WATERLOO, Ont. (August 28, 2016) – The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men's football team scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to come from behind and defeat the Queen's Gaels 37-18 in their home opener on Sunday afternoon at University Stadium.
The offensive outburst was highlighted by a 43-yard interception return for a touchdown from third year All-Canadian defensive back Godfrey Onyeka of Brampton, Ont., that gave the Hawks a 23-18 lead with 5:43 to play in the fourth. Laurier would find the endzone twice more following Onyeka's major to pick up a win in their season opener for the third consecutive season.
"It wasn't our prettiest win but it felt good to get the "W" out their today," said head coach Michael Faulds after the contest. "We created turnovers, got sacks, Nathan Mesher hit a couple of big field goals, and then finally in the fourth quarter we made some plays on offence. We have a lot of work to do in key areas but we'll get it sorted out and be better next week."
Onyeka's touchdown was fitting on an afternoon where the Golden Hawks defence was as dominant as advertised coming into the year. Laurier forced five turnovers by the Gaels, including two interceptions and three fumbles recovered, and recorded nine quarterback sacks, seven coming on Queen's starter Nate Hobbs of Mississauga, Ont.
Leading the defensive charge was Onyeka's cousin Nakas Onyeka of Brampton, Ont., who had nine total tackles, two sacks and three tackles for a loss. All-Canadian defensive end Kwaku Boateng of Milton, Ont., was dominant in the first game of his draft year as he had four total tackles, two sacks, three tackles for a loss, one forced fumble and one pass breakup.
Also recording sacks on the day were Robbie Smith of Brampton, Ont., who had two, along with singles by Jalen Price of Hamilton, Brandon Calver of London, Ont., and Yalkum Sakir of Kitchener, Ont.
"Our offence has to face them [our defence] every day, so we know exactly how good they are and it was great to see them play that well," said Faulds praising the effort of his defence. "It starts up front with our defensive line. They're able to get up on their quarterback and it makes it really tough on them. And then our secondary is really good too as you saw on that interception by Godfrey."
For much of Sunday's season opening contest, it was a defensive struggle as the teams went into halftime at a 9-8 scoreline in favour of the purple and gold. The lone bright spot in the opening half on offence for Laurier was second year kicker Nathan Mesher of Kitchener, Ont., who had two field goals, including a career-long 49 yarder to open the scoring, one yard shy of Laurier's all-time long held by former kicker Ronnie Pfeffer.
Early in the third quarter, Queen's would grab their first lead of the day as Matteo Del Brocco of Kingsville, Ont., scored on a 10-yard pass from Hobbs to stake the Gaels to a 15-9 lead.
Laurier responded with their first major of the season on a shovel pass from starting quarterback Julien John of Oakville, Ont., to Kurleigh Gittens Jr. of Ottawa. Gittens Jr. then showed off his speed scampering 31 yards for the touchdown to restore Laurier's advantage.
After Queen's retook the lead on the 31-yard field goal from Nick Liberatore (Dartmouth, N.S.) early in the fourth quarter, Godfrey Onyeka made his first big play of the season, recording Laurier's second interception of the contest and finding the endzone for the major.
Godfrey Onyeka made his second big contribution of the game on the next play, forcing and recovering a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, setting Laurier up on the Gaels 26-yard line. Two plays later, John found Mario Villamizar of Niagara Falls, Ont., for a 27-yard touchdown, the first of Villamizar's career, giving the Hawks a 30-16 lead.
Two possessions later, following another fumble recovering by the purple and gold, starting running back Eric Guiltinan of London, Ont., put the game out of reach with a seven-yard touchdown run to cap off the scoring.
Guiltinan, making his first career start in his final year of eligibility, had an impressive debut for Laurier as he ran the ball 21 times for 85 yards and a touchdown. John, in his first start at quarterback since 2013, struggled throwing four interceptions but finished strong as he had two touchdowns and 158 yards passing, completing 10-of-24 passing attempts.
For the Gaels, Hobbs completed 20-of-35 pass attempts for 187 yards and a touchdown but threw two interceptions. Receiver Chris Osei-Kusi of Brampton, Ont., was his favourite target as he had eight catches for 74 yards.
Up next, Laurier continues their two-game homestand to start the year as they host the York Lions (1-0) at University Stadium on Labour Day Monday, September 5. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
NOTES: Laurier has now won back-to-back games against Queen's for the first time since winning two-straight between 2009 and 2010…Queen's lead in the all-time series now stands at 11-9 with Laurier having won three of the last four meetings at University Stadium…Boateng's two sacks now give him 16 for his career, just two shy of setting a new all-time school record for career sacks…attendance at Sunday's game was 1,144