Semi-Final Preview: Guelph @ Western

Taylor hurdle attempt

Western RB Alex Taylor makes the mistake of trying to hurdle Gryphon DB Mikey Carney

I remember being happy back in 2008 and 2009 that the Gryphons were in an OUA Quarter-final game. This year that was a disappointment. Only now that the Gryphons have advanced to the semi-final does it really feel like the playoffs to me.

Maybe that is partly because I totally expected Guelph to win last week. I still expect Guelph to win this week but you have to feel a lot more apprehensive about it. After all, Western is 8-0 and the #2-ranked team in the country.

Talking about expectations, Mustangs head coach Greg Marshall said in his post-game comments after the Labour Day game that he expected to play the Gryphons again in the playoffs. And here we are …

Game Previews & Related Links

Gryphon.ca: PREVIEW: Gryphons vs Mustangs in OUA Semi-Final

“It’s win or go home,” Guelph head coach Kevin MacNeill says.

High stakes, for sure, but for the streaking Gryphons, there is plenty of incentive to manufacture a playoff upset on the very field where they lifted the 2015 Yates Cup. The team has won six of the past seven games, including last week’s one-sided 30-8 Quarter-final road win against the Ottawa Gee-Gees. The Gryphons have shown they can play with anyone.

WesternMustangs.ca has an article and video interviews – Mustangs set for OUA Semifinal showdown with Gryphons

The Mustangs and Gryphons have played tightly contested games over the last few years, including the postseason; Guelph bested the Mustangs in the 108th Yates Cup and are the last team to defeat Western in a semifinal, having done it in 2014. The match between these two teams in the regular season went to overtime and saw the Mustangs come out with a 41-34 victory …  Although it was a high scoring contest, it was also the smallest margin of victory the Mustangs have had all season …

From the OUA.ca website, Mike Hogan’s OUA In The Huddle – Week 10 column …

A handful of years ago, In The Huddle had a discussion with Guelph head coach Stu Lang. The Gryphons were preparing for a playoff game where they were a decided underdog.

Lang is a man of faith. When asked if he used any religious parables with his team, perhaps the story of David and Goliath, the coach responded with a classic line.

He said he had, comparing his team to the young man who felled a giant with a slingshot before adding, “This year we’re bringing the stones.”

Fast forward to the present, where Kevin MacNeill finds himself preparing for a game in which his Gryphs are underdogs …

USports.ca website: Weekend Watch: Conference Semifinals

No. 8 Guelph (6-3) at No. 2 Western (8-0)

The skinny: Western was the only undefeated team in the country during the regular season and has now qualified for the playoffs every year since 1984… Guelph, which opened the 2017 post-season last Saturday with a 30-8 quarter-final win at Ottawa, is making its sixth straight playoff appearance… The Mustangs have won 10 of 16 previous playoff confrontations but the Gryphons have taken the last two in 2015 (23-17 Yates Cup win at London) and 2014 (51-26 semifinal win at Guelph)… Guelph was Western’s toughest opponent in the 2017 regular season

And here is an outside perspective on the game, from a new blog that covers OUA and USport football, with a focus on offensive line play – Western Vs Guelph: OUA Semi’s.

What really stood out to me was when Guelph needed to run the ball on running downs, the UoG OL took over the game. Augustine had one of those days where his duties running the ball ended by the middle of the 2nd quarter.

… I really like how Guelph has started to incorporate a power running game, and they were efficient using an H-back (or Dlineman). While this is something that bothers me as an offensive line evaluator, it is something that Guelph’s OC is trying to accomplish …

… A key note I have about the Ottawa game is the use of Landers at QB. He only ran the ball when he got his select snaps. Of these snaps, all they ran were Quarterback power running plays, or a QB counter/power read. In essence Landers pulled, or kept the ball every time.

western-mustangs-vs-guelph

My Thoughts on the Game

I don’t think the Gryphons are as big underdogs as many people suggest.

The veterans on this team have already beaten Western three times in their careers. They were probably underdogs in all those games. I don’t think the Gryphons will be the least bit intimidated.

I don’t doubt that the defense will be ready to play and give the team a chance to win. I’m optimistic that the offense will produce. And, if there was any doubt, they proved in Week 2 they could play with the Mustangs.

James Roberts had one of his best games ever in that Week 2 match-up. In fact, he was having an excellent season prior to his injury in the Homecoming game. He was good last week and I think he will kick that up a notch in his second game back. I don’t think there is as much pressure on Roberts now that the Gryphons have a running game that really was non-existent in Week 2.

The Gryphons have dealt with many challenges and come a long way since Labour Day. They have at is the result of personnel changes, the O-Line gelling and  I think they are in a good position to win.

* I have more to say (surprise!) but I’m headed out the door to the Tiger-Cats game in 10 minutes. Hopefully, I can add to this later tonight.

Recent Series History

Guelph has had competitive games with Western for the last decade but that changed in 2016 with a surprisingly one-sided game at Guelph’s Homecoming. But the fact this season’s game went to overtime suggests that result was an outlier. The past decade has included a 5-game losing streak from 2008 to 2011 and a 4-game winning streak from 2012 to 2015.  Western leads the all-time series 46-15-12.

