As each CIS football team is officially eliminated from playoff contention, we'll reflect on what they did this year and compare their results to our expectations.
Next up: Windsor, eliminated this past Saturday in London
Record: 5-3 (1-1 in playoffs)
RPI: 13th (out of 26)
Per-game stats (including playoffs):
Points for: 33.7
Points against: 24.0
Passing yards: 320.9
Rushing yards: 153.5
Passing yards against: 248.2
Rushing yards against: 166.2
Looking back at our preview questions:
CAN Sam Malian play in something resembling a full season for the first time since his rookie year?
Turns out Sam Malian couldn’t finish a quarter of the season. It is just horrible luck for the fourth-year quarterback who showed much promise in his early years and is by and large considered a pretty good guy.
However, Malian’s injury in the second game of the season against Laurier turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it opened the door for second-year pivot Austin Kennedy. And Kennedy just ran with that opportunity. He entered the game against Laurier down by 16 points and led a massive comeback that resulted in a 41-40 victory in Waterloo — at Laurier’s home-opener no less.
Kennedy didn't do much ... just went on to lead one of the most potent passing attacks in the country, throwing for 2108 yards, 20 TDs and only five picks during the regular season. He also ran for 432 yards and four touchdowns. Basically, he was good enough that he is in the discussion for the OUA player of the year.
His signature performance gave them their first playoff victory since 2003: he dismantled Ottawa’s defence with 429 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions, 86 yards rushing and a single rushing major.
So to sum up: No, Sam Malian couldn’t play in anything close to a full season. And yes, Windsor did manage to get some stellar play from their quarterback despite that.
WHAT does nine returning starters on offence and 10 returning starters on defence mean for a team that only won two games last season?
Apparently, with the right quarterback at the helm, it actually means five regular season wins and a berth in the OUA semi-final.
The experience on both sides of the ball absolutely helped this team as they were statistically better across the board. On offence, they averaged more than 150 yards per game more, with an increase of 70 yards per game on the ground and almost 90 more in the air, resulting in more than 100 points added to last year's regular-season total.
The key returnees happened to be at the receiver and slotback positions. Cory Fernandes, Jordan Brescacin and Evan Pszczonak gave Kennedy three dangerous and reliable receivers, creating matchup problems for most defences.
On defence, they also improved by almost 100 points, cutting their yardage allowed by about 25 yards per game. Lineman Seamus Postuma was easily the star of this unit getting 2.5 sacks and 5 tackles for loss. Junior safety Matt McGarva was the team’s leading tackler and was just as crucial to stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback as he was in coverage.
Basically, the defence did enough to hold their opposition while their offence racked up the points. The formula led to the most success they have had since Daryl Stephenson was carrying the ball for the Lancers.
WILL Joe D’Amore do enough as head coach to remove the interim tag and guide this program into the future? If not, who is the right person to take a historically mediocre team to the Promised Land?
I’d say by taking the majority of former coach Mike Morencie’s team and improving them from 2-6 to 5-3 (6-4 including the playoffs), he did more than enough to earn the head coaching job. Perhaps he was a better motivator or was better at preparing his team for each opponent. Truthfully, I don’t think anyone outside of the Lancers dressing room could tell you. But the difference was there on the field.
However, I think he needs to have a few more seasons to see if he can be the guy to lead this team to continued success. With a team loaded with juniors and seniors and a dual-threat quarterback like Austin Kennedy, he was given a pretty strong set of tools for this season. What remains to be seen is if he can aggressively recruit over the course of the next few years to restock his team and maintain this level of play.
CAN the Lancers find a way to replace the boot of Robert Eeuwes?
Well, let’s just look at the numbers here:
Robert Eeuwes 2010: Field Goals – 11 of 16, PAT – 13 of 13, punting average – 39.9, with 15 of 77 in the 20
Dan Cerino 2011: Field Goals – 3 of 9, PAT – 20 of 21, punting average – 33.9, with 5 of 48 in the 20
Sebastien Rimbert: Field Goals – 2 of 2, PAT – 9 of 10, punting average – 29.2 with 4 of 16 in the 20
They may have something with Rimbert, who played in four games as a freshman. But based on what we have seen this season, it is a resounding no. Fortunately for Windsor, they were able to put the ball in the end zone far more often, so they were able to escape without a reliable kicker or punter.