The final week of regular season play is upon us and fans will be treated to a top-tier tilt in this week’s OUA Marquee Matchup. We know that both the No. 2 McMaster Marauders (6-1) and No. 3 Laurier Golden Hawks (5-2) are postseason-bound, but their final seeding is anything but secure, so in a treat from the schedule-makers, fans will be privy to a battle of nationally-ranked squads to close out the campaign in this week’s headline event.
After their sixth straight victory last week, the Marauders rose the USPORTS ranks to No. 5, their highest mark since they reached No. 4 on October 19, 2016. As has been the case all season, a major reason for their triumph is the defence, which remains at a consistently elite level. The maroon machine gives up an average of just 10.7 PPG and under 300 yards of offence – both leading the OUA – while also forcing 20 turnovers and collecting 23 sacks. The team is as complete as they come on the defensive side of the ball, but will be put to the test against the high flying Golden Hawks.
On the offensive side, the Marauders leave something to be desired – sitting 7th in the conference in scoring – but have gotten stronger as the year goes on behind their collection of fresh-faced talent. The team sits middle of the pack in rushing and ninth in passing, but with their ability to take care of the ball and the continued strides from freshman QB Jackson White, 2nd year WR Tyson Middlemost, and 3rd year running back Jordan Lyons, they are trending in the right direction heading into the postseason.
Laurier, meanwhile, who has been a constant near the top of the standings this season, slipped to seventh in the national ranks after their defeat at the hands of the Guelph Gryphons in last week’s OUA Marquee Matchup. Despite the low-scoring loss last week, the Golden Hawks still boast one of the most potent offensive attacks in the conference, averaging 38.3 PPG (2nd in the OUA). A large part of this success is due to the passing game and specifically, QB Michael Knevel. The Junior from Brantford, Ont. has averaged 324.6 yards per game in the air and 15 passing TDs, while also relying on standout veterans Levondre Gordon in the ground game and Kurleigh Gittens Jr. through the air. Backed by a fourth-ranked defence in both points allowed and yards allowed per game, the defending Yates Cup champs pose a threat on both sides of the ball for any opponent.
Despite Laurier’s dominance this season, the team enters their final matchup looking to bounce back from a 24-14 loss at the hands of the Gryphons. It was a rare off- day for the offence, which was limited to just 186 yards for the game – a far cry from their 560.33 YPG average coming into the game. This inability to move the ball with any consistency led to the team being shut out in the first half.
A Guelph fumble and punt return miscue helped the Golden Hawks crack the goose egg in the third quarter, but they could only trim the deficit to six. After a Guelph field goal made it a two possession game once again, it was all but curtains for Laurier, who fell to 5-2 on the season. Knevel finished 16-35 with 110 yards, and 1 TD (rush), while Gordon tallied 72 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries. No Golden Hawks receiver was able to eclipse the 50 yard mark, with Gittens J. topping the group at 47 yards, respectively.
Maintaining the formula that has worked for them all season long, meanwhile, McMaster was able to continue their impressive season with a 29-13 win over the Windsor Lancers. The Marauders jumped out to a 20-0 lead in the opening half, which included a pair of passing TDs from White to Middlemost – who notched career highs in both receptions (11) and yards (109) – and a pair of FGs from Adam Preocanin (42, 26). Preocanin would go on to add another three field goals on the day, equaling his season-high output of 17 points, and effectively putting the game out of reach for McMaster’s sixth straight win.
The Week 9 Marquee Matchup will be must-see TV, and will kick off on Saturday (1:00 pm) at University Stadium in Waterloo. For those not attending the game live, you can catch all the action from this top three tilt on OUA.tv.