There hasn’t been a Yates Cup since 2006 without one of these teams in it and that will be true again this year.

Flush the Mustangs

2017 – 41-34 OT Western
2016 – 50-16 Western
2015 – 23-17  Guelph [Yates Cup]
2014 – 51-26  Guelph [Semi-final]
2014 – 49-46  Guelph
2013 – did not play
2012 – 42-39  Guelph
2011 –  33-29  Western
2010 –  15-8  Western
2009 –  41-39  Western
2008 –  47-16  Western
2007 –  31-17  Guelph

Broadcast Options

TV:  Live on Rogers Cable 20 (Waterloo Region, Guelph, Brantford & Stratford) & Rogers Cable 13 (London)

Radio: Newstalk 1290 CJBK, including pre- & post-game coverage

Online: www.oua.tv

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More on Gryphons Q-Final win

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Gryphons wrap up GeeGee running back     Photo:MeganPickett

The Gryphon defense held Ottawa’s offense to 10 total yards on their first three drives of the game. That, matched with 20 1st Q points by the offense, set the tone of the game.

The Gryphons essentially won the game in that first quarter and I think the Gee-Gees knew it. They didn’t have the will to fight back that we saw from Carleton a week earlier when the Ravens were fighting for their playoff lives.

With their 30-8 win in the quarter-final the Gryphons avenged one of their early season overtime losses. They now move on to face the Western Mustangs this Saturday with the chance to avenge the other OT loss. It is a game I’m very excited for. I have already started on the preview.

Players of the Game

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Read the full story on Gryphons.ca.

Picking up OUA Player of the Week honours were Luke Korol [Defense] and Gabriel Ferraro [Special Teams].

Highlights

Another Game Recap

From the USports.ca site – Monday Morning Quarterback

In the other OUA quarterfinal, the Gryphons were all over the Gee-Gees from the opening whistle, scoring 20 unopposed points in the first quarter and never looking back. Guelph running back Johnny Augustine collected 151 yards on 21 carries, while quarterback James Roberts completed 10 of 19 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. It was Roberts’ first game since he was injured Sept. 23 against McMaster. Gryphons’ kicker Gabriel Ferraro, who set the the U SPORTS single-season record last week with 33 successful field goals during the regular season, also made five of his six field-goal attempts on the day.

Photo Gallery

Check out the photos at Gryphons.ca/galleries

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The Gryphons moved up to #8 in the USports Top10

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Gryphons handle Ottawa, advance to face Western

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Photos: Megan Pickett

Any playoff win is a good win, No question about that.

It is always better to win convincingly which the Gryphons did. But there are still some issues. You would like to see the Gryphon offense score more than two offensive touchdowns in a game they dominated. But there were also lots of positives …

  • It was great to see QB James Roberts back and looking good. He completed 10 of 19 passes for 147 yards while sharing snaps with Theo Landers.
  • Roberts started and took the majority of snaps but using both QBs worked well. Landers did not throw a pass but rushed for 62 yards on just 7 carries.
  • Johnny Augustine led all rushers with 151 yards on 21 carries, yet he spent a good part of the game working as a slot receiver. That meant Brandon Gordon saw more action than he has all year and he produced with 80 yards on 12 carries.
  • Receivers Jacob Scarfone and Jordan Terrio each caught multiple passes and scored a TD.
  • Gabriel Ferraro was his normal self hitting 6 of 7 FG attempts including a long of 47.
  • The defense looked dominant, limiting the Gee-Gees to 276 net yards. Job Reinhart, Luke Korol, Orion Edwards and Derek Drouillard each made 6 or more tackles.
  • The D had 6 sacks for -44 yards. Those are their best numbers since Week 1.
  • Former DT Lukas Brennan saw more reps at H-Back than last week and continued to look good. I think we will continue to see more of him.
  • The Gryphons did not punt until there was just 6:47 left in the 1st Half.
  • One thing that hasn’t been mentioned with all the talk about Gabriel Ferraro’s record-setting season is the solid play of his holder and long snapper. They are Mikey Carney and Job Reinhart. The kicker gets most of the credit but his work is really just one part a process. Ferraro isn’t this successful unless Carney and Reinhart are doing their jobs almost flawlessly.

Game Stories & Related Links

Gryphons.ca: Guelph eliminates Ottawa in convincing 30-8 playoff win

There wasn’t much doubt about the outcome with the Gryphons producing one of their best performances of the season. But the Gee-Gees did have a couple chances to get back in the game in the fourth quarter. At 29-8, Ottawa was deep in Guelph territory and went for it on third down, only to be denied by a timely Alain Cimankinda sack. On another possession later in the fourth, the Gee-Gees faked a field goal attempt but Guelph defenders swarmed the ball carrier before reaching the first-down marker to kill the drive.

The experienced Gryphons defence was stellar. They demoralized the Ottawa offence, limiting rookie quarterback Alex Lavric to 118 passing yards. Veteran running back Bryce Vieira led all Gee-Gees rushers with 38 yards and the hosts had just 278 yards of total offence.

There isn’t anything noteworthy in this GeeGees.ca game recap, in my opinion, but you judge for yourself – Gee-Gees season comes to an end.

