Burlington, Ont. (by Mike Hogan) - If you think of the dominant teams in the OUA, each one has an identity. Western? A deep, powerful scoring machine. Waterloo has an incredible offence, but a shaky defence. Laurier is a defensive monster with an elite running game. Guelph is a defensive beast.
But how exactly does one define the McMaster Marauders?
The easy answer is that they’re a really good team, 5-2 in the standings, and can clinch a first-round playoff bye if they can beat Waterloo this Saturday at Ron Joyce Stadium in Mac’s Homecoming game.
If you delve a little deeper, trying to find a way to define the Marauders, you still may not find an answer. Even their head coach isn’t sure.
“We’re not as clearly defined as some of the other teams,” admitted Stefan Ptaszek. “The good news is we’ve found ways to win on offence, and we’ve found ways to win on defence.”
That answer alone may best define the maroon and grey. They’re a well-coached team that has no real weaknesses and could finish second in a very deep conference.
They are not, however, flawless. They struggled early at York and couldn’t put away Toronto until late in the game. They also lost last week at Carleton. The first two of those teams will miss the playoffs this year, while Carleton needs to win to play in the postseason.
That doesn’t mean the Ravens are a bad team; rather it is a reflection of how deep the OUA has become.
“They had their back up against the wall,” said Ptaszek of the team that just defeated them 35-30. “It was a desperate team that had 29 points at halftime. We did nothing disastrously wrong; we were making subtle mistakes up front. I’m not sure how they were 2-4.”
This week, the Marauders take on the high-flying Warriors, a team that leads the country in scoring, averaging 39 points per game. Their problem is they surrender an average of 36 points per game, with only Windsor allowing more points nationally.
“It’s a nice balance,” Ptaszek said of the Waterloo offence. “They’re running a very efficient program. Their tailback (Dion Pellerin) is among the best in the country. Combine that with their spread formation, with a zone read, and if they call something that’s not going to work, he (quarterback Tre Ford) can make it work on his own.”
McMaster’s quarterback has had a very successful season himself, though he gets lost in a very large shadow cast by Ford and Western’s Chris Merchant. Andreas Dueck is second in the country, averaging 315 passing yards per game. His 179 completions are the most in Canada, and he’s thrown 13 TDs against just six interceptions, the exact same numbers as Ford.
Dueck’s coach is thrilled with the play he’s getting at such a key position.
“First of all, he’s a great kid,” Ptaszek told In The Huddle. “He’s a leader. He’s super smart. He’s the first guy in and the last out. He watches more film than anyone, including most of the coaches, and it shows. He’s really good at going through his progressions and reads. He doesn’t get a ton of time and gets the ball out quickly.”
His play has been a major reason why the Marauders have been so successful and why his coach is in such a good place right now.
“I’m happy where we are,” confessed Ptaszek. “We need to beat Waterloo to get into a position to go on a one-game winning streak to get to the Yates Cup.”
That won’t be easy. Kickoff time for what promises to be a highly entertaining game is 1:00pm.
Time to get out the calculators. If Western, Laurier, Waterloo and Toronto win, there will be five teams at 5-3. McMaster could finish second or sixth.
For a detailed look at the playoff possibilities, click here.
LAURIER 53, WATERLOO 50 (3OT)
The Battle of Waterloo provided a game that will be remembered for an extremely long time. Laurier jumped out to a 12-0 lead and never trailed until overtime. OUA Offensive Player of the Week Tre Ford tied it up at 33-all with a TD run and a two-point conversion with 4:30 left in regulation. The Warriors would begin their final drive on their own 42-yard line with 26 seconds left. The first pass was a perfect hook and lateral, where Gordon Lam caught the ball 10 yards downfield, then tossed it to Tyler Ternowski, who took it 25 yards to set up a 41-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the game, but Laurier’s Alfred Green blocked it. The teams traded TDs on the first four possessions, but Laurier held the Warriors to a FG in the third overtime, before Brentyn Hall caught a 3-yard TD pass for the win. It was Hall’s second TD of OT, finishing with eight catches for 165 yards on the day. Levondre Gordon (159) and Kevin Wong (109) each rushed for over 100 yards for Laurier, who finished with 386 on the ground. Connor Carusello passed for just 208 yards, but had three touchdown throws with no interceptions. Ford passed for 351 yards and two TDs, rushing for 135 yards with three scores. Dion Pellerin finished with 102 yards. Ternowski caught seven passes for 131 yards. The teams combined for 1,154 yards of offence. How cool would a playoff rematch be?
