Great first half, disappointing second half. The Gryphons dominated the Hawks early and jumped out to a 36-4 lead at the half, showing the difference between top tier and middle of the pack OUA teams. As fans we may have hoped for a final score to rival Western’s 61-20 whipping of Laurier two weeks ago, or something more equivalent to our own 66-0 and 42-7 beatings of Queen’s and Ottawa, but the game still served a purpose.
Freshman QB James Roberts got his first CIS start and went the distance. He was 11 of 24 passing for 196 yards, with 2 TDs and 1 INT. Roberts’ TD passes included a 50-yard bomb to James Ingram and a 31-yarder to Jacob Scarfone. Jazz Lindsey was dressed, but was not going to play except in the case of an injury to Roberts. Another freshman who saw a lot of action yesterday was LB Luke Korol. He played the entire second half at Mac LB in place of John Rush. Rush was not injured, just being rested in order to give Korol some significant snaps on D. Korol, whose action so far in the season had mostly been on special teams, recorded 5 tackles [2 solo, 3 assists].
The leading tackler on the day for the Gryphons was LB Curtis Newton. He added to his team-leading totals with 12 more solo tackles and 3 assists. Tristan Doughlin wasn’t far behind with 8 solo tackles & 4 assists. Newton is second in the OUA and 5th in the CIS in tackles. Newton also intercepted a pass and returned it 59 yards to the WLU 30. Four plays later Daniel Ferraro hit his 2nd FG of the game. That 18-yarder tied the CIS single-season record for FGs at 25. In the 4th Q Ferraro hit a 42-yard FG to set a new CIS record. The other notable special teams play was Ryan Nieuwesteeg‘s 81-yard punt return for a touchdown, his 2nd of the season.
For more details you can read these game stories:
Guelph Mercury – Gryphons hang on to finish regular season at 7-1 again – Rob Massey’s intro … In a game that had absolutely no bearing on their place in the OUA football standings, the Guelph Gryphons built up a 32-point lead, then hung on to defeat the Laurier Golden Hawks
Gryphons.ca – Football recap: Gryphons finish 7-1 after 41-36 win over Laurier – At this link, in addition to a game story, you will find Team Stats, Game Scoring Summary and Individual Stats Leaders. The Athletic Department Communications people have made major upgrades to the site and I really like the new look.
Laurier Athletics – Comeback falls short against Guelph – “The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team scored 32 second half points but it wasn’t enough to overcome the No. 4 Guelph Gryphons as they fell 41-36 at University Stadium on Saturday afternoon.”
KW Record – Gryphs prevail over Hawks –
* * *
A slew of Gryphons were held out of the game with mostly minor ailments. Turns out I was wrong when I speculated that RB Johnny Augustine would play. He was on the sidelines for the second straight week. After running back Mason Swift left the game early with a “lower body” injury the Gryphs were a little short-handed at the RB position. They made little use of their 3-back set. But A’dre Fraser was the biggest weapon not dressed – Fraser is among the top 10 receivers in the CIS in catches per game and yards per game.
Another player held out was long snapper Daniel MacDonald. I believe he has been cleared to play but coaches were just being cautious given that the game had little real significance for the Gryphons. Defensive linemen Donnie Egerter and Blake McNeely also sat out, as did cornerback Colin Mandich. Orion Edwards took over Mandich’s position. Starting LT, and part-time TE, Matt Toppan was another in street clothes and his presence was missed as our OTs and TEs had some struggles dealing with the speed of WLU DE Kwaku Boateng. The presence of Toppan who posses the fastest feet of all the OLs/TEs would have helped in my opinion. Scout team stand-out Daniel Urbshas was the additional OL dressed.
* * *
* * *
It was nice to see super-fan Sylvia Thurston, and her husband Larry, at the pregame tailgate and in the stadium yesterday. Thurston is a 1969 Guelph grad and has attended Gryphon home games since 1966. Her appearance at the game in Waterloo marked the first-ever Gryphon road game she had attended. She’s been cheering for 48 years and her passion for Gryphon Football is still growing.
A few other notable facts from the game …
♦ Ryan Nieuwesteeg’s stats on punt & kick returns were once again impressive – 5 PRs for 100 yards and a TD; 4 KORs for 95 yards. Those are averages of 20 & 23.8 per return. But what the stats don’t show is that the Golden Hawks were willing to be penalized multiple times on punt returns in order to stop Nieuwesteeg. Laurier’s first 5 punts went like this
– 28 yard punt, 15 yard “No Yards” penalty, Guelph ball on the WLU50
– 38 yard punt, 15-yard “No Yards” penalty, Guelph ball on the GUE45
– 32 yard punt into the sidelines, 0 yards return, Guelph ball on GUE36
– 32 yard punt, returned 81 yards, Guelph touchdown
– 14 yard punt out of bounds, no return, Guelph ball on GUE44
The first two punts don’t count into Nieuwesteeg’s stats in spite of producing positive yards for the Gryphons. You have to love it when the opposition only nets 13 or 23 yards on a punt. IMO this reflects the lengths that teams are willing to go to stop the top returner in the CIS. Mind you, Nieuwesteeg, who still hasn’t turned he ball over, did mishandle a couple of balls costing himself some yardage.
♦ In addition to setting a CIS FG record Daniel Ferraro also may have done what is necessary to win the CIS Scoring Title. With 17 points of the day Ferraro finished the regular season with 114 points. Only Boris Bede of the Laval Rouge et Or has a chance to catch him. With one game remaining Bede has 100 points.
♦ Ferraro had an all round good day. He punted 8 times for an average of 44.2 yards per punt. He finishes 3rd in the OUA in punting average with 39.2 yards per punt.
♦ It is nice when penalties are only an after-thought. Guelph incurred just 7 for 70 yards. I didn’t verify it but I think that is likely the season low for the Gryphons.
♦ Quietly this season the Gryphon defense has accumulated turnovers. That includes two interceptions of WLU QB James Fracas and a forced fumble on Dillon Campbell yesterday. The Gryphon D leads all OUA teams this season in interceptions  and is second in fumble recoveries .
♦ Laurier came into the game with a perfect record on the their Red Zone trips. They had made more than a dozen fewer trips than Guelph but it was still a nice streak. It came to an end in the 3rd Q when WLU Kicker Ronnie “Hollywood” Pfeffer was wide on a FG. His other miss on the day came on a non-Red Zone drive. On the season the Gryphons are now 39 of 41 in the RZ [95%] with 23 of the scores being TDs [56%]. That TD number really needs to be higher.