HAMILTON, Ont. — McMaster punished Guelph's mistakes early and let a scorched-earth defence burn the clock—and the Gryphons' chances—late, en route to a 30-13 Yates Cup win Saturday and a berth in the Mitchell Bowl.
Controlling the line of scrimmage
This game was won and lost in the first 20 minutes of play. How exactly the Marauders made that period so profitable for them, and so costly for the Gryphons, has a lot to do with the work of their defensive front seven.
That group endured a shaky start when Guelph rusher Rob Farquharson bruised the Mac defence for 28 yards on his first two touches of the afternoon. But it was their effort in denying him in first-and-ten situations in the opening quarter that proved to be pivotal, because Jazz Lindsey—like most quarterbacks in the Canadian game—quickly became a liability when forced to throw on second-and-long.
The Marauders' second offensive possession was hardly a thing of beauty. But it was enough to pin the Gryphons at their 11, where the combination of right end Tanvir Bhangoo and strong-side linebacker Shane Beaton dropped Farquharson for no gain. The next play? A five-yard check-down that forced a safety and trimmed Guelph's lead to 3-2.
The Marauders answered that stop with their first well-orchestrated scoring drive to make it a 9-3 ball game, before the defence repeated the trick. Guelph attempted to run with Farquharson on first-and-ten and he was once again foiled by a crashing Beaton for a loss of two. Next play? An interception.
That interception became three more points after a stalled McMaster drive deep in Guelph territory. The Marauders entered the second quarter with a healthy 12-3 advantage, having only engineered one complete offensive drive.
The credit for that falls to the defence and the front seven in particular.
Yards for yards' sake
McMaster's offence made the most of its opportunities on Saturday without being in top gear for much of the game.
Shortly after the aforementioned first quarter, Kyle Quinlan put together a scoring drive on a short field (McMaster began on Guelph's 39-yard line) that ended in a 21-yard touchdown to Tyler Loveday. That would be the offence's last contribution to the scoreboard until the third quarter.
But for much of the game, the unit's greatest contribution came in the form of field position, an area McMaster consistently dominated on Saturday. The Marauders 449 yards of total offence were accompanied by only three touchdowns. That might seem like inefficiency. But in the war of attrition that the hosts waged in the second half, yardage itself was the greatest weapon.
A telling stat: only one Guelph drive in the second half began beyond their 40-yard line (their first possession of the third quarter began at their 41).
A lesson in scorched-earth defence
With a healthy 11-point lead to begin the second half—that only got healthier when Kasean Davis-Reynolds scored McMaster's third touchdown early in the third—the Marauders' secondary sagged back.
It fell to that familiar front seven to chase Lindsey from the pocket in an increasingly one-dimensional Guelph offence. Chase they did, and it was to the Gryphon quarterback's credit that he continued to find receivers and amass yards in the face of consistent pressure.
But those yards were gained in short and intermediate doses, with Mac's secondary nestled in comfortable deep zones and content to use their field position and point cushion to burn away the game clock.
The result was movement without impact. The Gryphons amassed 209 yards of offence in the second half but only three points, as their comeback effort fell well short.