OUA website: Box Score and Game Stats

The top plays in the game from a Gee-Gees perspective …

More Tidbits

Guelph’s offensive line was dominant throughout the game. They paved the way for a 300-yard rushing game and allowed just 1 sack. I’m not the only one who noticed. The Gee-Gees broadcasters summarized it pretty well for me …

That O-Line is really winning the battles in the trenches for the Gryphons.

Also, in the 1st Half …

You have to give credit to the Guelph O-Line. They have been doing a fantastic job today.

And in the 2nd Half …

In terms of the game in the trenches Guelph has been DOMINATING. Their O-Line has just been absolutely dominating this Gee-Gees D-Line. It’s not even a contest.

If there is one position where the Gee-Gees are a little undersized it is the defensive tackle positions. Their DTs are relatively young and tall while only weighing about 250 pounds.

Compare that with Guelph’s starters at DT – 3rd yr player Greg Corfield at 330 pounds and true freshman Sandor Mod at 275. The more I watch Corfield the more I think he deserves to be an OUA All Star. Mod is a shoe-in to be named to the OUA All Rookie team.

As I watched the game I couldn’t help but wondering why DE Alain Cimankinda wasn’t playing more. According to the announcers, they had learned before the game that he wasn’t 100% healthy and was close to being a “scratch”. Cimankinda originally hurt his ankle against Mac. He recorded 1-1/2 sacks in limited action Saturday.

postgame QF at uO.jpg

 

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Quarter-final preview: Guelph @ Ottawa

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I’m not going to make the return trip to Ottawa this week. Too far to drive. Too many things that need to be done around the house. I have my fingers crossed that the OUA.tv feed works as it should.

Besides that, the last two times the Gryphons played the GeeGees in Ottawa I was there in the rain. Guess what the weather forecast is for tomorrow? A chance of rain in the afternoon.

Kidding aside, the weather should actually be pretty nice for this time of year – 18 degrees and mostly sunny.

My Quick Thoughts

Guelph has built up some momentum over their last 3 games, all wins. Ottawa enters the game coming off a 63-10 beat-down at the hands of the Western Mustangs.

Looking at their 2017 schedule and results, it appears to me that Ottawa’s best win of the year was their first one – i.e. that double OT win over the Gryphons. Guelph has one loss [Western in OT] and 5 wins that were all better than their Week 1 performance against the GeeGees.

QB Theo Landers has played well in his 3 starts in place of injured starter James Roberts. While he hasn’t produced gaudy stats two numbers jump out at me … Landers is averaging 96 rushing yards per game … and after throwing 5 INTs in his first 3 appearances (one start), he hasn’t thrown a pick in the past two games.

The Gryphon defense has faced most of the OUA’s top rushers – Nathaniel Carter, Levondre Gordon, Alex Taylor and Tre Ford – and held all of them to less than 100 yards per game. Still, Ottawa running back Bryce Vieira, who only managed 30 yards on 13 carries in the first matchup, still scares me. Vieira is very dangerous in the open field whether it be running the ball or with a short pass.

I figure Guelph is 10-14 points better than Ottawa but I don’t think a win tomorrow is a sure thing. What I worry about are turnovers, explosive plays and failure to score TDs when in the red zone. Limit those things and the Gryphons will be playing in an OUA semi-final next Saturday.

Game Previews

Gryphons.ca: Preview: Gryphons vs Gee-Gees in OUA quarter-final

GUELPH – It’s incredible how things change over the course of two months. In late August, the Guelph Gryphons football team was lamenting a double-overtime loss on their own turf to the Ottawa Gee-Gees in the OUA season opener. The pain was evident on the Gryphons’ faces, and the result was not the way they had hoped to kick off a new campaign.

Eight weeks later, fortunes have changed. Guelph, ranked No. 9 in the country, has won five of its past six games to erase the memories of an 0-2 start. As the Gryphons head to Ottawa for the second week in a row, this time for an OUA Quarter-final and rematch with those same Gee-Gees at 1pm on Saturday, the team is in a much different place.

This is a sad state of affairs but here is everything I can find on this game at GeeGees.ca

Gee-Gees football (5-3) finished with the fourth seed in the OUA playoffs and will be playing their first home playoff game in six years on Saturday. The team takes on Guelph (5-3) and after the last two matchups between the teams were decided in overtime, it promises to be a thriller of a game. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Gee-Gees Field, the game will be broadcast live on OUA.tv.

That’s it. No actual preview. And nothing on their social media unless you count this …

I doesn’t make sense to me why GeeGees.ca wouldn’t at least share the link to this OUA website preview – Quarterfinal Preview: GUE vs OTT

… the Gee-Gees offense was inconsistent moving the ball in 2017. Ottawa rushed for just two touchdowns, while adding an average of just over one passing TD per game as well. But while the team’s tenth ranked yards per game (338.3) and eighth-ranked points per game (23.8) average didn’t tip the scales toward a playoff berth, their top-tier impression on defence was certainly a standout; something they have in common with their opponent this weekend.

On the defensive side of the ball, the teams put up similar numbers in many categories. Guelph does have the edge in points per game allowed (24.5) and yards per game allowed (368.8), but it is Ottawa that has been able to make the big time plays on D. To go along with their six fumble recoveries, the Gee-Gees snatched an OUA-leading 13 interceptions and three defensive touchdowns; something that any offence must be on the lookout for.

