AUS - Week 3 Recap
As the NFL Network’s Kyle Brandt pontificates every year, “Week 1 is a liar.” Well, in the AUS we couldn’t be sure about everything we saw in week 2 either since not every team played in week 1. Now, after three full weeks of regular season play, each team has played two games and has given us ample material to dissect and evaluate.
Through three weeks of the AUS Season, here are my thoughts on each team so far.
Acadia Axemen – Live and die by the big play
Acadia through three games has looked very dynamic offensively…at times. They have yet to really string together a lot of drives – their longest drive of the season is a 9-play, 22-yard drive against Mount A in week 1 that only resulted in a field goal attempt.
Here are Acadia’s touchdown drives so far: 2 plays (86 yards), 5 plays (78 yards), 2 plays (64 yards), 1 play (11 yards), 4 plays (56 yards), 3 plays (45 yards). This is a team living and dying by the big play right now, and with the best running back in the league in Cole Estabrooks, ball control needs to be something they stress moving forward. With 16 2-and-outs in the last six quarters of football, Acadia will have to rely on something other than big plays to drive the ball down the field in their last three games.
With a bye week this upcoming week, this would be a good time for the Axemen to start fixing their offensive woes.
Bishop’s Gaiters – Need to learn to win close games
Bishop’s has lost two games by a combined six points. Offensively they have struggled to gain traction, but they have shown flashes of good things and the fact that they have hung around in both games until the dying moments is a good sign.
Louis-Philippe Gregoire has looked really impressive at tailback, running for 208 yards in two games, against two very good defences. He’s someone who the Gaiters will have to rely on to put points on the board especially given some special teams woes that have seen Noah Laursen miss all seven field goal attempts so far. If he gets back on track, look for Bishop’s to start adding more and more to the scoreboard.
The Gaiters are 0-2 but could easily be 2-0 and it comes down to learning how to win. This is a tough thing to evaluate, but a lot of teams go through bumps before rising up and achieving great things, and I get the feeling this squad is going through those bumps. Whether it will be this season or 2022 remains to be seen, but I feel like once Bishop’s wins one of these close games, they are a team who will get rolling with confidence at a pace that will be tough to stop.
Mount Allison Mounties – Does Defence, in fact, win championships?
Based on the first two games the Mounties have played, the old cliché saying is going to have to come true. The Mounties rank first in nearly every defensive category, including rushing yards per game, points allowed, and more, while the offence is last in virtually every category including points, yards, time of possession, first downs and touchdowns.
The defence is very clearly going to have to carry this team until they can sort their offence out. Only one touchdown surrendered through two games is balanced out by only scoring one touchdown through two games. Daniel Bell is one of many standouts so far, leading the conference in Tackles for a Loss and among the league leaders in pass breakups and tackles despite playing one fewer game than Acadia and St FX defenders. And at this point, opposing teams may want to start charging rent for Reece Martin because that may be the only way to keep the big defensive tackle out of the backfield.
Another area of concern for the Mounties is penalties; while penalties seem to be up around the AUS, the Mounties average 127.5 yards in penalties, second-most in the conference. Especially offensively, where yards have been so hard to come by, making the field longer for themselves is something they need to stop if they hope to gain momentum moving forward.
Saint Mary’s Huskies – Need a spark (or really anything) on offence
I’ll let the numbers do the talking for the Huskies’ offence: 243 yards per game, one touchdown scored, three quarterbacks who have combined for 48% completion percentage and five interceptions, in three games played.
Aside from a 48-yard completion in the season opener against the X-Men, Saint Mary’s has yet to find any kind of spark offensively. Liam O’Brien is still a reliable target with 12 receptions, but he isn’t a deep threat or someone who will generate a big play, and part of playing receiver is having a quarterback who can get the ball to you. Saturday against Acadia, the Huskies’ looked lost at the pivot position, averaging only 4.3 yards per attempt. With a very talented receiving corps, the Huskies need to figure out a way to get the ball to their playmakers.
As the offence struggles to find its identity, the defensive and special teams units have hit their stride. As mentioned above, after a dismal first half two weeks ago against Acadia, the defence has found its stride, forcing 16 2-and-outs in the last game and a half. The special teams is holding up their end of the bargain as well, scoring three of the five Huskies’ touchdowns this season (one each by the offence and defence), and only allowing one punt return of over 15 yards.
St FX X-Men- the best all-around team in the AUS
Certainly in terms of offence and defence, St FX has been the best team in the conference so far. Averaging a conference-high 141 yards on the ground, and 300 in the air (which is more than double 2nd-place Acadia), it’s easy to see why the X-Men are tied for first at 2-0.
Quarterback Silas Fagnan has taken the league by storm in two games, with an impressive 5-1 TD-INT ratio, and a conference-high 59.5 completion percentage. His biggest help has been in the form of his brother, Isaac, who leads the AUS in receptions (13), yards (216) and touchdowns (2). Benoit Cormier and Zakariya Karim have settled in as very good second-and-third options for Silas, who also has the benefit of the best run game in the AUS with Malcolm Bussey and Caleb Fogarty providing a good thunder-and-lightning tandem.
Oh, and Silas himself has 79 yards and a pair of scores on the ground.
Defensively, the X-Men are led by Kyle Rutter, who has three interceptions in two games, as well as current sack leader Hunter Mousseau. Ethan Mastin is proving himself as an impact player, and had a whale of a game against Bishop’s on Saturday, with an interception, forced fumble, and blocked kick. And then there’s linebacker Ben Von Muehldorfer, who paced the X-Men with 9.5 tackles in the comeback win against Bishop’s.
As weird as it is to say, Jim Daley’s special teams units need to step up their game to the level of the Offence and Defence; surrendering three touchdowns in two games is something they’ll look to fix against Mount Allison this Friday.
All of the week 4 action in the AUS takes place Friday, October 8. Mount Allison hosts St FX at 7pm Atlantic while Saint Mary’s visits Bishop’s at 7pm Eastern. Both games can be streamed for free on AUS TV at aus.yaretv.com.