Some thoughts on the Homecoming Game – preview part 2

So much to write before tomorrow’s game. So little time.

Thankfully others have also written much about this game. Certainly one of the themes is injuries. Guelph has had its share of injuries. But McMaster has been hit unusually hard by injuries. Unless of course you’re McMaster, then having an unusually high number of injuries is nothing different than 2010 or 2012. Those Marauder squads still went 8-0 and 6-2, and reached the Yates Cup both years. But this isn’t the same Marauder team. Kyle Quinlan is gone. The O-Line is being rebuilt. New Def Coord Kevin Eiben has brought in a new defense.

Mac has been trying to switch from a 40 front to a 30. That is, from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Kevin MacNeill has shifted Guelph significantly in that direction over the past two years. The Gryphon D utilizes both fronts and shifts between them rather seamlessly. But that is the product of several years of planning, coaching and recruiting to suit the scheme. From the first time I watched McMaster this year – a 51-24 win over Ottawa – I thought they were going to have some issues. You’re bound to have growing pains when you try force the change very quickly.

Rob Farquharson vs UWOBack to the issue of injuries. Mac has lost several key players to serious, even season ending injuries. Several others have been hurt and have returned to play. As with any team there are no doubt some playing hurt. Guelph has been a little luckier. The Gryphons have had plenty of injuries right from the beginning of training camp but few have been of the serious, long term variety. The Guelph Mercury has provided positive news about two Gryphons – Rob Farquharson and Cody O’Neill. Both, they tell us, are a go for tomorrow’s game.

All-star running back Rob Farquharson will be back in black for the Guelph Gryphons Saturday.

“I’ll be dressing,” Farquharson said after Wednesday’s practice. “I’m not sure how much I’ll be playing because of my conditioning and stuff like that, but I’m looking forward to getting out there for the first time this year.”

Full story: All-star Farquharson back in game for Gryphs

Veteran centre Cody O’Neill wasn’t about to miss his final Homecoming Game as a member of the Guelph Gryphons football team.

The Guelph native sat out last weekend’s victory over the Toronto Varsity Blues, but he’ll be back in the lineup Saturday when the Gryphs (3-0) host the McMaster Marauders (2-2) at Alumni Stadium.

Full story: A can’t miss homecoming game for Gryphs Cody O’Neill

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The Hamilton Spec had an article yesterday – Mac switches o-line from defence – that really focused on two things –  the transition of an defensive lineman to the O-Line in mid-season [It’s certainly been a long time since McMaster had to do that] and tomorrow’s game. It is worth reading just because it shares more candid than usual comments from Mac’s HC Stefan Ptazsek. He usually employs “coach speak” to the max. But not here …  This is, without a doubt, Mac’s most important game of the season, Ptaszek said Wednesday. And …

“It’s a crossroads. A 5-3 record might not be good enough to make the playoffs. So losing a third time is no good. This is a Guelph team that could run the table. It is their Homecoming, so it should be a sold out 15,000 type crowd. It would be a huge win for this program. And set out kids in the right direction for the playoffs,” he said.

Actually the idea that “a 5-3 record might not be good enough to make the playoffs”  is pretty ridiculous. 100% coach speak.

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Donnovan Bennett writes about the game for Sportsnet 360 and focuses on the revenge factor –  Guelph seeking vengeance for Yates Cup loss .

“Yates Cup rematch” is all that needs to be said. Aside from Carleton, McMaster is the only OUA team that no member of the current Guelph roster has beaten, so the Gryphons are certainly motivated to exact revenge for their Yates Cup loss and finally take down their Highway 6 rivals. Meanwhile, McMaster is concentrating on righting their ship. With a loss they dip below .500; with a win they take a big step toward controlling their own playoff destiny and ensure they’ll be playing at least one playoff game within the friendly confines of Ron Joyce stadium.

In front of a raucous crowd in what has become arguably the best homecoming spectacle in Canada, the Gryphons have a chance to provide a knockout blow to the wobbling former champs.

By the way, the Gryphons actually lost to Ottawa in 2011 and several games previous to that. So Bennett’s claim is overstated. Mind you Guelph has had the misfortune of not facing a GeeGees team that they could almost certainly have beaten in 2012 and 2013.

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