OUA website: Quarterfinal 55-man rosters

The series since 2007

This series has shifted. There were close games in 2007 & 2008. Then it was rather one-sided in favour of Ottawa from 2009 to 2011. The teams did not meet in 2012 or 2013. The tide turned strongly in favour of the Gryphons for two years. Things couldn’t have been closer than a pair of games decided in double OT.

2017 – 24-21 (2OT) Ottawa
2016 – 31–28 (2OT) Ottawa
2015 – 48 – 26 Guelph
2014 – 42 – 7  Guelph
2011 – 35 – 8  Ottawa
2010 – 54 – 11 Ottawa
2009 – 50 – 26 Ottawa
2008 – OUA quarter-final – 42 – 37  Ottawa
2007 – 31 – 23 Ottawa

Broadcast

The only place to watch the game live is OUA.tv.

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Another comeback win for Gryphons

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Johnny Augustine  runs to daylight as #60 Colin Jerome pancakes a Raven LB    Photo:MeganPickett

That was a very entertaining game! I’m glad I made the trip to Ottawa to see it.

The Gryphons looked strong early, with a pair of 7-play drives that resulted in field goals and a 6-0 lead. But Carleton impressed me with their resolve. They appeared to be a team that wasn’t going to give up without a fight. That totally makes sense with their playoff lives on the line.

The Ravens held an edge in play through the 2nd Q and on their first drive of the 3rd. At that point they enjoyed a 13-point lead.  But after that the Gryphons re-established their dominance.

The 2nd Q had been little more than 4- and 6-play drives sandwiching a string of 2-&-outs. But, in the 2nd Half the Gryphons put together scoring drives of 11 plays, 7 plays, 9 plays, 7 plays, 11 plays, 7 plays and 3 plays.

Early in the 4th Q, I tweeted this …

Then, this …

It was an 11-play, 86-yard drive that resulted in the Gryphons first TD in three weeks. It was also the Gryphons second 11-play drive of the half.

In my mind, I knew the Gryphons had the game won at that point.

 

Game recaps and related links

Gryphons.ca: Ferraro’s record-setting performance leads Gryphons past Ravens

On Saturday afternoon at MNP Park in Ottawa, the Gryphons wrapped up their 2017 regular season with a 28-23 come-from-behind victory over the Carleton Ravens. Guelph trailed 22-9 late in the 3rd quarter before closing out the game by outscoring the Ravens 19-1 to secure the victory. Gryphons’ fourth year kicker Gabe Ferraro set a career-high by going a perfect seven-for-seven on field goal attempts

GoRavens.ca: Guelph puts end to Ravens post-season dreams

OUA website: Box Score and Game Stats

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Players of the Game

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Full story on Gryphons.ca – Gryphon Players of the Game

… Gabe Ferraro emphatically capped off the greatest single-season by a place kicker by going a perfect 7-for-7 on field goal attempts in a 28-23 victory over the Carleton Ravens. Three of Ferraro’s seven field goals on Saturday were of the long range variety, with makes of 45, 48 and 49. The seven made field goals ties the OUA record for most made field goals in a single game, but that was far from the most significant record set by Ferraro on the weekend. With his seven made field goals, Gabe finishes the regular season with a new U SPORTS single-season record of 33 made field goals. He surpasses the previous mark of 26, set in 2014 by his older brother and current kicking coach, Daniel Ferraro.

Ferraro was also named the Gryphon Male Athlete of the We. I will be shocked if he isn’t also the OUA and USports Special Teams Player of the Week. Update: He was. Dotun Aketepe was also named the OUA Defensive Player of the Week.

What isn’t mentioned often enough is that Ferraro made a potentially game-saving tackle in the 4th Q. He brought down a Carleton returner at Guelph’s 19-yd line thus preventing what could have been a 108-yd KO return TD.

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Turnovers: Zero for the Gryphons. One interception by Guelph’s Dotun Aketepe. A second year player, Aketepe made his third consecutive start in the Gryphons secondary.

Penalties: The Gryphons took 5 for 45 yards. Those are good numbers! Possibly the best in several years.

QB Play: It was nice to see that Landers had another “clean” game from a turnover perspective though there were a couple of passes that the Ravens had a chance to pick.

Landers also had several more passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage. He may be 6’2″ but he has a low release point and tends to throw darts rather than put a lot arc on the ball. It’s an issue but not something that you can change mid-season. I’m just vary happy he isn’t making a lot of the mistakes that a QB without much game experience could make.

O-Line Play: The offensive line has really come together as the season progressed. This is a unit with no 5th year players and only one 4th year player [Andrew Pickett]. The others are in their 2nd or 3rd years of eligibility.

H-Back: We saw a new wrinkle as DL Lukas Brennan [6’4″ 265] made his debut at H-Back. It was hard not to notice him with his #91 moving about the offensive backfield. He played in a couple of series in the 4th Q and was very effective. I hope to see more of him at that position.

