OUA In The Huddle - Week 6

OUA In The Huddle - Week 6

It's become quite a rivalry.

This Saturday, OUA's game of the year takes place as the No.4 McMaster Marauders (5-0) travel to London to face the No. 3 Western Mustangs (4-0).

The importance of the game itself is the main selling point, but there's more to it than that. Western - currently undefeated and the defending Yates Cup champion - is the program atop the OUA pyramid right now.

McMaster - currently undefeated and Yates Cup champion in 2011 and 2012 - is the program that Western dethroned as Ontario champs.

These two programs have been so good that since the turn of the century only the 2006 Yates Cup game between Ottawa and Laurier has been void of representation by either the Mustangs or Marauders.

The 'Stangs have gone fishing in McMaster waters on a couple of occasions and landed a couple of keepers. Western's Athletic Director Therese Quigley was at McMaster when they turned their program around in the late 1990s. It was Quigley, along with Dr. Peter George, who hired Greg Marshall to coach the team.

Marshall's record as a head coach at both schools has been nothing short of remarkable. After leaving the job as Western's offensive coordinator to take the head coaching job at McMaster in 1997, the Marauders won four consecutive Yates Cups between 2000-03. Since moving back as the head coach at his alma mater, Marshall has won four more Yates Cups in seven years.

But McMaster's greatest success - back-to-back appearances in the Vanier Cup and a win in the National Championship in 2011 - has come under the realm of head coach Stefan Ptaszek. Ptaszek has no connection to Western, but has recorded the hat trick against the Mustangs in Yates Cup finals.

In 1991, he beat them as a player. Ptaszek was a record-setting receiver for Laurier when the Golden Hawks downed the Mustangs 13-12. They would go on to win the Vanier Cup against Mount Allison.

Fourteen years later, Ptaszek was the offensive coordinator for the Hawks as they downed the Mustangs 29-11 en route to another Vanier Cup victory over Saskatchewan.

Then, as a head coach in 2011, Ptaszek's Marauders downed Western 41-19 to win the conference championship en route to a Vanier Cup win over Laval.

Marshall is, however, the constant in this picture. When McMaster enticed him to leave Western in '97, the Marauders were at the bottom of the heap. They were winless in eight games 1996, scoring a grand total of 35 points. He quickly had the Marauders offense singing, and it was a playoff game at Western that essentially changed the program's image around for good.

The Marauders hadn't seen playoff action in 14 seasons before they traveled to London in 1998. It wasn't supposed to be close, but the Marauders rode a 205-yard rushing performance by Chris Dorrington and cut the game score to 34-32 with a Dorrington touchdown in the dying seconds.

McMaster needed a two-point conversion to force overtime. They tossed the ball to Dorrington, who appeared to have a hole on the right side. He hit the hole, but the 'Stangs defence flowed to the ball and the tackle was made just shy of the goal line. McMaster fell two points short.

The game was the first of many key matchups between the two clubs over the last 15 seasons.

Marshall ended his coaching stint at McMaster with a record of 53-18-2 and those four consecutive Yates Cup wins. He's 56-15 so far at Western with four more Yates wins.

This week it's a match up between the two teams that most feel will find themselves back in the Yates Cup final, though Guelph and maybe a Cinderella school will have a say in things before all is said and done.

The 'O' Zone:

There's yet another angle to the McMaster/Western game. Marauders kicker Tyler Crapigna is just two field goals away from breaking the all-time OUA record of 77 set a year ago by Western's Lirim Hajrullahu. The CIS record is 82, set by Sherbrooke's William Dion.

Speaking of records, Windsor quarterback Austin Kennedy threw two more touchdown passes against York last week. He now has an OUA-leading ten on the season and 74 in his career. That leaves him third all-time in conference history and fifth in CIS history.

Josh Sacobie of Ottawa has the Ontario record with 79 career TD passes, while Danny Brannagan of Queen's is second with 77. St. Mary's legend Chris Flynn has the CIS record with 87.

The University of Toronto Blues play their 1,000th game this Saturday at Carleton. Of all of the games the school has participated in, the 1993 Vanier Cup final may have been the sweetest.

The university was looking to cut back on athletic costs in that era and the football program was in serious jeopardy. The Friends of Football group was founded that year to help offset costs. It in all likelihood saved the program and the Blues lived to see another day.

Boy, did they make the most of it.

Head coach Bob Laycoe's crew lost just once in the regular season, but avenged that loss to Western by defeating them in the Yates Cup final. Toronto would end up facing Calgary in the Vanier Cup, a game that would be decided on one of the most dramatic plays in the game's history.

Calgary trailed 37-34 late in the fourth quarter, but marched the ball to the Blues 15-yard line. The Dinos looked to send the game to overtime with just 10 seconds left, but Varsity's defensive lineman John Raposo blocked the kick and the Blues won the Vanier Cup.

It was the ultimate rags to riches story, now just one of a thousand game stories in Blues history.

The Queen's Gaels are 0-5. That just seems wrong.

Dillon Campbell had an off day, at least by his lofty standards. He rushed for 176 yards against Carleton, remarkably his lowest total of the season. Through four games he has 850 yards rushing, just 17 shy of his OUA-leading total of a year ago, and 311 more than Guelph's Rob Farquharson has this season and he is second in the CIS.

Many thanks to Dan Polischuk, Justin Fauteux and everyone behind the scenes on the Laurier Golden Hawks broadcast crew. Heading back to the booth for halftime and the third quarter was a blast, though my apologies are in order for completely butchering a couple of names.

I hadn't been in that booth since 2006, but it was obvious some things never change. I was attacked by a couple of bees, one Carleton coach almost knocked himself out by hitting his head on the low door frame, and I had a blast calling OUA football.

Calling CFL games is a thrill. The football is tremendous, the travel is a bonus, and I'm calling games on the radio for a team that I've been a fan of since I started watching the league as a kid. That said, there's something really special about OUA.

The calibre of play is far greater than most give it credit for, and those involved in the game are also top notch. The commitment shown by those involved who are not getting rich, but who genuinely love the sport is to be commended.

Saturday showed that I missed calling OUA games even more than I thought, and I didn't think that was possible.

Mike Hogan's opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ontario University Athletics.

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