♦ In a word … DISAPPOINTING!! This was a very winnable game. McMaster is very good but not a dominant team, except maybe on defense, and nowhere close to being as complete a team as the 2011-2012 teams led by Kyle Quinlan, BUT they know how to win. In that way – overachieving, refusing to lose – they remind me of the 2012 Gryphons team that reached the Yates Cup, and I mean that as a huge compliment.
♦ Consider … neither the 2012 Gryphons nor the 2014 Marauders were the most talented team in the OUA but both had a large corps of experienced veterans. Both teams often underperformed against some weak opponents. Winning ugly was almost the norm. But, just knowing how to win and refusing to lose makes them special. Teams like that have a lot of character and you have to respect them. It was a great win for the Marauders.
♦ I’ve thought all year that if Guelph had one weakness it may have been a lack of 5th year players. The Gryphons have a ton of talent but they could have used a couple more 5th year players like Jeff Finley and Carl Trivieri. Guelph only had four 5th year players on the roster. One starter on offense – Rob Farquharson. One starter on defense – Djordje Gavrilovic. And two stalwart leaders on special teams – Fraser Speakman and Jacob Harpell.
♦ The most frustrating thing for Gryphon fans was the blown opportunities early in the game. Forced turnovers in the 1st Q gave the Gryphons the ball at the Mac 2 and the Mac 30. Both possessions ended before they started with first play interceptions. Guelph had another first quarter drive end on the second play with another interception. If Guelph scores on even two of the three drives, even just FGs then it is a completely different game. One Mac isn’t particularly suited to win.
♦ I don’t put any of the blame for the interceptions on Jazz. I appreciate that he wanted to play and put his body on the line for his team even with a partially-separated shoulder. Only in hindsight was it a bad decision to start him if, as I’m told, he tested throwing with his shoulder “frozen” and performed well on Wednesday. If everything looked good then I want a veteran starting over a freshman in a game as big as the Yates Cup. Just look at what happened to Laval’s super-frosh QB in yesterday’s Dunsmore Cup, and he started every game of the season for the Rouge et Or. With the exception of one play James Roberts played very well in relief.
♦ The defense was outstanding holding the Mac O to just nine points on three FGs. The Marauders didn’t even make it into the Red Zone once in the entire game. Curtis Newton and Iain Hutchison led the team in tackles. Three interceptions – Mikey Carney, Colin Mandich and Nick Parisotto – and forced fumble were big in limiting the Mac offense.
♦ On special teams, McMaster did as good a job as anyone all year in limiting Guelph’s return game. In part, they followed Carleton’s lead, generally punting short and having Ryan Nieuwesteeg surrounded before he could field the ball. Four of Mac’s 8 punts were for less than 30 yards – 21, 24, 27 & 29 yards. Several were kicked out of bounds. When Mac did punt away [a 43-yarder was the longest] they took a 15-yard No Yards penalty. Nieuwesteeg didn’t rack up many return yards but his reputation was enough to produce excellent field position. It says a lot that Mac was willing to give up yardage on every exchange to avoid the big play.
♦ The future is still bright for the Gryphons. This team should be stronger next year, and beyond, than this year. But 2014 offered an easier route to the Vanier Cup [i.e. hosting the AUS] than the next two seasons when the OUA plays the RSEQ champion. It was a lost opportunity.
♦ Still a lot I haven’t said but I’m not going to get it done tonight. As I explained to many on Saturday I will once again be incommunicado this week. I hate it but those are my job circumstances for a few weeks.