O-Line H-back

H-Back #91 Lukas Brennan & #62 Andrew Pickett                 Photo:MeganPickett

 

 

Recruits: It was a road game but that didn’t stop at least one recruit from coming out to watch the Gryphons. The prospect in question is a CEGEP player who was previously committed to Guelph but won’t announce publicly until after his CEGEP team’s season is complete.

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The Gryphons remain ranked #9 in the FRC USports Top 10 …

But they move into the KCU ranking for the first time this season …

 

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Some sad news today for the Gryphon family

Former Gryphon All Canadian offensive lineman, and coach, Jeff Hale lost his battle with brain cancer yesterday. We knew this was coming but it is still saddening when you hear the news.

Hale fought the good fight against his cancer diagnosis for almost six years. Hale leaves behind his wife Robin and two sons – Nick and Calvin.

If you were at Gryphon Football’s Wildman Dinner back in January, you would have heard Nick and Calvin bring a message from their father. The award given out each year to a top high school coach in Ontario was re-named in Jeff Hale’s honour. His wife and two of his sisters also attended.

Over his Gryphon career Hale was named a team captain twice – 1979 & 1982, and he was an OUAA All Star in both 1981 and 1982. In 1981 he was also selected as an All Canadian. Following his playing career Hale remained with the Gryphons for two seasons assisting with the coaching of the offensive line. Hale, who now lives in Orillia, has spent the past thirty or so years with the Ontario Provincial Police.

1981 vs Western

#69 Jeff Hale manhandling a Mustang defender

Hale was a long-time community football coach with the Huronia Stallions after his playing and coaching years in Guelph were done.

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I’ve written about Hale’s courageous fight with cancer previously, including back in 2014 when I shared this  …

The past two and a half years of Hale’s life have been engaged in a battle of another sort – the fight against cancer. Hale has been through two sessions of chemotherapy and one of radiation treatment. Hale begins another six weeks of radiation in January. As always Hale is still fighting with all he’s got. No doubt he would appreciate the prayers of the Guelph family, as well as words of encouragement from his Gryphon brothers.

Hale thanked me on several occasions for writing this. He heard from many of his former teammates and friends, and was overwhelmed by their love and support.

Then last November, a dozen teammates who traveled to Orillia to see him.

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Gathered with Jeff Hale (seated, wearing red 2015 Yates Cup Champs sweatshirt) are (standing, left to right) the Reverend Jeff Inglis, Carm Sferazza, Calvin Hale (Jeff’s youngest son), Jeff Crampton, Sam Benincasa, Mike Eykens, Mike Hudson, Ken Courtney and Matt Vine. Kneeling or seated are Dr. Scott Hobson, Wayne Laidlaw, Randy Dimitroff, Hale and Mitch Chuvalo.

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Game 8 preview: Gryphons @ Carleton

My quick thoughts

I do mean quick! My wife just reminded me I said I’d be ready to hit the road at 6 pm. We’re heading to Kingston tonight and then finishing the journey to Ottawa in the morning

In my opinion this is an important game in multiple ways …

  • Heading into the playoffs next week Guelph needs the momentum that winning  would provide. A win tomorrow would be the fourth in the last five games.
  • A win would give the Gryphons a strong chance of hosting a playoff game and I’d much rather be heading to Guelph next week than back to Ottawa or to Waterloo.
  • A win would bring the Gryphons to a 5-3 record. That was my worst case scenario before the season started. A 4-4 record would be hard to swallow.
  • A win would be good for the programs profile – i.e. help with recruiting, keep the Gryphons in the Top 10, et cetera.

I’m not 100% confident that Guelph will win. The Ravens have more to play for with their playoff hopes depending on them winning. They are a talented team that hasn’t lived up to expectations but they are coming off a 43-0 beating of UofT.

RavensLogo-forblack

I’d feel better if I knew James Roberts was 100% healthy and starting the game. I’m happy with the way Landers has played but I don’t like the inexperience factor. Things can go wrong with an inexperienced QB at the helm.

I am really hoping that the defense and special teams units play well enough that the pressure to win doesn’t have to rest to heavily on Landers’ shoulders. I said something similar before his first start against Waterloo and it didn’t work out that way. Landers did rise to the challenge. I just don’t want to have to rely on that again.

If the D and specials can play as well as last week then we should be fine.

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Game previews & related links

Gryphons.ca: Plenty of playoff implcations on the line as Gryphons head to Carleton

Heading into the final weekend of the OUA football regular season, the playoff picture is complicated. The mindset for the Gryphons, however, is simple. Beat the Carleton Ravens and head into the OUA playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the conference.

The No. 9-ranked Gryphons (4-3) are off to Ottawa in search of their fifth win in their last six games

GoRavens.ca: Ravens ready to battle for playoffs spot against Guelph

The Ravens’ biggest challenge this weekend won’t be stopping the run or moving the ball, but it will be staying mentally tough. Going up against a team they’ve never beaten before in a game that determines their post-season fate, they’re bound to feel the pressure.

However, head coach Steve Sumarah says he’s doing everything he can to combat those feelings.

“The biggest thing for us is that we have to not think about anything other than the next play – forget what quarter it is, what happened on the last play or the play before that. We just need to stay in the moment, be in the moment and execute.”

He says the key to the game will be a consistency and solid play. This needs to be their best game yet.

