One wonders what Ontario University Athletics football coaches are thinking anymore.
Saturday in London, where the Western Mustangs were putting the finishing touches on a 63-19 rout of the Ottawa Gee-Gees, there was running back Yannick Harou scoring his team’s last touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
Harou had 138 yards rushing in the game, and three touchdowns to that point, yet here were the Mustangs, not only exposing the veteran back to injury, but leaving an understudy on the bench who surely could have used the experience.
Down the road in Guelph, the Gryphons still had their top tailback, Johnny Augustine, on the field with 63 seconds left in the game, scoring a touchdown that concluded a 41-27 victory over the Windsor Lancers.
Does no one remember the Ryan Granberg experience of four years ago, when Queen’s ran its top back into the line in the dying seconds of a long-since won final game of the year against Toronto, only to have him so badly concussed that he was lost for the playoffs?
Never mind the message a coach is sending to the poor backup on the sidelines, who surely must reflect on the hours he spends in practice, only to be implicitly told that, even with a multi-touchdown lead in the final five minutes of a game, the coaches don’t have enough faith to trust you with the football.
Beyond the taint of those episodes, the playoff picture really didn’t come any more into focus during the weekend. Even first place remains up for grabs, as Western, still undefeated, must now dispose of the McMaster Marauders in its final game to stay that way. McMaster improved to 6-1 Saturday with a come-from-behind 30-21 win over the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks.
Though McMaster can finish first, it still hasn’t clinched second, since Guelph, also 6-1, defeated the Marauders when they met in September. If Mac loses it will finish third, even if Guelph loses this week at Carleton, since the Gryphons would be favoured in the 6-2 tie.
Third and fourth place are both still up for grabs. Guelph has the inside track, but Carleton is 5-2, as are the Queen’s Golden Gaels, who slipped out of Toronto Saturday with a 33-32 win over the York Lions (http://www.sportkingston.ca/index.php/articles/view/3431.html). If the Gaels defeat Laurier in their final game, they’ll be 6-2, and a Carleton win over Guelph creates a three-way tie that will favour Queen’s, since the Gaels beat both of them in the regular year.
A four-way tie at 6-2—if a McMaster loss to Western becomes part of the puzzle—creates a whole new scenario, since the Mauraders had neither Queen’s nor Carleton on its schedule. It then becomes a matter of points for and against, who beat the higher-ranked teams, and where Saturn is relative to the moons of Jupiter.
In the game at London Saturday, the No. 3-ranked Mustangs scored 21 points in both the first and fourth quarters to gain their seventh win this year. Western had 707 yards of offence, 538 of them along the ground, where Alex Taylor gained 195 yards, with two touchdowns, and Harou had 140.
Sydenham product Ben Fisher had three catches for 15 yards for the Gee-Gees.
Windsor’s Tarrance Crawford scored the first of his two touchdowns just 54 seconds into the Lancers’ game at Guelph, but the Gryphons then scored 24 points before the first quarter ended, including three touchdowns less than five minutes apart. Jacob Scarfone had 10 catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns for Guelph, which got a 63-yard punt return for touchdown from Ryan Nieuwesteeg midway through the second quarter, taking the lead to 34-7.
Crawford finished the game with 196 yards rushing for Windsor, whose quarterbacks were sacked eight times.
In a wild, 42-point first quarter at Waterloo, Laurier took a 14-0 lead when Ben Millar returned an intercepted pass 65 yards for a touchdown eight minutes into the game. McMaster proceeded to score three touchdowns in a little less than five minutes to take the lead, but then Kurleigh Gittens, Jr., returned a kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown to tie the game, 21-21, in the final minute of the quarter.
Oddly, the game got quiet after that, as only a McMaster safety was scored before Dan Petermann scored his second touchdown of the game on a pass from Marauders quarterback Asher Hastings with six minutes to go in the game. The decisive drive began when the Marauders recovered a fumble by Hawks quarterback Eric Morelli inside the McMaster 20-yard line.
Hastings completed 31 of 43 passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns, which was fortuitous since the Marauders managed just 94 yards rushing.
In Saturday’s other game, the Toronto Blues kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a 34-0 win over the Waterloo Warriors. Varsity led just 14-0 going into the fourth quarter, when Blues tailback Alex Malone scored two touchdowns, one on a run of 44 yards, to put the game away. Malone finished the game with 169 yards rushing from 19 carries.
Warriors defensive back Jordan Hoover, who shares the league lead with Western’s Josh Woodman, intercepted his fourth pass of the season. Though he returned it 62 yards the Waterloo offence couldn’t turn it into a score.
The regular season concludes Saturday when Laurier, 3-4, is the Homecoming visitor at Queen’s, which, at 5-2, has won three straight; Guelph, 6-1, plays at Carleton, 5-2; Toronto, 3-4, travels to Ottawa, 2-5; McMaster, 6-1, entertains Western, 7-0, and Waterloo, 0-7, plays Windsor, 1-6. York’s season is finished, at 1-7.