BURLINGTON, Ont. – The undefeated No. 7 nationally ranked uOttawa Gee-Gees (4-0) will take on their crosstown rivals, the No. 10 Carleton Ravens (3-2) Saturday when the two teams clash in the nation's capital in the annual Panda Game.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. from TD Place in Ottawa, Ont. and will be broadcast live, coast-to-coast on City. Fans can also catch all the action on Saturday streaming live on OUA.tv.
The previous two Panda Games have ended in heartbreak for the Gee-Gees who have seen "Pedro" slip through their fingers thanks to some last minute Ravens heroics. In 2014, Carleton receiver Nate Behar (London, Ont.) somehow came down with the football on a last second 55-yard hail Mary from quarterback Jesse Mills (Halifax, NS), while last season it was the foot of kicker Michael Domagala (St. Catharines) who sent the Ravens into the history books in double overtime.
Expect to see the usual suspects that have orchestrated the Ravens recent Panda Game heroics back in the mix Saturday as they look to bring Pedro home for a third straight year. All eyes will be on the quarterback matchup as Mills and Gee-Gees quarterback Derek Wendel (Belleville, Ont.) will go toe-to-toe once again with more than bragging rights around the nation's capital on the line.
Through five games this season Mills, a fifth-year communications major, finds himself ranked second in the conference in both completion percentage (66.1%) and touchdowns (9), while 286.6 yards passing per game has him in third place.
Across town, Wendel has firmly placed himself in the Hec Crighton conversation after an outstanding season thus far. The Belleville, Ont. native, who was named an OUA second-team all-star a season ago, leads OUA in yards per game (379.5), touchdowns (14) and completion percentage (69.0%).
Both quarterbacks will need to do a better job of taking care of the football as Mills is second in OUA with seven interceptions, followed closely behind by Wendel with six picks in four games.
However, with the receiving depth that each quarterback has in their arsenal, you can't blame either of them for airing it out.
Coming off an OUA first-team all-star selection a season ago, Behar is yet again having another outstanding season as the fourth-year receiver from London, Ont. leads the conference with five touchdowns to go along with 87.2 yards receiving per game. Last year in the Panda Game, Behar has eight catches for 95 yards and a touchdown in the Ravens 48-45 double OT victory.
The Ravens have one of the deepest receiving groups in the conference as, along with Behar, Kyle VanWynsberghe (101.2) and Dexter Brown (50.4) rank in the top 20 in receiving yards per game.
However, it has been another receiver from Ottawa that has been stealing the hometown headlines this season as Gee-Gees receiver Mitchell Baines (Ottawa, Ont.) is turning in an all-star caliber season of his own. Baines, a fifth-year social science and criminology major, is ranked second in CIS with 114.3 receiving yards per game while his four touchdowns have him in a three-way tie for fourth in the country.
Not to be outdone, uOttawa has a stacked receiving corps of their own behind Baines. Kalem Beaver (Dartmouth, NS) and Tyler McLaren (Indian River, Ont.) are both averaging 59 yards or more per game, along with running back Bryce Vieira (Montreal, QC) who is a dual threat to run and catch the ball out of the Gee-Gees backfield.
Carleton possesses numerous threats more than capable of taking over a game, however, none might be more dangerous than running back Jayde Rowe (Scarborough, Ont.). Rowe, who transferred from the Regina Rams prior to the start of the season, is currently second in OUA averaging 142.6 yards rushing per game to go along with five touchdowns. Rowe is coming off a record setting performance last week that saw him rush for 258 yards and a pair of touchdowns against York.
For the Gee-Gees their ground games runs through the aforementioned Viera who is averaging 71.3 yards per game and two touchdowns. As a team, uOttawa ranks second last in the conference in rush attempts with 107, while their pass attempts (180) through four games trail only Guelph (193), Carleton (191) and York (183), all of which have played five.
Defensively, the Gee-Gees and Ravens stack up fairly evenly, allowing 318.8 and 347.8 yards per game, respectively, this season. Ottawa has the advantage over the Ravens against the run as the Gee-Gees are allowing 126.8 yards per game, while the Ravens secondary controls the skies as they've only given up 166.0 yards per game through the air through five contests.
The Ravens defence is anchored by fourth-year linebacker Leon Cenerini (La Salle, MA) who is tied for fourth in the conference, averaging 7.8 tackles per game. Cenerini, who is studying criminology, also has a sack and an interception in five games this season for Carleton. To say that rookie defensive back Jay Dearborne (Yarker, Ont.) has been a pleasant surprise for the Ravens would be a major understatement. Dearborne, who is studying engineering at Carleton, is tied for the conference lead with three interceptions in just four games.
Free safety Ty Cranston (Winnipeg, MB) and linebacker Khadim Mbaye (Montreal, QC) have been a nightmare for teams all season and the pair leads the Gee-Gees with 20 tackles apiece. However, Ty hasn't been the only Cranston keeping offensive coordinators awake at night as his younger brother Cody Cranston (Winnipeg, MB) leads the team with two interceptions and three pass breakups in just his second season in the league.
If there is one player on either team that can really turn the game on its head it is Ravens return specialist Tunde Adeleke (Ottawa, Ont.). The speedy Adeleke, a first-team CIS All-Canadian a season ago, leads OUA in punt return yards with 391 while his three touchdowns is tops in CIS.
Through four games this season, Gee-Gees kicker Lewis Ward (Kingston, Ont.) is a perfect 11-for-11 on field goal attempts, including a conference high 51 yard field goal in uOttawa's 31-28 double OT victory over the Guelph Gryphons. On the other side of the field, Ravens kicker Michael Domagala (St. Catharines, Ont.) has struggled to begin the season converting just 5-of-9 attempts. However, as proved in last year's Panda Game victory, Domagala can be clutch for the Ravens when called upon with the game on the line.
The Quest for the Cup Campus Tour, fuelled by Pioneer, will also be on site at TD Place to promote OUA student-athletes and competitions with an interactive OUA booth featuring contests, games and prizes, along with displays and promotional materials.
Prior kickoff, longtime CTV Ottawa Sports Director Terry Marcotte will be honoured for his ongoing contributions to the coverage of CIS sports in the nation's capital. Marcotte is one of Ottawa's most recognizable and well-respected sports journalists and continuously covers major rivalry events such as the Capital Hoops Classic and the Panda Game.
Gee-Gees alumni and students will be gathering at Lansdowne Park's historic Aberdeen Pavilion for the official uOttawa pre-Panda Game party for music and food prior to the game.
Fans are reminded that TD Place has a strict no bags policy and no bags will be allowed inside TD Place. Also, once fans enter TD Place you will not be permitted to re-enter if you choose to leave.