A strong 2nd half showing provided for a decisive victory in a game that still wasn’t what I was hoping for. In fact, for most of the first three quarters it felt a lot like the McMaster game. At many points the score was closer than what it should have been, leading to the uneasy feeling that it wouldn’t take much for things to go wrong. As on Labour Day the wind was a factor. Guelph had the wind in 1st & 4th Qs when they outscored the Varsity Blues 7-2 & 26-0. Other than the safety conceded by the Gryphons, UofT did all of its scoring with the wind – 10 points in the 2nd & 6 points in the 3rd Q.
♦ As I wrote Friday, UofT has given the Gryphons some surprisingly competitive games in the past four years. That was true for almost 3 quarters yesterday. This version of the Varsity Blues didn’t look a whole lot different from the teams of the recent past in spite of having new offensive and defensive coordinators. The V-Blues have some quality athletes but just not in the numbers that the OUA’s better teams do. It was nice to see that Toronto native and former Gryphon DL recruit Ryan Searle [OL #63] saw some action for the V-Blues. Searle was with the Gryphons in 2012 & 2013.
♦ If there was a game-changing play it was Ryan Nieuwesteeg‘s 62-yard punt return TD late in the 3rd Q. Nieuwesteeg also had punt returns of 48 and 38 yards, and a kickoff return of 52 yards. That was a huge contribution on a day that two-time All Star returner A’dre Fraser didn’t dress. I’ll be shocked if Nieuwesteeg isn’t Special Forces Player of the Game. That said, Daniel Ferraro had another very good game punting and kicking. He is giving the Gryphons the consistency I was hoping for in my season preview. He punted 8 times for 328 yards, an average 41.0 yds. The Gryphons return units looked much better prepared than in Week 1. The coverage units did an excellent job of containing UofT’s All Canadian returner Kevin Bradfield.
♦ Besides Fraser sitting out, the Gryphons were without RBs Rob Farquharson and Mason Swift. Both should be available this week against Ottawa. One player who won’t likely see action is Safety Tristan Doughlin as he appeared to sustain a serious arm injury in the 3rd Q. The good news is freshman Royce Metchie was able to fill in for him. Metchie started in the Montreal game two weeks ago but was on crutches after that game with an apparent ankle sprain. In the absence of Farquharson, Johnny Augustine carried the bulk of the load rushing for 100 yards on 20 carries. Rob Carnegie and Brandon Gordon also contributed with 20 & 28 yards on two carries apiece.
♦ My concern with the running game is primarily short yardage and goal-line situations where we still haven’t shown the ability to pick up the tough yards necessary to convert on a 3rd & 1 or inside the five. It was a baffling problem last season as well, when we couldn’t repeat the success of 2012 in that regard. Versus UofT we were successful inside the five by passing the ball instead of running it. BTW, I completely agreed with the decision to go for 2-point converts after a pair of 4th Q TDs. What better way to work on your red zone efficiency than with a do-or-die play from the 3-yard line.
♦ When it comes to passing the ball our numbers were good but not great – 24 of 38 for 229 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT. A 63% completion percentage is good, as is the 5:1 TD/INT ratio but to produce only 229 yards through the air against UofT is a concern on a day when we only had 148 net rushing yards. The absence of deep threat A’dre Fraser certainly hurt. One positive – 5 receivers had multiple catches – Lucas Spagnuolo (6), Alex Charette (8), Jacob Scarfone (4), James Ingram (2) and Colin Booth (2). I’m particularly happy to see Spagnuolo’s numbers (6 for 74 yards, 1 TD) since the UBC transfer is a converted QB who had a successful freshman season with the T-Birds running the ball from the slot position but had only 3 receptions in CanWest play if I’m not mistaken.
♦ It was pretty obvious in spite of a decent stat line (10 of 14 for 108 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT) that QB Jazz Lindsey wasn’t 100%. Jazz entered the game with a strained shoulder and it showed as he underthrew several passes including a couple of his completions. Gryphon coaches planned to give freshman James Roberts some playing time in the game but Jazz’s shoulder problem forced it to happen before it was planned. Roberts entered the game late in the first half after an Andrew Graham interception gave Guelph the ball on the UofT 18. Roberts completed his first regular season CIS pass for a 7-yd TD to Charette. He had an excellent debut outing going 12 of 20 for 125 yards, 3 TDs & 1 INT. As he has been in every game I have seen him play, Roberts was extremely poised. Watching him you would never think he hadn’t done it all before. I’ve got to think that Gryphon coaches won’t be hesitant to use Roberts in the future.
♦ While I admit I wasn’t watching the D-Line as closely this game as in the Mac game I definitely saw more different fronts. Players in the front 7 looked more comfortable with what they were doing than on Labour Day. The 3-4 may still have been the most common but there was some 4-3. Maybe after next week we will have a better idea of what DC MacNeill has planned. Or maybe not. Some of it is likely related to the personnel available. DE Blake McNeely should be available again for the Ottawa [or Queen’s] game. In the meantime if there has been one surprise to me it has been the effectiveness and playing time of freshman DE Charlie Taggart. Also, nice to see former D-10 MVP Reza Shayani earning some playing time. I definitely witnessed veteran transfer Djordje Gavrilovic showing some leadership on the defense. It would appear Guelph got more than just a “big body” with the former UW Warrior.