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  • Connor O'Neil

OUA Yates Cup Semi Final Preview

Game 1) McMaster Marauders v Guelph Gryphons

In the first of two semi-final matchups, the Guelph Gryphons (6-2) will be taking on the McMaster Marauders (6-2). These two teams met in their first contest of the year, which saw the Marauders defeat the Gryphons 25-10.

The Marauders have been one of the most dominant teams in the OUA all season. Throughout the season, the Marauders have displayed an incredibly efficient passing game. In the regular season, Marauders QB, Andreas Dueck, completed a province best 200 of his 301 passing attempts, throwing for 2431 yards, 15 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Dueck is a talented cerebral quarterback with a strong arm who does a good job of leading the target and throwing his receivers open. In 2019 Dueck’s favourite targets have been Tommy Nield and Xander Tachinski. Nield hauled in 38 receptions for 498 yards and 3 touchdowns while Tachinski tallied 34 receptions for 411 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Marauders run game is headlined by Jordan Lyons who carried the ball 51 times for 321 yards and 3 touchdowns and Justice Allin who had 48 carries for 346 yards and 1 touchdown on the season. The passing attack is the strength of the Marauders offence and the Marauders do a phenomenal job of calling plays and schemes that allow Dueck the time and space necessary to throw the ball.

McMaster’s defence has been equally as impressive as its offence and the Marauders may very well possess the best defensive unit in the OUA. Over the course of the 2019 season, the Marauders have allowed the fewest passing yards per game, surrendering an average of just 209.6 yards through the air per game. The 116.9 rushing yards allowed average in the third fewest rushing yards given up on a per game basis in the OUA. On the season, McMaster’s defence has given up an average of just 18.9 points per game, second fewest in the OUA. McMaster’s 14 defensive interceptions rank as first in the province and they have tallied the third most sacks with 27 in the regular season. The Marauders defensive unit plays an aggressive front seven that wants to send blitzes and get pressure in order to force mistakes. What makes McMaster’s defence so effective is the incredible coverage play they receive on the back end from their secondary. Veteran players such as, Noah Hallett give coaches confidence that the coverage will hold long enough to allow the defensive line and linebackers to get into the back field and be disruptive.

On the other sideline are the Guelph Gryphons, who finished with a strong record of 6-2 and are looking to reach the Yates Cup Finals for the second year in a row. The Gryphons have a dynamic offence headlined by their duel threat quarterback Theo Landers. Landers ended the 2019 regular season completing 132 of 211 passes for 1695 yards and 9 touchdowns. The Guelph quarterback would also add 66 carries for 492 rushing yards and 5 rushing touchdowns, leading all Guelph ball carriers. The identity of the Gryphons is a balanced offence that keeps defences guessing, especially with Landers under centre. Landers has a pretty good arm, certainly good enough to make the throws necessary at the university level. The Guelph offence is centred around Landers’ innate ability to read and react to defensive pressure, while he can take off and run, Landers won’t run just for the sake of running. Landers uses his legs strategically to avoid defensive pressure and too extend plays when necessary. The Guelph offence will certainly provide a challenge for the Marauders for Saturday’s matchup.

The Guelph defence is nothing to scoff at either. The Gryphons have one of the most aggressive front sevens in the OUA and have been the source of many problems for offensive coordinates throughout the 2019 OUA season. The Gryphons defence surrendered an average of just 17.8 points per game, best in the OUA. The Gryphons allow the fourth fewest yards per game average, surrendering 379.6 yards per game through 8 regular season games. The Guelph defence finished the 2019 regular season with a league leading 32 sacks and scored the second most defensive touchdowns on the year with 4. The Gryphons play an aggressive style of defence designed to get to the quarterback, at any given moment the Gryphons are ready and willing to rush seven defenders. The Gryphons pass rush is strong and is the focal point of their defence, however in order to have success against McMaster this weekend the Gryphons will need to focus on their secondary and not letting routes develop behind coverage. The Gryphons have surrendered 9 passing touchdowns on the season and will need to do a better job of staying on top of routes in order to slow down the Marauders.

Saturday’s game between the Marauders and the Gryphons is going to be a defensive battle; a battle that I believe will come down to which defence can do a better job of limiting big plays through the air. Though I do feel that this will be a close game, I do give the edge to the McMaster Marauders. The Marauders have a more technically sound defence, especially in the secondary. Should this game be dominated by defences, Mac has the advantage. After four quarters, I feel the Marauders will be advancing onto the Yates Cup Final.

