Back on Nov 22 I wrote about the loss to Montreal in the Mitchell Bowl saying … there really wasn’t much left to doubt as Montreal looked to be the superior team.
I went say that … I’m going to sit down and re-watch the game broadcast in a few minutes. I will definitely have some more comments to share in the next 24 hours. Maybe that was a typo? Should have said 24 days – lol.
I did re-watch the game that night and make some notes that never made it onto this blog. I also re-watched the first half of the game during a couple of sleepless hours early this morning. I still think I got it right. There was no mistaking that Montreal was the superior team that day. But what I see when re-watching the Mitchell Bowl was how close Guelph was to making a real game of it.
♦ For example, on the Carabins second series Guelph DB Orion Edwards had a real shot at making an interception that certainly could have been a pick-6. Unfortunately, Edwards undercut the pass a little too much and UdeM ended up with an important 1st down deep in their own end. On the very next Gryphon possession, after picking up one 1st down Guelph narrowly missed extending the drive with another. A well-thrown James Roberts pass was just inches away from the finger tips of Jacob Scarfone. A completion would have given Guelph a 1st down in the Montreal red-zone.
♦ Similarly, there was a deep pass in the 2nd half pass that Scarfone had in his hands but couldn’t control. When I re-watched it was … Oh wow! We were so close to a touchdown. Scarfone had made more difficult catches several times this season. But in fairness, when you watched it closely, and the announcers pointed this out, the ball didn’t come over his left or right shoulder, but directly over his head.
♦ The Defense did keep Guelph in the game but they also didn’t tackle as well as the Carabins. Montreal running back Thomas Erlington in particular, stepped out of tackles or bounced off of tacklers too many times. He picked up 10+ yards several times when Gryphon tacklers had a chance to stop him at or behind the LOS.
♦ As well as they played, the Gryphon D did not generate much pressure on Carabins QB Gabe Cousineau. Little pressure meant few bad throws and zero interceptions. Cousineau completed 18 of 27 [67%] but for a total of only 181 yards. I thought of all the DLs Donnie Egerter had the best game. Multiple times he got off blocks to make tackles at or near the LOS.
♦ It appeared Guelph had a good chance to go into the half only trailing 13-0. That would have been a very favourable situation. But things didn’t go well for the Gryphons in the final 4 minutes of the half. Even when it looked like they would – a nice Nieuwesteeg punt return and a face-masking penalty gave Guelph the ball at their 53-yd line. I really thought/hoped the Gryphons had a legit shot to get on the scoreboard [making it 20-3] in the final minute, only to gift an opportunity for 3 points to the Carabins.
♦ The Gryphon O-Line did a pretty good job of protecting QB Roberts considering how aggressive the Carabins D was. I would have liked to have seen Guelph use more roll-out and bootleg action to give Roberts an opportunity to get a better view and be free of pressure. That final 1st half drive was a good example. On 1st down he had plenty of time to throw on a roll-out off of play action. Unfortunately he overthrew an open A’dre Fraser. On second down he stayed in the pocket only to have a blocked DT get a hand up to deflect the pass, leading to the INT that gave UdeM another 3 points.
♦ Montreal’s decision to replace their kicker with a very inexperienced backup worked out well for them. It worked out well as DesChamps was perfect on the day – 3/3 on FGs & 2/2 on extra points. Had the Carabins had the same sort of results as the week before it could have been a very different game.
♦ The run game didn’t produce the way Gryphon fans would have hoped – 65 yards on 17 carries. I see [and heard from fans in the stands] two perspectives on that: 1) the Gryphons didn’t run the ball enough to establish the run; 2) Guelph should have forgotten about trying to run on the #1 run defense in the CIS and passed more on 1st down. [It worked for UBC in the Vanier Cup.]
I don’t think there is a definitive answer to the dilemna above. UofG ran the ball 9 times in the 1st half. There was only one negative play, a 5-yard loss. The other 8 plays netted 35 yards or 4.4 yards per carry. Not a terrible number. It was the failure to convert on 2nd down – and turnovers – that really hurt the Gryphons. On the one negative run play a 170-pound receiver failed to sustain a block on a 240-pound DE who happened to be the RSEQ Def. Player of the Year. That is a play that I wouldn’t run again. No kidding!?! But it doesn’t mean you should give up on running the ball.
At the same time the idea of passing more on 1st down makes some sense. James Roberts had a good game with the exception of three INTs. He was 23 of 34 for 228 yards and, as I’ve stated, came close to hitting on several more big plays. But the problem with all this is it’s an unprovable woulda/coulda/shoulda-type argument. Bottomline, Montreal was the better team but Guelph was only a few plays away from making it a very different game.
♦ I can’t help but think that Montreal’s experience, especially with a 5th year QB, was a big factor. Most members of their team had played in a national semi-final and a Vanier Cup before. Not a single Gryphon had. Guelph focus all season was on the Yates Cup. That’s understandable given the difficulty of accomplishing that goal. But once you’ve achieved that goal, the next step just can’t mean as much. The Gryphons could be well served to keep this year’s slogan – “GO BEYOND” – for next year. There is a new plateau to be overcome.
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PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Offense – A’dre Fraser
Defense – John Rush
Special Teams – Ryan Nieuwesteeg
Gryphons.ca article – Gryphon Football Players of the Week
CFL scouts were keeping a close eye on Gryphons fourth year receiver Fraser in the Mitchell Bowl…but it sure would be nice for Gryphon fans if #1 returned for a fifth and final season in 2016. In his final game of 2015, the fourth year wide out from Halifax showcased the type of skills that make him one of the top play-makers in the CIS when healthy. Fraser sparked the Gryphon offence on several occassions with 8 catches for 90 yards. Fraser possesses game-breaking speed, impressive hands and the ability to make defenders miss … Rush ended his incredible Gryphon career with yet another outstanding individual performance racking up a game-high 10 tackles against the Carabins. Rush was a force both against the run and the pass. The fifth year linebacker will be sorely missed by Gryphon fans next season, but his contributions to this program and this season in particular will not soon be forgotten … Fourth year return specialist Nieuwesteeg put together arguably the greatest single-season in school history as far as returners are concerned. After setting a school record for punt return yards during the regular season with 846, the Niagara Falls native carried that play into the Mitchell Bowl where against the Carabins he tallied 78 punt return yards on 4 punt returns, highlighted by a beautiful 49-yard return to spark the crowd at Alumni Stadium.
SCOUT TEAM PLAYER OF THE WEEK – Charlie Taggart (D-line)
“Charlie has been a stud on our scout defence. Particularly in the last three playoff prep weeks. Each of our last three opponents has possessed a defensive lineman-type body who also plays LB and Charlie has replicated this look perfectly. His quickness and long arms allow him to give us the look we need at both positions. When I told him that he was named Scout Team Player of the Week, his response was ‘Anything to help the team win!’ That is an incredible statement from a player who just wants the best for the guys in the locker room.”
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Let me add [24+ hours later] … the TV braodcast shows the Gryphons were very banged up at receiver. Moreso than I realized during the game. Jacob Scarfone and Ryan Nieuwesteeg both suffered ankle (?) injuries. They appeared to be the types of injuries that would have taken them out of the game if it were not a do-or-die game. Neither looked like they were 100% after that. Also, James Ingram was limping badly and left the game several times. It was likely a case of re-injuring the lower leg problem that had hampered him several times earlier in the season.