♦ I wrote in the preseason that one of my goals for the offense this season was to average 500 yards per game and that it be split relatively evenly between passing and rushing yards. Friday night’s game came as close to those ideals as any game this season – 304 yards passing, 251 rushing for a total [net of team losses] of 542 yards.
Of course, offense isn’t all about yards. It is really about scoring. And NOT turning the ball over. So I’m quite happy to see the Gryphons offense ranked #2 in the OUA in scoring [42.2 ppg] and #2 for fewest turnovers , even though they are #8 in terms of yards per game [447.7]. In one regard that number is largely irrelevant because the Gryphons play on a shorter field than any other team in the league thanks to our defense and special teams.
♦ One area where we don’t stack up so well against other OUA teams is penalties. Against Carleton we had 9 for 114 yards. Unfortunately that is right at our season average – 114.7 penalty yards per game. [Eighty yards is a reasonable number in most games.] Two particularly costly penalties occurred on plays where a receiver was running the ball. Alex Charette picked up 25 yards on a beautiful Jet sweep and A’dre Fraser picked up 11 yards on the first play of a series that started at the Guelph 36. In one case for sure, and maybe both, the holding penalty was on a fellow receiver. I would love to see our receivers – Charette, Fraser and Lucas Spagnuolo, in particular – getting 4 or 5 carries a game. It would be one more thing that opposing DCs have to think about.
♦ Speaking of giving DCs headaches … I saw that Carleton countered our two TE formation with five DLs, even more often than Windsor did. I can’t help but think that would be a great time to run in Hurry Up-mode. The Hurry Up version of the No Huddle [HUNH] could exploit that defensive personnel group by not allowing them to substitute. I think you’d likely see opposing teams taking penalties for illegal substitution, or at least be forced to burn timeouts on defense.
♦ Another frequently asked question [FAQ] I’ve heard this fall … “Why don’t we throw to the TEs more?”. That’s something else I don’t have the answer to. But that rarely stops me from offering an opinion. First, I think using two TEs was primarily to enhance the run game. Second, throwing passes to a TE who lines up “with his hand in the dirt” is so old that it is something new. It is quite likely that our QBs who could have played a dozen seasons of football between them without having a true TE as a receiver. Third, the guys playing the TE positions – Patrick Gerrie & Mark Horta – are both new additions to the dress roster this year. As their coaches and their quarterbacks develop more confidence in them I expect there will be more passes. That sort of goes together with the point above regarding the HUNH and exploiting personnel mismatches.
♦ BTW while re-watching the Carleton game via OUA.tv last night I did see Gerrie pick up a blitzing LB in pass protection and pancake him. Similar to what he did to a DB in the photo above. A play or two later he caught a 13-yd pass for a 1st down. I saw another similarly impressive block by RB Mason Swift where he knocked the defensive player 2 yards backwards. It’s moments like that that make me wish OUA.tv had easy-to-use features like pause, stop and rewind.
♦ Watching Ryan Nieuwesteeg’s punt and kick returns again via OUA.tv only reinforces what I was already thinking. Nieuwesteeg has great acceleration and vision. He slips thru small spaces effortlessly. And he uses his blockers very well. Those are also the things that made him an outstanding high school RB at Niagara Falls-St Paul’s. As I watch Nieuwesteeg’s returns he really does look like a speedy, shifty running back returning kicks. Nieuwesteeg was recruited to Guelph as an RB but he shifted to DB to help the team and to get some earlier playing time. But he is seeing less action on D this year than he did last year. I’m sure that’s because he has become too valuable as a return specialist to use him at DB in anything but an emergency.
♦ One number that is completely missing from the official game stats is the attendance figure. That is a number that I always check and I was even more interested than usual this week. Obviously, the Friday Night Lights event is something still very new and it’s complicated this year by coming on Thanksgiving weekend when there are so few students on campus. Twenty minutes before game time the crowd was looking very sparse but by the middle of the 1st Q it had filled in very nicely. I’m hoping the number is in the range of 2,000. That would still be lower than last year’s Friday night game [3,600] but not bad given the Thanksgiving issue.
I’d heard rumours that Athletic Dept was going to make a greater effort to promote this particular game in the community to a larger extent. Those efforts were possibly to include the minor hockey and minor football organizations in Guelph that UofG Athletics sponsors, and whose teams now use the Junior Gryphons name. I was a little discouraged when I asked parents with children involved in all those organizations if they had heard or seen any such promotions and they all said no. But the evidence at the game would say otherwise as I did see many school-age kids in attendance. Also, many of the parents with them were wearing gear with the Gryphon logo.
One Guelph family out in full to support the Gryphons were the Guthries. Cam, and son Anakin, were out for the second time this season. Rachel and Adelaide were attending their first game of the season. While Cam Guthrie is running for mayor in Guelph his support of the Gryphons started long before campaign season, as he and Rachel paid their own way into Gryphon Football’s Gala Dinner back in the spring. Cam assured me on Friday night he’d fill an entire table if not more for the Gala in 2015.
It was also great to meet Gryphon super-fan Sylvia Thurston, along with her husband Larry, at the pre-game tailgate party. Sylvia has been coming to Gryphon games since 1966. You would never know it to look at her but she graduated from Guelph back in 1969. As the season gets cooler she is easily recognized at games in her trademark red coveralls.
As I was making my way to the stadium I stopped to chat with 1990s alums Ian McQueen, Dan Conroy, Gerrit Stam and Dan Crabbe. It was a bonus that Kyle Walters was at their tailgate gathering chatting with his former teammates. Walters was in town as part of his CIS scouting/talent evaluating homework as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers GM. It was interesting to hear his take on some of the talent he has already watched on other OUA teams.
It was also nice to see Director of Athletics Tom Kendall at the game. I passed him on the steps outside the north end of the stadium when returning at half-time. Unfortunately, it was one of those hurried moments when you don’t recognize someone until a couple of seconds after you pass them. Kendall’s boss, the VP of Student Affairs, Brenda Whiteside was also at the game. She stopped to chat for a while with Randy Dimitroff in the row in front of me. I’ve heard that Whiteside will be retiring in the not too distant future. It will be important for Gryphon football, and athletics in general, that we get another supportive person in that role.