Game 2) Western Mustangs v Waterloo Warriors

Second semi-final game of the day features a heavy-weight bout between two of the best quarterbacks in the OUA. Chris Merchant and the Western Mustangs (8-0) will be squaring off against Tre Ford and the Waterloo Warriors (4-4). The last meeting between these two powerhouses resulted in an offensive explosion, which saw Western escape with a narrow 45-42 victory.

The Western Mustangs have solidified themselves as not only the best team in Ontario, but they are absolutely one of, if not the best team in the country. Through 8 games the mustangs have outscored opponents by an average of 14.5 points and have averaged 36.3 points per game while allowing just 21.8 points per game. Mustang’s quarterback Chris Merchant completed 159 of 232 attempts for 2378 yards and 14 touchdowns. Merchant would also add 77 carries for 438 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns. While this Mustangs team has thrown the ball more than they typically would in the past, they were still a run heavy offence. The Mustangs as a team ran the ball 271 times in the regular season, 39 more times than Merchant’s season total 232 passing attempts. Running back, Trey Humes has been the feature back for the Mustangs, carrying the ball 136 times for 705 yards and 3 touchdowns. Humes is an athletic ball-carrier who remains patient before attacking the open lane. In space Humes is elusive and will rarely be tackled in one on one situations. The Mustangs offence has averaged 468.1 yards per game through the 2019 regular season through a ground and punt style fo play that allows various passing options and home run plays to develop over the course of a given drive. Much of Western’s offensive success can be attributed to one of the best offensive liens in the country. Highlighted by Dylan Giffen, the Mustangs linemen are big, powerful, and well-coached. The Mustangs’ line does a good job of reaching the second level and providing a good first push to allow the run game to develop. This Western offence will prove to be a tremendous test for a Warriors defence that surrenders the 3rd most passing yards and 2nd most rushing in the OUA.

The Waterloo Warriors find themselves in the playoffs for the second year in a row and are now advancing to the Yates Cup semi-final. The Warriors have one of the most exciting offences in the country. Headlined by quarterback Tre Ford, the Warriors are a high-flying offence that is not afraid to air the ball out. In the 2019 OUA regular season Ford competed 168 of 239 attempts, throwing for 2158 yards and 13 touchdowns. Ford would also contribute 67 rushing attempts for 634 yards and 6 touchdowns. Tre Ford is an extremely athletic quarterback with incredible field vision. Ford has a strong arm and possesses the ability to throw the ball into tight windows. Fords athleticism and legs are equally as impressive as his arm. When running the ball Ford is smart, running to extend a play or running when passing options are covered. The Warriors’ use Fords athleticism to keep defences honest, which allows them to involve running back, Dion Pellerin. In 2019 Pellerin carried the ball 152 times for 977 yards and 11 touchdowns, Pellerin would add 8 receptions for 13 yards and 1 receiving touchdown. Ford also has a set of talented wide receivers in Tyler Ternwoski and Gordon Lam to accompany a strong backfield. Ternwoski is a dynamic slot receiver who runs crisp clean routes and can burn defensive backs downfield. Ternwoski finished the regular season with 47 receptions for 695 yards and 5 touchdowns. Lam is a a long striding speed receiver who can play both in the slot and out wide. Lam reeled in 52 receptions for 657 yards and 5 touchdowns.

The combination of speed, strength and athleticism within the Warriors offence is what makes it one of the most exciting in the country. It will also be a test for the Western secondary, which has been one of the worst in the OUA allowing an average of 300 pass yards per game.

The last matchup between the Warriors and Mustangs ended in a 45-42 shootout win in favour of the Mustangs. Both of these teams have seen each other once already now and both of these teams know what each other is capable of offensively. However, neither of the two have standout defences and are among the worst pass defences in the OUA. I expect this Saturday’s game to once again be a high scoring with Western coming away with a victory. Western has proved to be one of the best teams in the country all season long and has an exceptional playoff resume, with a Yates Cup victory just a season ago. This is sure to be an exciting matchup, but one I expect The Western Mustangs to win and advance to yet another Yates Cup Final.

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