GUELPH 27, QUEEN’S 24 (OT)
The other Thursday game was also a nail biter. Eric Stranz kicked a 26-yard field goal in the first overtime for the win. He had missed a 47-yarder on the final play of regulation to send the game into OT. There were five lead changes in the game. Queen’s had the lead until midway through the fourth quarter when Theo Landers hit Kiondre Smith for a 25-yard score. Landers passed for 224 yards and two interceptions to go along with the Smith major. Juwan Jeffries torched the Gaels for 150 yards, while A.J. Allen was a force defensively with two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss. James Keenan took most of the snaps for Queen’s, finishing with 143 passing yards, adding 95 more on the ground. Ben Arhen had 114 receiving yards and a TD. Defensively for Queen’s, Nolan Bedard had 11 tackles, while Tyler Roy had a day to remember with 4.5 sacks and as many TFLs. The loss eliminated the Gaels from playoff contention.
CARLETON 35, McMASTER 30
Carleton scored 29 points in the first half and held on to beat the Marauders, keeping their playoff hopes alive in the process. Phil Iloki had a pair of TD catches in the first half and would finish with eight grabs for 137 yards. Josh Ferguson rushed for 187 yards and a pair of majors. Andreas Dueck spread the ball around for Mac, connecting with 10 different receivers en route to a 334-yard, three TD, one INT performance. McMaster fumbled three times, losing the ball on each occasion. Ravens Trevor Hoyte was named the OUA’s Defensive Player of the Week. He recorded eight solo tackles and forced a fumble. McMaster scored a late TD, then recovered an onside kick with 1:22 remaining, but Cedrick Lavigne’s interception sealed the deal.
YORK 34, TORONTO 14
It took until their penultimate game of the season, but York earned it’s first win, and did so against its biggest rival. The Lions defeated the Toronto Varsity Blues 34-14 in the 50th Red and Blue Bowl, with the winners receiving the Argo Cup. York took the lead late in the first quarter and never looked back. Jacob Janke’s 47-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the third quarter essentially put the game out of reach. The Lions held the high-flying Blues offence to just 203 passing yards and 91 rushing yards. Brett Hunchak passed for 271 yards in the win. To celebrate the 50th anniversary, each fan was given a piece of birthday cake. In The Huddle strongly recommends every OUA team offers this to fans at each game going forward. Just sayin’.
OTTAWA 54, WINDSOR 26
The Gee-Gees scored 31-consectuve points to open the fourth quarter and blew open what had been a close game through 45 minutes. The Lancers led 16-13 at halftime, while Ottawa was up 23-19 after three quarters. Matt Mahler entered the game at QB in the third quarter and led the team to three TDs and a field goal in his five drives. He went 5/8 for 85 yards and a touchdown. Sam Girard passed for 334 yards and two TDs with one interception in a losing effort. Marvin Gaynor rushed for 116 yards for Windsor, Jordan Burgher 161 with a TD for Ottawa. With Windsor out of the playoffs and having a bye this week, Chris Osei-Kusi’s final OUA game was a six-catch, 110-yard effort. Ottawa’s Kevin Victome blocked a field-goal attempt and forced a fumble on a kickoff return, both in the third quarter. He was named the OUA’s Special Teams Player of the Week.