The Importance of Early Season Games -- OUA In The Huddle with Mike Hogan - Week 2

The Importance of Early Season Games -- OUA In The Huddle with Mike Hogan - Week 2

Don't worry about it, it's early.

It's not an unusual sentiment. Many a team has either been upset, or lost a game to a team of equal ability in the first couple of weeks of the season. We saw two examples of that last weekend, but how important could those losses be?

The simple thing to do is to assume that it's easy to rebound from an early setback. After all, there's lots of time to make up for that loss. But sometimes those early-season losses can be devastating.

Assume for the premise of this discussion that Western and Laurier are the top two teams in the OUA and it would be stunning to see either miss the playoffs.

Likewise, let's work under the guise that Windsor, Waterloo, York and Toronto may have some good things happening, but it may be premature to be talking playoffs.

That would leave five teams battling for four playoff spots. McMaster, Queen's, Carleton, Guelph and Ottawa all have good rosters, but also have question marks at this stage of the year. If the season plays out the way most are predicting, one of these teams won't make the playoffs.

Every win is vital. No game is a 'gimme'. Need evidence? You don't have to go back very far.

In 2016, Week One featured Queen's at Laurier. In the pre-season coaches' poll for OUA Uncovered, the Golden Hawks were ranked sixth, the Gaels seventh. Michael Faulds' team won the fourth quarter 21-3 and defeated Pat Sheahan and company 37-18. Laurier would ride the momentum of that win for the rest of the season, the Gaels missed the playoffs by virtue of a tie breaker.

The first-week loss was the difference between Queen's making or missing the playoffs on more than one occassion.

The Guelph Gryphons edged the Gaels for the post-season berth, but they almost lost their season in Week Two when they were stunned by Windsor 33-29.  If the Gryphs had missed the playoffs, that early-season setback would have been the difference.

Two seasons before that the Gaels forfeited the first two games of the season due to dressing an academically ineligible player. They had defeated Windsor in the opener before losing in Week Two to Ottawa. The Gee Gees result stood, but the Windsor win became a loss and the Tricolour fell two points shy of a playoff spot.

In last weekend's opener, Queen's lost a heart-breaking decision to Carleton in a game that could have serious playoff implications. Likewise, Guelph's loss in double overtime to Ottawa could come back to bite them.

Twice this week there are head-to-head games involving the aforementioned cluster of potential playoff bubble teams. McMaster is at Carleton, while the Gaels visit the Gee Gees.

Don't be surprised if we look back at the end of the regular season and point to one of these games as to why a team missed the playoffs.

And yes, it's only Week Two.


The O-Zone


Either Carleton's defensive line is scary good, Queen's offensive line needs some work, or a little bit of both. The Ravens not only bottled up running back Jason Pataki, limiting him to 36 yards on 13 carries, but they sacked Nate Hobbs an eye-popping nine times, led by Tevin Bowen, who had 2.5 of them. Bowen also forced a fumble that was recovered by Frederik Robitaille, who returned it 22 yards for a touchdown. Michael Domagala became the Ravens all-time scoring leader. Carleton QB Michael Arruda looked impressive in his first OUA start. Jayde Rowe, last year's USports rushing leader, split the reps in the backfield with Nathan Carter. The Gaels has a chance to run some time off the clock, but twice in the final three minutes went two and out. Queen's receiver Matteo Del Brocco had a nice afternoon, catching nine passes for 139 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Both Rob Baker and Gord Sinclair from the Tragically Hip were in the stands, as is the norm for a game in Kingston.

All hail the undefeated Waterloo Warriors! Head coach Chris Bertoia picked up his first win as the Warriors outlasted the Lancers 54-33 in Windsor. It snapped Waterloo's two-year losing streak. The Warriors scored a total of 77 points last season. Freshman corner Tyrell Ford had punt return TDs of 98 and 100 yards, the latter may have been the back breaker for Windsor. Tyrell's twin brother Tre had a 100-yard rushing game while splitting the quarterbacking duties with Lucas McConnell, who threw three TD passes. The Fords are just one of three sets of twins on Waterloo. The teams combined for 744 yards of offence. They also totalled 21 penalties for 235 yards. Waterloo converted third-and-three and third-and-eight gambles, but another third-and-eight attempt was intercepted by Isaiah Warner. Marvin Gaynor rushed for 139 yards for the Lancers, who received five-catch performances from Noah Akharoh and Tristan Carter.

The Ottawa Gee-Gees picked up a huge win, beating the Gryphons in Guelph 24-21 in double overtime. Ottawa's Lewis Ward and Guelph's Gabriel Ferraro traded 40-yard plus field goals in the first OT. Ward hit one from 28 yards in the second round of the shootout, before Ferraro missed from the 36. Guelph led 7-5 at the half. Ottawa missed a great opportunity in the third quarter when Guelph took major penalties on successive plays, but Ward missed a FG at the end of the drive. Quarterback Alex Lavric replaced Victor Twynstra at half time for Ottawa, finishing 16-22 for 132 yards. Bryce Vieira couldn't get it going, finishing with 13 carries for just 30 yards. Patrick Pierre, his Guelph counterpart, finished with an even 100 yards on 26 carries. The Gryphs were thrilled to see Jacob Scarfone back in the lineup after missing last season with an injury. He only had three catches, but one was for a 74-yard TD late in the fourth quarter. Ferraro sent the game to OT with a clutch 38-yard FG with one second left in regulation. Nick Dagher led U-of-O with eight catches for 60 yards.

The Golden Hawks held Toronto to just seven first downs and 60 yards of offence in a 39-0 shutout at Laurier. The Hawks front seven dominated, finishing with three sacks and 10 tackles for a loss. Michael Knevel threw for 341 yards and a TD. His favourite target was Kurleigh Gittens Jr., who hauled in nine passes for 110 yards. Toronto's best field position was the Laurier 53-yard line. Connor Ennis threw for just 58 yards, while Kaleb Leach was limited to 38 yards on the ground. Damoy Robinson was busy for the Blues, recording 11.5 tackles.

Western also won big, 66-3 over York. The 'Stangs passed for 372 yards and added 258 more on the ground. Malik Besseghieur led the way with six catches for 179 yards, while Brett Ellerman added 118 receiving yards and a pair of majors. Alex Taylor looked to be in mid-season form, rushing for 125 yards on 15 carries. Western forced five turnovers. Brett Hunchak had a tough afternoon, passing for just 174 yards and throwing a pair of picks. Alex Daley was his leading target, catching six passes for 68 yards.






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