It will be a rematch of one of the best games of the regular season when the Western Mustangs travel to Guelph to take on the Gryphons at Alumni Stadium on Saturday, November 8th.
When the two teams met in the regular season on October 18th in Guelph, they lit up the scoreboard in an exciting 49-46 game the Gryphons won on a last-minute Daniel Ferraro field goal.
Guelph quarterback Jazz Lindsey threw for a school-record 513 yards, completing 34 of 53 passes with four touchdowns and just one interception, leading his team to a comeback victory after they trailed by eight points with just over three minutes to play.
The win gave Guelph the upper hand in the OUA standings, and was crucial in securing the team home-field advantage and a bye through the OUA quarter-finals.
Western, coming off a 25-10 quarter-final win against Laurier, is now forced to travel to Guelph missing its starting quarterback and is dealing with the usual bumps and bruises that teams face late in the season.
Receivers George Johnson and Brian Marshall both left last week's game with injuries in the first half. Johnson, who hurt his knee, returned in the second half, however, Marshall would not return to the game after hitting his head on the track surrounding the field at TD Stadium.
After dominating Laurier 61-20 in the regular season, Western trailed the Golden Hawks 10-7 at halftime, and was unable to pull away until late in the fourth quarter.
Stevenson Bone, making only his second career OUA start, completed just nine passes on 22 attempts for 142 yards and was intercepted twice.
With quarterback Will Finch out for the rest of the playoffs, Western will need an improved effort from Bone, as well as the continued strong play of its defence.
Touted by some as "the best defensive line in the country," the Mustangs held Laurier to 36 passing yards and just 165 yards of total offence. In the loss against Guelph, though Lindsey was able to throw the ball at will, Western limited the Gryphons ground attack, allowing only 36 rushing yards.
"Assignment-wise, some things broke down and Guelph did a great job of exploiting that," said Western head coach Greg Marshall in regards to the teams' previous meeting. "We're going to have to play a great game. Guelph can run the football and will run the football, so we're going to have to be balanced on defence. We can't go into the game thinking if we take the pass away that the run miraculously won't be there, because (Guelph) runs the ball as well as anyone in the conference."
The Gryphons have not lost since the first game of the season, falling 34-27 in overtime on the road against McMaster. Since then, Guelph has been the hottest team in the country, riding a seven-game winning streak into the playoffs and was named OUA Team of the Month for October, leading many to consider them the favourites heading into Saturday.
Just don't tell their head coach.
"We're facing a team that's won 30 Yates Cups and we've only won three. Greg Marshall himself has been personally responsible for 18, so we know we have a battle ahead of us and don't consider ourselves the favourite in any way," said Gryphons coach Stu Lang. "It's also very difficult to beat a team twice in one season, so we have a huge job in front of us on Saturday."
Along with Lindsey, Guelph will rely heavily on running back Rob Farquharson who finished third in OUA averaging 127 yards per game this season. However, he was held in check by the Mustangs in the regular season meeting, amassing just 23 rushing yards in his team's win.
The Mustangs secondary might still be having nightmares about what Gryphons receiver A'Dre Fraser did to them. OUA's fifth leading receiver led the way with 210 yards and a touchdown back in October, and expects to factor in huge to the Guelph offence this week.
Alexander Charette also had a career day against the Mustangs back in October, leading the team with 13 catches while racking up 187 yards and a touchdown.
Both teams entered the season with Yates Cup aspirations, but on Saturday afternoon, one team will begin its offseason while the other heads to the 107th Yates Cup presented by Pioneer to play for OUA glory.
Be sure to catch all the action live on OUA.tv this Saturday afternoon starting at 1 p.m.!
OUA Semi-Final by the Numbers
13 – Points for Mustangs kicker Zachary Medeiros the quarter-final win against Laurier, accounting for over half his team's total. Medeiros connected on four of five field goals, including one from 49 yards out.
1997 – The last year that Guelph defeated Western in an OUA playoff game. The Gryphons prevailed 25-10 in the quarter-finals that season.
940 – Yards of combined offence between the two teams in their regular season meeting. Western and Guelph ranked 1-2 respectively in points scored this season, so expect the scoreboard operator to be busy again this weekend.