GUELPH, ON - The Guelph Gryphons are immune to losing two games in a row. After suffering a disappointing loss last week to the Windsor Lancers, the Gryphons bounced back on Saturday afternoon at Alumni Stadium, beating the Queen's Gaels 38-29 and, in doing so, avoided losing back-to-back games for the first time in five years. The No. 10-ranked Gryphons now sit at 2-1 on the season while Queen's falls to 0-2.
Guelph was without several key players on Saturday as safety Tristan Doughlin and receiver/return specialist Ryan Nieuwesteeg were both late scratches after colliding in practice earlier in the week. The Gryphons also played the game without the services of running backs Johnny Augustine and Mack Jones, as well as starting offensive lineman Arran MacRae. In the opening quarer, the shorthanded Gryphons found themselves trailing as the visiting Gaels built up an early lead.
The first quarter was controlled by Queen's, as they held Gryphon QB James Roberts without a completion in the opening quarter with Roberts attempting a total of just three passes in the opening 15 mintues of play as the Gryphons were working with a significant wind in their face. The Gaels opened the scoring at 9:33 of the first quarter with a 42 yard TD pass from Nate Hobbs to a wide open Jonah Pataki, who slipped out of the backfield and found a gaping hole in the Guelph secondary. Queen's then used the wind to their advantage for a rouge on the subsequent kickoff and held an early 8-0 lead. Nick Liberatore added a 40 yard field goal as Queen's led 11-0 after the opening quarter of play.
In the second quarter, it was the Gryphons turn to go to work with the wind at their backs. Gabe Ferraro accounted for eight points in the quarter withh a pair of made field goals (42, 19) as well as a pair of rouges to trim the deficit to 11-8 at the half. All 19 points in the opening half were scored by the team working with the wind. While the wind was certainly a big factor Saturday, so too was the return of Gryphon running back Brandon Gordon.
The third year man had missed the Gryphons first two games of the season due to a summer work commitment in Toronto where he was employed as a service technician for Bell. Saturday marked his return to the Gryphon football team. While his summer employment may have come to an end, offensive coordinator Todd Galloway made sure that his workload remained a heavy one. Gordon came off the bench and rushed for 133 yards on 16 carries and a pair of touchdowns. He was part of a two-headed attack for the Gryphons with fellow running back Daniel Palmer-Salmon carrying the ball 30 times for 132 yards. The two backs combined for a trio of touchdowns in a pivotal third quarter that saw the Gryphons take command of the game. The spark from the Gryphon running backs was a much-needed one, as things did not look good for the Gryphons early in the second half.
Queen's started the third quarter with a 49-yard TD pass from Hobbs to Ryan Keays to give the Gaels an 18-8 lead. An unsuccessful fake punt by the Gryphons gave Queen's the ball deep in Guelph territory. A touchdown at that point would have extended the Queen's lead to 17. However, the Gryphon defence was able to come up with a crucial stop, punctuated by one of two sacks on the day by Gryphon defensive lineman Matt Delmas. The Gaels settled for a field goal. Their lead grew to 21-8. The defending Yates Cup champions needed to mount a comeback to avoid a second straight upset. And they were more than up to the task.
Brandon Gordon ripped off an electric 48-yard run which was quickly followed by a 27-yard, Roberts to Palmer-Salmon pass play. The 75-yard drive was capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run from Palmer-Salmon as the Gryphons had life and now trailed 21-15.
Later in the third quarter, third year tight end Geoff Bezruchko would come up with sensational 27-yard reception on 2nd and long. It was just the second catch of Bezruchko's career and set up a 7-yard touchdown run from Brandon Gordon. The Gryphons now led 22-21. And they weren't done there.
Defensive end/linebacker Derek Drouillard intercepted Queen's QB Nate Hobbs and returned it 33-yards the other way before being brought down at the Gaels 6-yard line. One play later, Brandon Gordon had his second TD of the day as the Gryphons scored 21 unanswered points to end the third quarter and led 29-21 heading to the fourth.
In the final quarter, Queen's was able to make it a two point game thanks to an impressive 77-yard TD run by receiver Chris Osei-Kusi. But that would be as close as the Gaels would get as the Gryphons were able to close things out late.
Following a conceded safety by the Gaels, the Gryphons would pull away thanks to a perfectly placed 10-yard TD pass from Roberts to Thomas Bresciani with 4:15 remaining in the fourth. It was the second straight game with a touchdown reception for Bresciani. Roberts finished the day with just 164 yards passing and one touchdown, was sacked six times but did not throw an interception on the day.
Queen's QB Nate Hobbs meanwhile was picked off on three separate occasions, with linebackers Derek Drouillard, Luke Korol and rookie DB Graham Brodie each recording INT's. This marked the second time this season the Gryphons had faced a member of the Hobbs family at quarterback as Nate's older brother, Marcus, was the starting QB for Toronto Week 1.
Not settling for field goals in the second was the key for Gryphons head coach Kevin MacNeill, "In the first half we were right there. We were moving the ball and putting together good drives, we just weren't finishing. We wanted to run the ball well today, and we also wanted to make sure we had the wind at our backs for the fourth (quarter). That ended up helping us close things out."
The Gryphons will now head to the nation's capital for a Week 4 matchup with the Ottawa Gee Gee's who are coming off a big 30-8 win over the No. 5-ranked McMaster Marauders on Saturday. After that, the Gryphons will return home for their 2016 Homecoming game versus Western on September 24.
Source: Guelph Gryphons