"Gryphons cutting it close" -- OUA In The Huddle with Mike Hogan - Week 6

"Gryphons cutting it close" -- OUA In The Huddle with Mike Hogan - Week 6

Why do we drive on the parkway and park in the driveway?

Sometimes life throws you questions that seem unanswerable. For those who watch OUA football there's one query that still seems to avoid a logical response.

How did Windsor beat Guelph?

"Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong," Gryphons head coach Kevin MacNeill told In The Huddle.

The first-year head coach quickly gave the Lancers full credit for their 33-29 win on Labour Day, saying Windsor was very aggressive and extremely motivated in the victory. He also added that he learned something about himself.

"I hate losing more as a head coach than as a defensive coordinator," laughed MacNeill, "Nobody told me it would hurt that bad."

It's been a frustrating baptism for MacNeill, an outstanding linebacker back in the day at Laurier. Along with the aforementioned upset loss to Windsor, the defending Yates Cup champions have lost to Western, McMaster and Ottawa. Wins over Queen's and Toronto have left the 'Gryphs with a 2-4 mark, tied in the win column with the Lancers, Gaels and York Lions.

Nobody saw this coming.

A veteran group was returning to defend the conference championship, though the defence was certainly hit hard with the loss of John Rush to graduation, and Curtis Newton, who surprisingly made the CFL's Toronto Argonauts with a year of eligibility remaining. The Gryphons have allowed 32 points per game, which ranks them 21st of 27 CIS teams.

It hasn't been an easy road, nor should it be for the defending conference champions. Both Queen's and McMaster were coming off bye weeks before their game with Guelph, giving those two teams a couple of weeks to prep. Still, if they would have beaten Windsor and knocked off Ottawa, who they lost to in double overtime, they'd be 4-2 and there wouldn't be any eyebrows raised.

But now the Gryphons have to win out to finish at .500, something the coach is confident they can do, that is, if his group possesses the proper frame of mind. MacNeill is certainly aware of preparation in that area.

"Every week is huge," said the coach as he prepared for the game against his alma mater. "Any other mindset allows mediocrity to set in."

It's now up to his team to practice what the coach is preaching, and preaching, and preaching.

"We're focusing on winning (next) week," reiterated MacNeill before saying something that almost everybody is thinking, but not many around the league are saying publically. "I think we'll be one of the most dangerous teams to play in the playoffs."

If they get there.

Guelph has a bye week before it travels to Laurier for a rare Friday morning game, and then hosts York eight days later. A loss to either one of those teams could make the Gryphons reign as Yates Cup champions a short one.

And a team with that much talent missing the post season would be the biggest head scratcher of them all.

The O-Zone:

A 16-point third quarter by McMaster did in the visiting Gryphons in a 27-15 win. Guelph led 7-5 at the half. The usually pass-happy Marauders had a big day on the ground, led by Chris Pezzetta, who rushed for a season-high 143 yards on 22 carries. Johnny Augustine had a pretty good game for Guelph, rushing for 109 yards. McMaster's Mike Kashak had an outstanding afternoon, registering three sacks and five tackles for a loss. The Gryphons shot themselves in the foot by taking 18 penalties for 125 yards. They had been the least-penalized team in the conference heading into the game.

The Panda Game may not have provided the same kind of dramatic finish as the previous two cross-town battles, but it gained attention for another reason. The attendance was 23,329 at TD Place in Ottawa, the largest CIS football crowd in the last two decades. The Carleton supporters were the happier group of fans leaving the stadium after a 43-23 Ravens win. Jayde Rowe led the attack for the winners, rushing for 130 yards on 27 carries. He leads all CIS rushers with an average of 140 rushing yards per game. Jesse Mills also had a nice day, throwing for 263 yards and a pair of TD passes. Nate Behar accounted for over half of Mills totals, as he caught a dozen passes for 138 yards and both TD strikes. Derek Wendel threw for 339 yards in the loss. Tunde Adeleke sealed the win with a 120-yard punt return, his fourth TD of the season.

Laurier lost its first game of the season, 45-26 at Western. The Mustangs held Eric Guiltinan to just 36-yards rushing on 15 carries. Alex Taylor's streak of five-consecutive games with 100 yards rushing came to an end, as he was held to 89 yards on 19 carries. The Mustangs threw the ball at will against a very good Laurier defence. Chris Merchant totalled 360-yards passing with three TDs. George Johnson had a killer average for Western, catching four passes for 130 yards and a major. The offensive line kept Merchant clean all day, as the Hawks didn't register a single sack. Western's John Biewald recorded two more sacks giving him seven on the season, good enough for a share of the CIS lead with the Marauders Mike Kashak.

The Lancers rushed for 268 yards in their 51-30 win over Toronto. Windsor saw Tarrence Crawford enjoy his best rushing performance of the year, a 184 yard, two-touchdown effort. Cassell Jones caught six passes for 119 yards and two TDs from Casey Wright, who finished with 253 yards in the air. Anthony Naccarato caught 10 passes for 152 yards in a losing effort for Varsity, who also saw Alex Malone rush for 108 yards. A win by the Blues would have moved them into sole possession of the sixth and final playoff spot. It was the first time Windsor scored more than 50 points in a game since they beat Waterloo 62-4 on September 20, 2014.

The Warriors had one of those days on Saturday, losing 54-20 to Queen's. Waterloo's struggles continued in terms of rushing the ball as they were held to 86 yards on the ground. Lucas McConnell threw for 217 yards for the winless Warriors. Jonah Pataki led the Tricolour with 125 yards on the ground, while speedy Chris Osei-Kusi caught five passes for 106 yards. Eight different Gael players caught passes. Freshman Nick Liberatore hit all four of his field-goal attempts for Queen's. He's hit on 87 percent of his kicks this season, the fourth-best success rate in the country.

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