Posted: Sep 19, 2013
At 2-2, McMaster has a lot on the line heading into Saturday’s nationally televised game. A loss drops the reigning two-time Yates Cup champions below .500 for the second time this season and will be the first three-loss season since 2008. Having already lost to No. 2 Western and No. 3 Queen’s, their status as the OUA’s top team is in jeopardy. Does a loss to No. 6 Guelph relegate McMaster out of the OUA elite?
“A loss means a best case (scenario) of 5-3, which is the middle of the pack and a long shot – a wild card – for the Yates Cup,” McMaster’s head coach Stefan Ptaszek said. “(That’s) not where we perceived ourselves and we’ll have to look in the mirror because that’s where we are if we lose.”
A win propels Mac to 3-2 and an easier October (vs. Waterloo, Laurier and Carleton) gives the Marauders a legitimate shot at a 6-2 finish.
The story out of Guelph is quite different. The Gryphons are undefeated through three games, but have their own questions to answer. Without a win over an established OUA power, they aren’t garnering the respect reserved for Queen’s, Western or even McMaster. Add in the fact that the Gryphs have lost six straight to the Maruaders dating back to the 2007 playoffs. Mac is Guelph’s white whale and a win is long overdue.
“As a head coach they are the only team I haven’t beaten,” Guelph head coach Stu Lang said.
Aside from personal satisfaction, a win helps Guelph towards a home playoff game and establishing themselves as a top team. A loss fuels the league speculation that Guelph’s record is the product of an easy schedule. On top of that, Saturday is Guelph’s Homecoming and upwards of 13,000 fans are expected.
Given the implications, there’s no lack of intrigue from either side.
Both teams are riding wins into Saturday’s tilt. McMaster beat the York Lions 41-27 while Guelph beat the the U of T Varsity Blues 38-12. Both Lang and Ptaszek liked what they saw from their starting pivots.
Lang praised QB Jazz Lindsey (Markham, Ont.) for his breakthrough game against Toronto, sparking the stagnant Guelph offence.
“(QB) Jazz (Lindsey) is rolling into season form,” Lang said. “He threw four touchdown passes, but like he always does, he minimizes and eliminates mistakes and doesn’t give their team an opportunity to take advantage. He’s very thoughtful in his approach to the game.”
Lindsey (Markham, Ont.) opened up the Varsity Blues for 297 yards and four touchdowns, a huge improvement over his first two weeks, earning Porter Airlines player of the game honours. Lindsey threw two touches to his brother Saxon Lindsey (Markham, Ont.) who caught for 108 yards on nine catches.
His counterpart on Saturday, Marshall Ferguson (Kingston, Ont.), threw for five scores with no interceptions against York. Ferguson finished with 269 yards, but Ptaszek was impressed with his composure on the field, especially after a tight first half.
“Our offence caught some rhythm in the second half,” the coach said. “That is as comfortable as (Ferguson’s) looked for 30 minutes. Now I’m pressing to get that for a full game and work on establishing a run.”
McMaster’s strength is their air attack, especially their receiving corps. Rookie Daniel Vandervoort (Barrie, Ont.), also known as the “Flying Dutchman,” is third in the league with 398 receiving yards and is averaging 99.5 yards per game. He already has five touchdowns and is quickly becoming Ferguson’s favourite target. Mike DiCroce (Hamilton, Ont.) has been stellar when he has played, but is battling an injury and is a game day decision for McMaster.
Without an established running game, Ptaszek worries that the constant passing could get predictable, especially against a tough Guelph defence. The Gryphs sacked Windsor QB Austin Kennedy (Windsor, Ont.) 10 times, intercepted Toronto four times and leads the league in pass defence, allowing 193 yards per game. McMaster’s main threat isn’t on the ground, but the maroon will need to establish a run game to keep Guelph’s defence honest. Kasean Davis-Reynolds (Mississauga, Ont.) will run the rock for McMaster as James Hill (Hamilton, Ont.) sits out with an injury.
“If we can keep them honest, I like our chances getting after that young secondary,” Ptaszek said. “Our receiving corps is one of the best in the conference.”
Statistically, Guelph’s ground game isn’t much better than McMasters’ (135 yards per game vs. 111), but the Gryphs all-star running back Rob Farquharson (Niagara Falls, Ont.) has recovered from his injury and will be in the lineup on Saturday. Last season, Farquharson ran for 936 yards (averaging 117 per game) and seven touchdowns and finished as the third-best running back in the CIS. The addition of Farquharson immediately adds a new dimension to Guelph’s offence and is bad news for McMaster, who will play without all-Canadians Matt Sewell (Milton, Ont.) and Joey Cupido (Hamilton, Ont.) and possibly DiCroce and Tyler Loveday (Kitchener, Ont.).
There’s also the Homecoming and crowd factor to consider heading into Saturday’s action. Ptaszek knows that Guelph is a tough place to play on a regular day, let alone Homecoming with an enlarged Alumni Stadium.
For the fans in the stands, the gates to Alumni Stadium open at 11:30 a.m. and Guelph Homecoming regulars, 'Toast & Jam' will take to the stage at 11:40 for a pre-game concert.
Lang is preparing his players for the noise by blaring loud music during the Gryphs practices, but nothing sounds sweeter for either team than the final whistle after a win. Tune in to Sportsnet 360 at 1 p.m. for all of the live action, presented by Pioneer Energy.
50 completions, 93 attempts, 609 yards, 5 TDs
5 completions, 12 attempts, 64 yards
38 carries, 204 yards
29 carries, 122 yards
18 catches, 201 yards, 2 TDs
13 catches, 185 yards
16.5 tackles, 11 solo tackles
15 tackles, 10 solo tackles, 2 sacks
13 tackles, 11 solo tackles, 5 sacks
117 completions, 177 attempts, 1392 yards, 11 TDs
37 carries, 196 yards, 1 touchdown
29 carries, 152 yards
20 catches, 398 yards, 5 touchdowns
24 catches, 267 yards, 2 touchdowns
22.5 tackles, 21 solo tackles, 1 interception
21 tackles, 20 solo tackles
19.5 tackles, 18 solo tackles
Other football broadcasts this weekend:
Rogers – Waterloo Region
Sat. Sept. 21 @ 1 p.m. – OUA Football/Western @ Laurier TAPE DELAY (TBD)
Rogers – Ottawa
Sat. Sept. 21 @ 1 p.m. - OUA Football/York @ Carleton LIVE