“We’re treating this like a playoff game – you win, you keep going and if you lose, you’re out,” Sumarah said. “This is a one-and-done game and we have been really geared towards how we’re going to find the answers to win this and play another week.”

OUA Website: 55-Man Rosters

A quick note … James Roberts is listed on the Gryphons 55-man roster but that doesn’t mean he will be among the 47 players who dress tomorrow. I believe we will see Theo Landers make his third consecutive start.

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The series history since 2007

In reality there was no series prior to 2013 when the Carleton football program was revived. Before their demise in the late 1990s the Ravens were playing in the OQIFC and not the OUA/OUAA. You would likely have to go back to the 1960s to find a previous Guelph-Carleton matchup. Both teams played in the OIFC [Ontario Intercollegiate Football Conference] and then the CCIFC [Central Canada Intercollegiate Football Conference] at the time.

2016 – Did not play
2015 – 31 – 23 Guelph [OUA Semi-Final]
2015 – 44-12 Guelph
2014 – 44-22 Guelph
2013 – 48-12 Guelph

Broadcast Options:

OUA.tv – Click here

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Gryphons beat defending Yates champs

Pre-game WLU

Photo: Megan Pickett

Now that was a nice win!

It wasn’t a thing of beauty but I’ll take it.

Except for a couple of costly penalties, the defense was outstanding as they shut down the offense ranked 2nd in the country in offensive yards per game (560.33) and 3rd in the country in scoring (averaging 40.2 points per game). They held the Golden Hawks to 186 total yards – 66 rushing and 120 passing. Those are the type of numbers you only expect against one of the OUA’s bottom feeders. OUTSTANDING!

Guelph is now 2-0 with Theo Landers as the starting quarterback. To me, that is amazing. Think about it … while our backup QB is gaining the experience he needs to be successful, we’ve beaten a 4-1 and a 5-1 team. Landers’ numbers weren’t huge – 13 of 20 for 111 yards and 86 yards rushing – but he was very effective. He did not turn the ball over. One shortcoming … he did have 3 or 4 passes blocked at the line of scrimmage.

The Gryphons dominated the game from beginning to end. Yet, I still had an uneasy feeling with having to settle for FGs instead of TDs. It wasn’t until Jacob Scarfone returned that missed FG for a 122-yard touchdown that I was able to breathe easily.

Game recaps and related links

Gryphons.ca: Gryphons take down #5 ranked Laurier 24-14

“The guys rallied together today and were able to find a way to overcome some tough situations,” said Gryphons head coach Kevin MacNeill. “We controlled the pace of the game from the start and received an incredible effort by our defence today. They applied some great pressure in the pass game and really shut down the run game. Hats off to everyone on that side of the ball.”

Laurier Athletics: Struggles in loss to Guelph

For Guelph, the majority of their offence came on the ground as fifth-year Johnny Augustine of Welland, Ont., rushed for 176 yards on 31 attempts. Quarterback Theodore Landers of Maple Ridge, B.C., making his second career start in the place of injured starter James Roberts of Cambridge, Ont., had 86 yards rushing on 14 attempts …

OUA.ca website: Complete stats and box score

Guelph Tribune/Mercury: Gryphons victorious over defending Yates Cup champs

Guelph Sports Journal: Photo gallery

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Further Thoughts on the Game

Red Zone Problems – After scoring 5 offensive touchdowns against Waterloo the Gryphon O was held out of the end zone by a good WLU defense. I think the quality of the defenses faced explains a large part of the difference in RZ conversion but getting shut out of the EZ is not acceptable.

Field Goals – Hitting 5 of 7 field goals isn’t bad but I have higher expectations of Gabe Ferraro. I consider him worthy of being an All Canadian again. I want to see him hit 85% of his attempts. After yesterday’s game he has been good on 78.8%.

Right now he is in a tight battle statistically with Western kicker Mark Liegghio for top spot in the OUA. Liegghio has not hit as many long FGs as Ferraro but he has been good on 89% of his attempts. I think Ferraro needs to be a perfect 3 for 3 or 4 for 4 in the season finale to have a good chance of earning 1st Team OUA All Star honours.

Short Yardage Situations – I agree with almost all of the decisions to go for it on 3rd-&-1. I like that Coach MacNeill trusts his players. What concerns me is that 7 games into the season we aren’t yet converting on those gambles nearly often enough. Third-&-1 or 3rd-&-inches should be nearly automatic with the O-Line talent this team has.

Running Game – Johnny Augustine was outstanding running the ball. And the O-Line won the overall battle at the line of scrimmage against a very big Laurier defensive front. Theo Landers was effective again. Not sure what the issue is but Landers has tripped himself up on couple of occasions these past two games when he has had a lot of open field in front of him.

Defense – That was as good a game as the defense has played all year. Their play in the opener against Ottawa seemed a little more dominating but at this point in the season I don’t think anyone considers the Gee-Gees offense on par with the Golden Hawks. Well done!

I have to admit I had a few concerns with the D after some of the big plays given up against Waterloo, missed tackles against Mac and failure to account for the QB running against Western. Laurier’s RB and WRs are very talented and would be very dangerous in the open field if initial tackles were missed or a coverage blown. Same with QB Knevel if he isn’t contained. The D handled it all very well.

