Panda Bowl Preview
Today the Ottawa Gee-Gees will go head-to-head with the Carleton Ravens at TD Place in the 2019 Panda Game. One of the biggest rivalries in the OUA and certainty one of the biggest events of the U Sports football season.
The Ravens and Gee-Gees have met 50 times since the first Panda Game in 1955, which saw the Ravens take a 14-6 win. The Gee-Gees lead the series all time winning 33 of the 50 meetings between the two teams. However, since the return of the Ravens program in 2013 the Ravens lead the series with four wins to Ottawa’s two.
Despite Carleton’s recent dominance in the series, the games have been more competitive than they ever have been. Who could forget about the Nate Behar walk off touchdown in 2014 or the double over time games in 2017 and 2015. Three out of the four ravens wins in the series have came down to a score determined by 3 points or less. What’s even more intriguing is the fact that even though the Ravens have won four of the last six matchups, the Gee-Gees have outscored the Ravens. Since 2013 the Gee-Gees have outscored the Ravens with 202 combined points to Carleton’s 194 points.
Regardless of each teams record the Panda game is always competitive and always exciting. In order to get you ready for Saturday’s action here is a break down of each teams tendencies over the last 6 years.
In the Panda Game the Ravens run an average of 65 offensive plays and for the most part run a balanced offence. When passing against the Gee-Gees the Ravens average 31 attempts per game and have thrown for an average of 270 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1.5 interceptions. Running the ball the Ravens average 34 rushing attempts, 176.8 yards, and 1.2 rushing touchdowns.
The balanced offence does not mean it is a conservative one, the Ravens are not afraid to run gadget and trick plays in the Panda game. In last seasons game, on the first offensive play of the Ravens ran a fake screen where receiver Quentin Soares pulled up and threw a pass to Phil Iloki. The play resulted in a 78 yard touchdown in favour of the Ravens.
The Ravens have a dangerous special teams unit as well. In 2016 and 2013 Ravens defensive back, Tundae Adeleke, return a missed field goal to the house. The touchdown returns were for distances of 120 and 129 yards.
While the Ravens do run a good offensive scheme and distribute the ball almost equally through the air and on the ground, which has turned into four wins in the last six years. However, one glaring trend with the Ravens in the Panda game is the amount of penalties they take. Since 2013 the Ravens average 12 penalties and 120 penalty yards a game.
In last seasons matchup the Ravens gave up an inexcusable 17 penalties which resulted in 165 penalty yards. The Ravens are playing a good Ottawa Gee-Gees team and will need to stay disciplined if they want to bring Pedro back across to the Carleton side of the Canal.
In the Panda game the Gee-Gees have a tendency to lean on the pass slightly more than the ground game. Against the Ravens the Gee-Gees average 38.5 passing attempts per game, averaging 305.3 passing yards, 3 passing touchdowns and 1.75 interceptions. When running the ball in the Panda game, Ottawa averages 30 rushing attempts per game, 206.8 rushing yards and 1.2 rushing touchdowns.
In the last three matchups the Gee-Gees have favoured going to the air even more so. Since 2015 in Panda Games, Ottawa has thrown the ball 37.3 times per game, while only attempting to rush the ball 26 times. Ottawa has proved to be more efficient scoring when going to the air over the last three seasons. The Gee-Gees have found the end zone nine times in the last three matchups through the air, while only managing one rushing touchdown over the same span.
The Gee-Gees offence in the last 6 years has been erratic at times and has gotten them into some bad situations, for example, in 2017 the Gee-Gees called a naked bootleg on 3rd down, but there were no routes run and the play resulted in a turnover on downs. The tendency to lean on the pass game has been predictable at times and when defences know you can’t run, it becomes easier to defend. However, this season the Gee-Gees do have a much more balanced team and have been favouring the ground game, it will be interesting to see if the Gee-Gees change up their offensive scheming for Saturday’s game.
The Panda game is always one of the most exciting games of the year. It always becomes a close and competitive game that comes down to the wire. The Ravens and Gee-Gees will both enter the game with quarterbacks getting their first OUA starts this year in Tanner Delong (Carleton) and Ben Maracle (Ottawa).
Both teams have strong defensive units with solid front sevens and both teams like to bring pressure in order to disrupt the offensive game flow. This is a game that feels like it will come down to discipline and withstanding big plays. Both teams have the ability to move the ball downfield and get in the end zone, but it will be a matter who can come up with a big play or a big stop that turns the tides of the game.
Connor O'Neil is a former UOttawa Gee-Gee defensive back with a passion for Canadian Football and a desire to stay connected to the game.