlington, Ont.) would show why he is the OUA's reigning MVP as he would find Adam Sinclair (London, Ont.) for a 15-yard touchdown pass-and-catch that gave Western a 13-10 lead. On the ensuing Mustangs possession, Finch would pick up his second touchdown pass of the day, this one a 37-yard strike to Shaquille Johnson (Brampton, Ont.) to give Western a 20-10 lead. In the first half, Finch was 17 of 22 for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Not bad. But the Gryphons offense was matching him blow for blow all day long.
Gryphon receivers A'Dre Fraser (Halifax, NS) and Alex Charette (St. Catherine's, Ont.) picked a great time to come up with the biggest games of their Gryphon careers. Both players had over 100 yards receiving in the first half alone. After a pair of catches from Fraser, Jazz Lindsey would find a wide open Charette behind the Western coverage for a 35-yard touchdown. Although Western still led 23-20 at that point, they were on the brink of losing not only the lead, but the momentum. Facing a third and short late in the half, the Mustangs decided to go for it and were stuffed by the Gryphon defence for a turnover on downs. After a few quick hitters, the Gryphons were in field goal range for Ferraro. He would connect from 41 yards out as time expired. It was not only a sign of things to come, it was also a huge boost for the Gryphons who now went into the half tied at 23-23. The Gryphons would ride that momentum into the second half and would get the third quarter started with some fireworks.
Ferraro's high arching "pooch" kick on the opening kickoff of the second half was recovered by the Gryphons. On the very next play, Lindsey would air it out for A'Dre Fraser. The coverage downfield by the Mustangs was good. The pass and catch were even better. Fraser would making a leaping grab over the defender before falling into the endzone for a 35-yard touchdown to give Guelph a 30-23 lead. The Gryphon defence was then able to capitalize on an uncharacteristic mistake by Finch, who overthrew his receiver and was picked off by Nicholas Parisotto (Guelph, Ont.). Four plays later, Robert Farquharson (Niagara Falls, Ont.) would punch it in. Thanks to two touchdowns in less than two minutes, the Gryphons led 37-23. However, that lead was also short-lived as Western would counter Guelph's quick strikes with a pair of methodical drives which both ended in Garret Sanvido (Vancouver, BC) touchdown runs. Just like that, things were all tied up at 37-37. If Gryphon fans were not worried at this point, they would be by the fourth quarter.
With the score 39-38 Western, the Gryphons would turn it over on downs in their own end after an errant long snap forced punter Daniel Ferraro to fall on the ball and take major loss. The Mustangs would take advantage of the short field, as Finch and Sinclair would hook up for the second time on the day to give Western a 46-38 lead. Cue one of the best finishes to a game in Gryphon history.
Needing a touchdown and a two point conversion to tie, the three-headed monster of Jazz Lindsey, Alex Charette and A'Dre Fraser would lead the Gryphons down the field with under three minutes remaining. After a nice first down catch by Charette in front of the Guelph sideline, Lindsey would roll out to his right and find Fraser for a first down at the Western 26. On 2nd and 10, the Gryphons were able to pick up the Western blitz and allow Lindsey to find Charette for a 24-yard gain setting up a first and goal from the Mustangs two-yard line. Punching it in from there would prove to be a difficult task however. A Farquharson no-gain and an incomplete pass brought up a crucial third and goal scenario. Lindsey's pass for Charette would fall incomplete, but a late flag on the play for pass interference would give the Gryphons a new set of downs. The Gryphons were once again unable to find the endzone on first or second down, meaning they were once again facing another decisive third and goal situation. And nobody was expecting what was about to happen next.
Offensive lineman Matthew Toppan (Oakville, Ont.) would haul in a touchdown pass from Jazz Lindsey to make it a two point game. You read that correctly. Toppan was understandably a little fired up after the first touchdown of his life, at any level, but his excitement would prove costly for the Gryphons. After a celebratory spike of the football, the Gryphons were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The touchdown would stand, but that meant the potential game-tying two point conversion would be pushed back to the 15-yard line. Fortunately for the Gryphons, Alex Charette was unstoppable on this day. Charette would make an incredible, juggling catch with a defender draped all over him to convert the two point try and tie things up at 46-46. Inspired by Charette's big catch, the Gryphon defence would hold strong and force Western into a two-and-out. After Ryan Nieuwesteeg (Niagara Falls, Ont.) returned the punt to Western's 54-yard line with 39.9 seconds remaining, the thought process for Guelph shifted from 'forcing overtime' to 'winning in regulation.'
With zero timeouts at their disposal, Jazz Lindsey would lead the Gryphon offence onto the field and find Dylan Husty (London, Ont.) for a 13-yard completion to the Western 41. A pair of quick runs by Farquharson put the ball at the Western 34-yard line, setting the stage for Daniel Ferraro. Western would call a timeout in an attempt to "freeze the kicker," but that was always going to be a long shot with Ferraro being arguably the hottest kicker in the country this season. From 41 yards out, Ferraro would split the uprights giving the Gryphons a three point lead with 1.7 seconds to go. Finch's last second hail mary attempt would fall incomplete, giving the Gryphons a thrilling 49-46 victory.
Jazz Lindsey set a school record for passing yards in a single game with 514 (breaking the previous record of 487 held by Justin Dunk). Lindsey finished the day 34-53, 514 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Alex Charette hauled in 13 receptions (one shy of tying the single game school record) for 188 yards and a touchdown. A'Dre Fraser made 11 catches for a career-high 210 yards and a touchdown. Kicker Daniel Ferraro made four field goals on the day and now has 23 on the season, tying him with McMaster's Tyler Crapigna for the OUA's single season record with still one game to play. The Gryphons will wrap up their regular season schedule on the road next week when they visit Laurier.