Guelph, Ont. – Both teams enter with matching records, but both are looking to earn the edge after Saturday. The Queen’s Gaels will head to Guelph to take on the Gryphons on homecoming weekend, and as the halfway point of the season arrives, this week’s Marquee Matchup, powered by Planters, will bring with it some serious playoff implications.
While both sides have played to two wins and two losses apiece, they have done so in very different ways. As has become customary to the Gaels, it has been their high-flying offence that has driven the team thus far, in wins and losses alike. The Gryphons, on the other hand, have relied heavily on their stout defence to give them a shot at the win in all four of their contests, setting up what should be a captivating head-to-head matchup.
After falling in double-overtime to the Carleton Ravens a week ago, Queen’s is aiming to get back in the win column in Guelph. Despite the loss, there were plenty of highs for the Gaels to bring into their tough road test, including their fifth-year signal caller. QB Nate Hobbs (Mississauga, Ont.) recorded his best game of the season to date, throwing for 352 yards to go along with 4 TDs. Three of those majors came on connections with Matteo Del Brocco (Kingsville, Ont.), bringing his second-ranked total to five on the year, and were certainly a key factor in the team’s 19 point comeback to force the extra frame.
Hoping to tame Hobbs and the potent Gaels offence is a Gryphons defence that has allowed just 16.5 points per game thus far. Spearheaded by the OUA’s top tackler Luke Korol (Dundas, Ont.), the Gryphons have been a beast when it comes to limiting their opposition; a talent that has translated to both the aerial and ground attacks. The home side ranks fourth in the OUA in yardage against in both categories, showcasing a knack for putting pressure on the quarterback (1st in OUA with 16 sacks) and making it tough for teams to move the ball with much consistency thus far.
It has been a slightly different story for the Gaels, meanwhile, who rank in the bottom half of the conference in several defensive categories. The young group will need to be on their toes to tackle the talented Gryphon run game, which has been a key point of differentiation for Guelph this season. The Gryphs’ rank third in the OUA with 193.3 yards per game and three scores on the ground - with quarterback Theo Landers (Maple Ridge, B.C.) doing much of this damage himself with almost 75 YPG – while the Tricolour are surrendering an average of 197 rushing yards per contest.
Beyond the run game, the Guelph offence has not been able to gain consistent momentum throughout the year. They currently rank seventh in the OUA with 21.0 PPG – well off their 2017 totals of over 36 per contest – compared to the over 35 PPG being scored by their homecoming opponents. For the Gryphons to take that next step offensively, they will certainly be looking for production like they got a week ago from Kade Belyk (Regina, Sask.), who picked up 97 yards and a touchdown in the team’s 26-20 win over Windsor, as well as those in previous games from the likes of Zeph Fraser (Mississauga, Ont.) and Kian Schaffer-Baker (Mississauga, Ont.).
Guelph won’t be the only one with established playmakers looking to make their mark in this mid-season clash; however, as the likes of Hobbs and Del Brocco will also be joined by their leading receiver Chris Osei-Kusi (Brampton, Ont.), who enters averaging over 86 yards per contest, along with Jake Puskas (Thunder Bay, Ont.), who has been the Gaels top rusher this season (52.3 YPG).
It will be a packed house ready to witness this mid-season tilt, with homecoming in full swing at the University of Guelph on Saturday. The game will take place at 1:00pm at Alumni Stadium, and for those who aren’t able to make it out, this heavyweight bout can be seen live on OUA.tv or via the app on Amazon Fire, Android TV, Apple TV, and Roku.