Windsor Lancers quarterback Austin Kennedy finally got his wish.
In his fifth and final season at Windsor, the hometown kid and OUA's co-touchdown passing king had a clear pre-season goal: get his team a home playoff game before his career ended.
Now, for the first time ever, Kennedy will step on his home field for an OUA playoff game.
The Lancers, despite making the playoffs each season with Kennedy as their starter, have not won a playoff game since 2011, coincidentally against the Ottawa Gee-Gees.
"I think it's very important for the development of our program," said Windsor head coach Joe D'Amore. "We've been a playoff team the last four years, but haven't been able to host any (games). I think it's important to play in front of our home fans and hopefully have a good showing."
The two teams met earlier in the regular season when the Lancers came away with a 39-29 win on Oct. 10 in Windsor. The game turned out to be crucial, swinging home field advantage for Saturday's game in favour of Windsor and nearly sinking Ottawa's playoff hopes altogether.
Statistically, the two teams matchup evenly and both possess quarterbacks capable of racking up yards. Windsor scored 28.1 points per game this season, roughly a touchdown less than Ottawa's average of 35.6. However, Windsor also allowed fewer points giving up 19.7 per game compared to Ottawa's 25.5.
In a season where he tied OUA's all-time touchdown passing record, Kennedy threw for 2252 yards and 15 touchdowns while tacking on an additional 310 rushing yards; he ranked second in OUA in yards and fourth in touchdown passes.
Gee-Gee's pivot Derek Wendel put together an equally strong campaign. In his third season with Ottawa, Wendel ranked fourth in OUA with 2172 passing yards, and was second in touchdown passes with 16. He also posted a completion percentage north of 60 per cent, something Kennedy was unable to do, and ran for 333 yards.
Like Windsor, the Gee-Gees have a talented backfield tandem of their own. Mack Tommy and Bryce Vieira also split carries this season and combined for over 1000 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 6.8 yards per carry.
"(Vieira) is an older kid having played CEGEP, so he brings a bit more of maturity to the team," said Ottawa head coach Jamie Barresi.
Both teams also have the weapons for their quarterbacks to air it out.
For Windsor, Evan Pszczonak was Austin Kennedy's favourite option this season. Pszczonak appeared in seven games, averaging 101 receiving yards to go along with seven touchdowns, ranking him fourth and second in the OUA the respective categories.
Expect Wendel to look in the direction of Ian Stewart plenty of times on Saturday afternoon. Stewart led the Gee-Gees in receptions (44), yards (550), and tied with Vieira for the team lead in touchdown receptions (4).
Few quarterbacks around the league are envious of Wendel's task this week; Windsor boasts the league's best pass defence. The team allowed just 193.4 yards per game in the air this season and will have a fired up home crowd on its side.
Wendel did manage to put up 326 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season meeting at Windsor, but was also picked off twice in the game as the Gee-Gees fell behind early and a 21-point fourth quarter deficit was simply too much for the team to overcome.
The game kicks off on Sat. Nov. 1 at 1 p.m. at Alumni Field in Windsor. A semi-final date with either Guelph or McMaster is on the line, so be sure to head down to the stadium or catch all the action live on OUA.tv! The game can also be seen locally on TVCogeco Windsor/Leamington.
Matchup by the Numbers
79 – Career touchdown passes by Windsor's Austin Kennedy, tying him with former Ottawa Gee-Gee Josh Sacobie for the most in OUA history. Kennedy tied the record by throwing three touchdown passes in his team's final game against Western.
911 – Penalty yards this season for the Ottawa Gee-Gees, the second most in OUA. Ottawa also took 104 total penalties, tied for most in the league.
91% - The red-zone success rate of the Gee-Gees, which ranks tied for third in the conference. In 32 trips to the red-zone, Ottawa has scored 29 times. Conversely, Windsor converted on just 74 per cent of its red-zone opportunities; second last in the league ahead of only Waterloo. Windsor, however, did convert 52 per cent of its opportunities into touchdowns, roughly matching the Gee-Gees rate of 56 per cent.
2011 – The last time these two teams met in the playoffs. Windsor came away with a 50-32 victory in the quarterfinals before losing to Western in the semis.
8 – Sacks for Gee-Gees defensive tackle Ettore Lattanzio, the league leader this season.