Guelph, ON – The weather at the 2015 Homecoming football game was not ideal. But the result was.
At a rain-soaked Alumni Stadium on Saturday, the No. 5 Gryphons won 33-23 over the No. 6 McMaster Marauders in a re-match of last year's Yates Cup. Gryphons quarterback James Roberts threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, as the Gryphons held off a late charge from the Marauders to improve to 4-0 on the season. With the loss, the Marauders fall to 2-1 on the year.
All eyes were on Guelph quarterback James Roberts coming into this game after the second year man produced an uncharacteristically sloppy performance last week versus York in which he threw a career-high five interceptions. After Guelph's opening possession against McMaster, it was evident that Roberts was back to his usual productive and accurate self. On the Gryphons first drive of the game, they would march 88 yards on seven plays in just over two minutes, capped off by a 15-yard touchdown pass from Roberts to A'dre Fraser (Halifax, NS). Roberts was perfect on the drive, completing all five of his pass attempts and spreading the ball around to three different receivers. Gryphon fans could breathe a sigh of relief. Roberts and company were sharp early, and while some of the huge Homecoming crowd was still filing into the stadium, the Gryphons had already given them plenty to cheer about as they jumped out to an early 7-0 lead.
Mac's turn. The Marauders game into the game boasting arguably the hottest quarterback in the entire country in second year pivot Asher Hastings (Regina, SK). Through his first two games, Hastings had racked up 10 touchdown passes to 0 interceptions while averaging 378.5 yards per game through the air – tops in the CIS. However, the Gryphon defence was more than up to the task of handling a dangerous Marauder attack. Unfortunately for the Gryphons, some costly penalties would give Mac some life on their second possession of the game. Back to back offside calls against Guelph, first by the punt return team, then by the defence, kept a Marauder drive alive. That drive would ultimately end with a three-yard touchdown pass from Hastings to Josh Vandeweerd (Burlington, ON) as the game was tied 7-7 after the opening quarter of play.
In the second quarter, the Gryphons offence would put together a balanced, sustained drive that covered 63 yards in 10 plays. That drive would end with a 27-yard field goal from Gabriel Ferraro (Mississauga, ON) to give the Gryphons a 10-7 lead. Then the rain came. In biblical proportions.
A steady downpour sent fans scrambling for shelter, and some for the exits. The scoreboard was rendered inoperable for the remainder of the half as both officials and players did the best they could to play through the challenging conditions. The Marauders seemed to struggle the most with the rain, specifically their punter Bobby Frame (Hamilton, ON). Unable to corral the wet football, Frame bobbled a snap before getting away a partially blocked, short punt. The Gryphons would take over at the McMaster 16-yard line and four plays later, led 19-7 thanks to a four-yard touchdown run by Roberts.
The rain wasn't done yet. Neither were the Gryphons. After Guelph's defence forced a two-and-out, McMaster's punter would once again lose the grip on the wet pigskin. This time, he was unable to get a kick off. The botched special teams play by the Marauders meant Guelph once again had a short field. Really short. The Gryphons took over on the McMaster three-yard line. For the second time in the game, Roberts and Fraser would connect for a touchdown. The floodgates had opened in more ways than one. The Gryphons outscored McMaster 19-0 in the second quarter and took a 26-7 lead into the locker room at the half.
In the third quarter, the Gryphon defence would continue their strong play. Guelph's OUA All-Star free safety Tristan Doughlin (Toronto, ON) missed last week's game against York after breaking a bone in his hand during Guelph's Week 2 matchup with Laurier. On Saturday, Doughlin was back in the lineup starting at safety and playing with a cast on his left hand. Doughlin is no stranger to playing hurt. Last season, he returned to the lineup wearing a heavy duty elbow brace after suffering a dislocated elbow early in the season. On Saturday, bad hand and all, Doughlin was once again in All-Star form. After having already intercepted Mac quarterback Asher Hastings in the second quarter, Doughlin would come up with his second INT of the game in the third quarter. Behind some strong play from their defence, the Gryphons took a 26-9 lead to the fourth.
By the final quarter, the heavy rain had subsided. Those fans who had stuck it out were rewarded with a surprisingly exciting finish as McMaster made things interesting late. With under seven minutes to go, Guelph's lead was trimmed to 32-17 after a nine-yard touchdown pass from Hastings to Dan Petermann. With under two minutes remaining, Hastings and Petermann would connect again, this time capping off a 12-play, 96-yard drive as the deficit shrunk to 32-23. Suddenly, the Marauders were a two-point convert away from making it a one possession game. However, Mac's ensuing two-point try was unsuccessful after Hasting's pass hit the upright. Gryphon fans could breathe easy. For a second anyways.
The ensuing onside kick was recovered by Mac. Thankfully for Gryphon fans, the U of G defence would stand tall, forcing three straight incompletions and a turnover on downs. The Gryphons would tack on a rouge late to make the final score Guelph 33, McMaster 23.
James Roberts finished 16 of 28 for 178 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Roberts also added a touchdown of his own on the ground. Johnny Augustine (Welland, ON) cracked the century mark with 106 yards rushing on 24 carries.
The Gryphon defence were on the field a lot in this one, as Mac ran 81 plays compared to Guelph's 65. Aside from Doughlin's two-INT performance, standout players for the Gryphon 'D' include linebacker John Rush who was all over the field making six solo tackles while also forcing a fumble and recording a pass breakup.
The Gryphons will look to improve to 5-0 next Saturday (Sept. 26) when they host the Ottawa Gee-Gees (2-1). Kickoff is set for 1pm at Alumni Stadium.
Source: Guelph Gryphons