It was actually a good sign when I arrived at the Stadium two hours before the game and couldn’t get a parking spot in the tailgate lot just east of “the hill”. I had to park on the street and leave my deep fryer in the trunk. That wasn’t all bad. First off, the tailgate crowd was the biggest I’ve ever seen at an OUA game. The Gryphon fans, including a lot of parents and alumni, numbered in the hundreds. There was a ton of food and a very noticeable excitement in the air. The level of confidence by those very close to the program was high. There didn’t seem to be anyone who doubted that the Gryphons could defeat the Golden Gaels yet again.
The attendance of 3,550 could have been higher but I believe it was the preceding week of steady rain that put a damper on ticket sales. Considering that the other OUA semifinal – Western @ McMaster – only drew 2,870 fans, I think Guelph did quite well. And since neither Queen’s or Western drew even 2,000 in the quarterfinals, Guelph actually had the highest attendance of any of the preliminary Yates Cup playoff venues. Having turned Saturday into a semifinal doubleheader by catching the late game at Ron Joyce Stadium I can tell you that there was absolutely no doubt that Alumni Stadium was the louder and more energized place. Only a single Mac fan rang a cow bell. Every Guelph fan needs to bring a cowbell and change the dynamic this Saturday.
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As for the game itself I still don’t really know how to summarize it. Essentially the Gryphons made a number of costly mistakes that allowed Queen’s to jump out to a big lead. Then in a very short period of time in the 4th Q the Gryphons turned it around and made a series of huge plays. The result – a 36-36 tie. Riding a huge wave of momentum the Gryphons quickly overwhelmed the Gaels in OT. Guelph wins 42-39 and advances to the Yates Cup for the first time since 2007.
Some unsung heroes. From what I understand it was John Rush who stripped the ball from QB Billy McPhee which Zach Androschuk scooped up a took back for a touchdown. Freshman DB Tristan Doughlin was the one who broke through to block the Queen’s punt that Jake Reinhart returned for a TD. TSN called this punt block “the play of the game”. You can view the video of it here: http://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?v=10151107674112201
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Finally, Sunday wasn’t without some football excitement of its own as the Grey Cup came to Alumni Stadium. It was part of the official 100th Grey Cup Train Tour.