Pressure vs Sacks – Anyone just looking at the Box Score [0 sacks] won’t appreciate that the defensive front did a pretty good job of pressuring Knevel. He didn’t have a lot of time. He took several solid hits as he released the ball. He only had one run of any significance [13 yards]. The Gryphon D never let him get comfortable and into a groove, and it showed.

QB hit vs WLU.jpg

Alain Cimankinda hits Laurier QB Michael Knevel   Photo:Gryphons.ca

Chili Bowl Cookoff VII – There is a new Champion! After 3 consecutive wins, and 4 wins in 6 years, Dan & Andrea Crabbe were de-throned. But it isn’t about the winning. It was a great time to greet new and old friends. There were 8 chilis to be sampled, the most entries in several years.

Chili Bowl vii

Playoff Picture – While the coaches and players need to take it one game at a time, as a fan I don’t mind looking ahead. I believe Guelph has secured themselves a playoff spot with this win. Another win this coming Saturday at Carleton and they have a very good shot at hosting a Quarter-Final game. That is based on my expectations that Western will beat Ottawa and McMaster will prevail over Laurier.

A third consecutive win would boost the Gryphons record to 5-3. Not too bad after an 0 & 2 start. They would have some nice momentum heading into the playoffs.

 

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Game 7 preview: Laurier at Guelph

Multiple Choice Question: Tomorrow’s game is …

  • Guelph’s Breast Cancer Awareness Game
  • the OUA’s Marquee Matchup of the Week
  • the Gryphon’s final regular season game at home
  • a very important game with playoff seeding implications
  • a matchup of USports Top 10 teams

Answer: All of the above

Laurier Game promo

The University of Guelph and Gryphon Football program don’t just give lip service to Breast Cancer Awareness aspect of the game. They took it seriously.

If you haven’t already checked out the media coverage you can read the story and contribute to the cause.

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Playoff Implications

Laurier is already guaranteed a playoff spot. Guelph could lose tomorrow and still make the playoffs by beating Carleton next week.

On the other hand, a Guelph victory could possibly set up a scenario where the two teams would finish he season tied with 5-3 records.

I don’t believe Guelph has a chance to host a playoff game without winning this game.

Game Previews & related links

Gryphons.ca: Gryphons vs Laurier Week 7

The Golden Hawks can put up points, averaging 42.3 points across six games, second in the OUA to only Western (45.3).

“They have playmakers all over the field and an ability to score throwing the ball deep, throwing the ball short, running the football,” MacNeill said. “Their players can take it to the house from anywhere. The challenge is to prevent the big plays and make sure that we’re not putting ourselves in a position where they can get on you quick.”

Laurier Athletics: Golden Hawks take on Guelph

Laurier and Guelph have two of the highest scoring offences in the country. The Golden Hawks sit third in U Sports scoring 42.3 points per game, while the Gryphons are fourth averaging 40.2 points per game.

OUA.ca: 55-Man Rosters for Week 8

Most notable thing here is that QB James Roberts is not listed on the 55-man roster for the game. The next most significant thing would be the inclusion of Alain Cimankinda on the game roster. Cimankinda did not play two weeks ago at Waterloo. If his ankle is 100% healthy that is a big deal for the Gryphons

Recent series history:

There have been a lot of close games in this series over the last decade. The Gryphons had built a nice little winning streak with 4 consecutive victories before last year’s loss.  The Hawks held the upper hand for the decade prior to that. Laurier leads the series with a record of 42-17-0 against Guelph dating back to 1963.

2016 – 27-25 WLU
2015 – 30-19 Guelph
2014 – 41-36 Guelph
2013 – 21-7 Guelph
2012  – 22-19  Guelph
2011 – 15-10  WLU
2010 –  WLU wins Q-final
2010 – 36-2  WLU
2009 – 21-14  WLU
2008 – 15-13  WLU
2007 – 38-31  Guelph wins OUA semi-final
2007 – 37-27  WLU

Broadcast Options

TV:  Live on Rogers Cable 20 (for viewers in Waterloo Region, Guelph, Brantford & Stratford)
Online: 
 www.oua.tv

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More on the win at Waterloo

Having a bye week allows me to share some additional info and thoughts on the win over Waterloo. Most weeks I don’t find the time to post a second post-game story even though I would like to.

A week later this win still seems important. In fact, after the Warriors were destroyed by Queen’s 68-17 on Thursday night, a loss to the Warriors would look absolutely terrible.

As I said a week ago, the win was ugly. The Gryphons played a poor game. They made so many mistakes that they gave the Warriors a real chance to win it. The one highlight is the character they showed in coming back from 20 points down to win.

Anyways, on to …

Players of the Game

PoG Wk6

Read the full Gryphons.ca article here. Worth noting … at the end of the article is a list of the Players of the Game for each game this season.

Not only was running back Johnny Augustine selected a Gryphon Players of the Game, he was named the OUA Offensive Player of the Week for his 3 touchdown performance.

I actually left that game thinking that QB Theo Landers was the likely choice as the top offensive player. That wasn’t intended as a slight to Augustine but recognition that Landers did an excellent job in his first-ever start. Mike Hogan seemed to be thinking the same way as he named Landers his choice for Weekend Warrior on Krown Countdown U this past week. [He talks about Landers at 21:18 mark.]

