Written By: Mike Hogan
There are times where a 2-3 record is completely explainable. The talent isn’t good enough, the team has played a tough schedule, or the coaches aren’t competent.
With that in mind, can anyone explain this year’s edition of the Laurier Golden Hawks? They certainly have the talent, have yet to play the hardest part of their season, and their staff is without question respected around the conference.
Before the season, the OUA was supposed to be pretty easy to figure out at the top end. Western was the favourite, while Laurier was overwhelmingly looked upon as the team that would finish second.
The Hawks head to Carleton this week, fresh off a confusing loss to Guelph; a game that was as hard to figure out as Laurier’s record this year.
“Nobody expected us to be 2-3,” said Head Coach Michael Faulds, though virtually everyone in the country would echo those comments.
“The good thing is that we haven’t lost one bit of confidence that we’re a good football team,” he told ‘In The Huddle,’ “Though we all understand that we have to start picking up Ws and not Ls.”
The three losses have come against teams that are all still in a position to make the playoffs – McMaster, Waterloo, and most recently Guelph. All should have been wins, and not just because the Hawks are better on paper; the way the games all started should have been enough for a team oozing with elite talent.
“We’ve been up big in all of these games. We had leads of 13, 9 and 17 points,” said Faulds, before quickly adding, “I still think we can get into the playoffs.”
That’s easier said than done. Laurier has three games left, and need two victories to finish with four wins – the level that will in all likelihood be needed to get into a post-season position. Their remaining schedule sees the Hawks at Carleton this Friday, before hosting Windsor, then finishing with the toughest possible game, travelling to Western.
It puts an extraordinary amount of weight on this week’s battle of the birds. While he’s confident in his own team, Faulds knows that their hosts will be ready to go.
“Having lost in the Panda Game, they’re motivated as well,” he said.
If any of the Hawks aren’t motivated for the Carleton game, then perhaps they’re in the wrong sport. They just coughed up a second half furball against Guelph at Homecoming, blowing a 24-7 lead by giving up the game’s final 20 points. Oh ya, and their playoff lives may depend on a win.
The most glaring stat in the loss to Guelph was the six interceptions thrown by quarterback Tristan Arndt. The head coach didn’t throw his QB under the bus for the six pack of picks – two of which were returned for touchdowns – instead insisting the stat isn’t as bad as it looks.
“The unfortunate thing is people see six interceptions,” explained Faulds, “but the reads in five of the six interceptions were perfect. Every one of the interceptions was tipped, and every one fell into an opponent’s hands.”
“Between the fifth and sixth interceptions he threw a missile,” he added, “So even with what had happened he didn’t stop playing, I love that about him.”
That said, we’ll see if his confidence is strong enough with Arndt going forward, or if he’ll replace the second-year QB with strong-armed freshman Connor Carusello.
Either way, the coach’s confidence hasn’t waned in terms of the Hawks flying into the playoffs.
“I’m happy about our chances,” said Faulds matter-of-factly. “Our execution needs to be there. Everything is there.”
There’s little question the talent is there. There are no questions about how good the coaching staff is. For the Hawks to make the playoffs three things are going to have to change, and quickly. The execution has to be better, the turnovers resulting in opponent’s points have to stop, and they have to be able to protect big leads.
If they can clean up those areas, there is still a shot at the post-season, despite their current 2-3 record.
GUELPH 27 LAURIER 24
Job Reinhart and Dotun Aketepe had pick-sixes of 72 and 69 yards, respectively, for the Gryphons, who won the turnover battle 7-2. Laurier’s biggest play came on an 80-yard punt return by Kurleigh Gittens Jr., who later tied Stefan Ptaszek for the all-time Hawks receiving lead with a fourth-quarter catch. Each receiver has 186 career receptions. Gittens finished the game with ten catches for 90 yards. Levondre Gordon carried the ball 21 times for 139 yards and two TDs. Guelph QB Theo Landers was held to 139 yards passing with no TDs and one interception. Gabe Ferraro’s mysterious season continues. The Calgary Stampeders draft pick missed two more field-goal attempts. He’s just 12/21 and his 57% success rate is the lowest in the conference. Gryphon linebackers Reinhart and Luke Korol combined for 20.5 tackles, two interceptions, two pass breakups, and a tackle for a loss. Need evidence that turnovers are important? The Hawks led in passing yards, rushing yards, sacks, they took fewer penalties, and led in time of possession 34:07-25:53. The Homecoming crowd at Laurier was 4,670.
