The No. 9 ranked University of Ottawa Gee-Gees will head down to Guelph, Ont. this Saturday to take on the red-hot No. 5 ranked Guelph Gryphons in the Week 5 OUA.tv Marquee Matchup.
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When these two squads met last season, the Gryphons mauled the Gee-Gees 42-7 on their way to a 7-1 regular season and a Yates Cup apperance.
Guelph, led by quarterback Jazz Lindsey (Markham, Ont.), ran over most of the league that season, only to be knocked out of the playoffs by a strong McMaster team that would end up playing for the Vanier. Lindsey threw for 117 yards and three touchdowns against Ottawa, while adding 57 yards on the ground and another touchdown.
Ottawa changed gears in the second half of the season and ended up making the playoffs by knocking off McMaster in the last game of the regular season. The team that played Guelph at the beginning of the year was a very different team than the one that made playoffs, a fact that is exhibited by quarterback Derek Wendel's performances.
During the loss to Guelph, Wendel (Belleville, Ont.) scraped together 103 yards in the air while throwing three picks. By the end of the season, Wendel completed 26 of 58 passes for 443 yards and three touchdowns in their postseason loss to Mac. The outcome of the game wasn't in their favour but Wendel looked poised behind center and even had the Gee-Gees up by 18 before some fourth-quarter heroics turned the tides in McMasters favour.
The Gee-Gees look to run with that momentum gained last year and have got off to a strong 2-1 start on the back of Wendel . In their first two games, Ottawa beat up on Queen's 41-17, and lost a shootout to McMaster 57-42. During last week's matchup against Windsor, Wendel had a career-game, connecting on 20 of 38 for 381 yards and a stunning five touchdowns. Wendel was able to spread the ball around with devastating efficiency, finding four different receivers in the endzone. Ian Stewart (Burlington, Ont.) was the fourth-year quarterback's favourite receiver, snagging eight balls for 188 yards and two scores. Mitchell Baines (Ottawa, Ont.) also tallied over 100 yards receiving, pulling in five catches for 101 yards and a score.
There definitely won't be a shortage of talent as these teams line up across from one another this Saturday, as Guelph has just as many skilled offensive standouts on their side of the ball. Wideouts Jacob Scarfone (London, Ont.) and A'Dre Fraser (Halifax, NS) are arguably the best receiving duo in the country right now, and can be found in the top five of most of the statistical categories while helping their Gryphons to a 4-0 record to start off the season. Add running back Johnny Augustine (Welland, Ont.) and quarterback James Roberts (Cambridge, Ont.) into the mix, and you can begin to understand how potent this offence can be.
Guelph have run through their schedule at full speed, knocking off Waterloo, Laurier, and York before meeting up with McMaster last week. The Gryph's were looking to redeem themselves after a suffering defeat at the hands of Mac during in the 107th Yates Cup.
Despite dealing with some heavy rain at their Homecoming game, Roberts lit up the field throwing for 178 yards and two touchdowns, while scampering in for another on the ground as Guelph took the game 33-23. The Gryphons defensive effort was the highlight of the game though, with defensive back Tristan Doughlin (Toronto, Ont.) reeling in two interceptions and adding three solo tackles, all while playing with a broken bone in his hand and playing in a cast.
"You need players like Tristan to let the rest of the team know that they can play through the little injuries they get through the year," said Guelph Head Coach Stu Lang. "We inaugurated a new award at the end last year, the Richard P. Kohler Perseverance Award, and it was not surprisingly given to Tristan."
In 2014, Doughlin dislocated an elbow and broke his wrist but was only held out for two games. He played in the Yates Cup with a brace & a cast.
If the fact that Doughlin caught two interceptions in soaking wet conditions while wearing a cast isn't gritty enough for you, consider that Guelph allowed even less production on the ground, giving up a mere 69 yards rushing. The Gryphons currently lead OUA in rushing yards allowed, while linebacker John Rush (Niagara Falls, Ont.) leads CIS in tackles and Doughlin holds down the second spot in interceptions.
"They are a very good group, there's not a lot of things you can take advantage of," said Ottawa head coach Jamie Barresi. "Hopefully you can go and play and execute, and do the things that are important to you."
"I saw the Mac game, and Mac ran into the second quarter and just hit a buzz saw, with a series of turnovers in their own end," continued Barresi.
On the offensive side of the ball, both of these teams look ready to put points on the board, but the true question will be which defence steps up to the challenge manages to make stops and force turnovers.
Guelph has proven their defence has the ability to take the ball away from you and make big plays when needed, as exhibited by Nick Parisotto's (Guelph, ON) two late-game interceptions to seal the deal on a Laurier team who was attempting to mount a comeback.
Ottawa, on the other hand, has relied on outscoring opponents in their wins, and given up double-digit scores in every one of their games. If Ottawa's defence can hold their ground, expect this game to go down to the wire.
Both teams have exciting players in at quarterback, so keeping an eye on the matchup between pivots will keep you captivated. Which QB can keep his team not only focused, but moving down the field? Wendel has more experience behind centre and has been lighting up defences with Coach Barresi's spread offence, but Robert's has a lot of talented skilled players surrounding him and hasn't had any trouble getting them the ball. The player who can eliminate errors in this game puts their team in a favourable spot to take home the win.
Catch all the action live on Saturday on OUA.tv and locally in Guelph, Ont. on Rogers Cable 20.
BY THE NUMBERS
12 - Tackles per game from Guelph linebacker John Rush, which currently leads all CIS players.
355.3 - Yards per game thrown by Ottawa sharpshooter Derek Wendel, to go along with 11 touchdowns and just one interception. Both stats put Wendel in second in OUA behind McMaster's Asher Hastings.
16-0 - Guelph's home field record at Alumni Stadium since 2012-2013.
10-15 - Third downs converted by the Ottawa offence this season, a rate that tops OUA.
5.7 - Penalties a game by Ottawa, a league best. The Gee-Gees top the league in eliminating mistakes and have only lost 66.7 yards a game to errors.