Also, from Hogan’s Week 6 OUA In the Huddle column on OUA.ca …

When the Guelph Gryphons looked up at the scoreboard after three quarters last Saturday, they were facing a 39-26 deficit to the hometown Waterloo Warriors, and were sporting a 2-3 record with their playoff hopes slipping away. And by the way, they also had their back-up quarterback leading the way. Little did they know it at the time, but the Gryphs had the black and gold right where they wanted them.

Third-year QB Theo Landers, playing for the injured James Roberts, was making his first OUA start. He wasn’t great, but wasn’t horrible in the first 45 minutes, but something started to click for the Maple Ridge, B.C. product when the pressure was at its most intense.

He threw a five-yard TD pass to Jacob Scarfone on the first play of the fourth quarter to cut the lead to six, but just two plays later, the Warriors scored a touchdown of their own. For many teams that would have essentially ended the game, but Landers led Guelph on a seven-play TD drive, capped by the QB calling his own number for a five-yard score.

A pair of Gabriel Ferraro field goals would tie things up, but the Warriors would counter with a FG of their own to take a three point lead. After the ensuing kick-off, Landers and the Gryphons took over at their own 45-yard line with just 58 seconds left on the clock.

After two pass completions, Landers would hand the ball off to Johnny Augustine, who raced 22 yards for the go-ahead score with just 22 seconds left, helping the Gryphons escape with a 53-49 win to keep their post-season hopes alive.

In the fourth quarter alone, Landers was 8-11 passing for 94 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 20 yards and another TD.

Landers would finish with 205 passing yards and 106 more on the ground to lead all rushers.

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The Gryphons break into the Football Reporters of Canada Top 10 rankings for the first time this season – USports Football Top 10 – Movement in the back five.

FRC – U SPORTS FOOTBALL TOP 10 (#6)

RANK SCHOOL SEASON VOTES (PTS) PREVIOUS
1 Montreal (4-0) 182 (12) 1
2 Calgary (5-0) 171 (7) 2
3 Laval (4-1) 151 3
4 Western (6-0) 142 4
5 Laurier (4-1) 109 5
6 McMaster (4-1) 79 * 7
7 UBC (3-2) 79 6
8 Regina (3-2) 60 9
9 Saint Mary’s (5-0) 41 10
10 Guelph (3-3) 10 NR
* McMaster edges UBC for 6th place based on number of higher-placed votes.
Other teams receiving votes: Ottawa (8), Saskatchewan (5), Waterloo (3), Concordia (3), Carleton (2).

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My Final Thoughts on the Game

In my preview of the game I wrote …

The defense and special teams units need to play very well so that the offense isn’t backed up on their goal-line or having to play from behind. I think both units are very capable of doing that. Some big returns and forced turnovers would be extremely helpful in taking the pressure off of Landers shoulders.

Very little worked out as I expected. The D allowed way too many explosive plays by the Warriors. The two that really bothered me were blown coverages that resulted in huge pass completions for the Warriors. Our normally reliable special teams units had two costly fumbles that led to UW scores. Those turnovers were offset by Jason Richards 96-yd KO return for a TD and a beautifully executed short kickoff recovery.

Two other blunders resulted from apparent brain cramps – intercepting a ball that should have been knocked down and returning a KO out to the 2-yd line rather than giving up a single. Both cost the Gryphons huge chunks of field position in the first half.

I’m still at a loss to explain how, on a day when these units needed to step up, they came up with such inconsistent efforts. I’d say the same about several dropped passes in the first half.

Everything that you didn’t want to have happen in a game with a first-time starting QB, happened – bad field position, dropped passes and the pressure of having to play from behind.

In the end it all worked out. That’s why I consider it a great character win even if it wasn’t an overall strong performance.

Landers to Augustine

Photo: Doug Pflug

Speaking of strong performances, and consistency, Gabe Ferraro was outstanding. He hit on 3 of 3 FGs. None of them were chip shots – 32, 41 & 51 yards. And for the second game in a row his punting was solid with an average over 39 yards per punt.

Guelph lost the turnover battle 4 to 0. [I don’t count Guelph’s INT because that pass should have been knocked down, not caught.]

Guelph did do a good job with respect to limiting penalties. Nine for 55 yards is something I can live with. The Warriors hurt themselves with 17 penalties for 127 yards. I don’t buy the excuse that penalties cost Waterloo the game. Guelph moved the ball with ease in the final minute. Johnny would have gone the distance on his game-winning TD whether the ball was on the 22 or the 52. With 23 seconds left and timeouts the Gryphons could have run several more plays.

QB Landers played his best with the pressure on. I think that is a game changer going forward. Hopefully, we will see the coaches rely on him more as a dual threat in short yardage and goal line situations, even after James Roberts returns. He could be very hard for other teams to defend.

Being able to convert on a regular basis, in 2nd-&-short and 3rd-&-short situations, is big. If Landers can pull the ball and run or pass defenses won’t be able to pack as many bodies into the middle. I’d love to see him running the ball from the shotgun in short yardage like Clemson did with Tajh Boyd and Deshaun Watson.

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