OTTAWA 38 CARLETON 27
The Ravens looked a lot like the Hawks in their loss, with turnovers - along with penalties - doing them in. Carleton turned the ball over six times and was flagged 17 times for 165 yards, as opposed to the Gee-Gees who committed one turnover while taking nine penalties for 60 yards, something Head Coach Jamie Barresi told ‘In The Huddle’ a week ago was a main concern heading into the game. The Ravens ran a trick play to perfection on the game’s first play. Quarterback Michael Arruda threw a lateral pass to Quinton Soares, who then passed downfield to an open Dominic Walker for a 78-yard TD. Carleton took a 14-7 lead before the U-of-O posted 31 consecutive points and held on for the win. Sawyer Buettner threw five TD passes in his first Panda Game, while Dawson Odei carried the ball 25 times for 142 yards. Kalem Beaver caught five passes for 128 yards and two TDs, while Carter Matheson also caught two touchdown passes. Jamie Harry had two picks for the winners. Arruda finished with four interceptions on the day. The top Ravens offensively were Nathan Carter, with 19 carries for 126 yards and two TDs, and Dominic Walker, with six grabs for 127 yards and the early TD. Kene Onyeka led them defensively with a pair of sacks and four tackles for a loss. Pedro will head back to the U-of-O for the first time since 2013.
WESTERN 26 QUEEN’S 23
The Gaels almost pulled off the biggest upset in the country this season, letting a 23-13 lead get away in the game’s final seven minutes. Late TDs by Alex Taylor and Chris Merchant gave the Mustangs the win against their old ‘Big Four’ rivals. The Tricolour trailed 7-1 early, but led by a couple of rushing TDs by quarterback Nate Hobbs, rallied to take the lead before Western flexed its muscle. Hobbs threw for 361 yards, while Matteo Del Brocco led all receivers with six catches for 141 yards. The ‘Stangs Cedric Joseph rushed for 109 yards on 18 carries. Cameron Lawson of Queen’s had a big day defensively with three tackles for a loss and a pair of sacks, while Chris Ellis of Western was two and two in the same categories. There were 2,349 fans at Richardson Stadium, but few students, which was surprising given the rivalry between the two schools.
YORK 34 WATERLOO 32
Matt Dean blocked a 32-yard field-goal attempt in the dying seconds to preserve the Lions win. Tre Ford hit Gordon Lam with a 40-yard pass to give the Warriors a chance, but Dean’s heroics sealed it for York. The Lions led 26-7 late in the first half, but Waterloo stormed back to take a 31-26 lead. Brett Hunchak hit his brother Colton with a 5-yard TD with just under eight minutes left to restore the lead. Caleb Girard missed a 26-yard field goal that would have tied it, before having his late attempt blocked. He was one-for-four on the night. Hunchak passed for 292 yards and three TDs. Rossini Sandjone-Djabome had a sack and four tackles for a loss for York. Gordon Lam caught a dozen passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns for Waterloo, while Tyler Ternowski had 10 for 112 and a TD. A Homecoming crowd of 1,545 took in the game at YU.
WINDSOR 26 TORONTO 24
The Lancers erased a 21-0 deficit in their win over the Blues. Clark Green’s sixth field goal of the game was a 45-yarder with just 26 second left and gave the Lancers their first win of the season. Green set a new Lancers record with the six FGs. Sam Girard passed for 203 yards; 115 of which were to Kaeden Walls. The pair connected on Windsor’s only touchdown of the game. Marvin Gaynor rushed for 92 yards for the winners. Connor Ennis got the start for Varsity and set a career high with 358 passing yards and a pair of TDs. Will Corby was his main target with seven catches for 172 yards and one score. Malcolm Campbell had a huge day defensively for the Blues with 12.5 tackles, three tackles for a loss and a pair of sacks.