OUA football: Western, Laurier get byes, Ottawa-Carleton & Guelph-McMaster in quarters

Paraphrasing Bud-Lite Kaminski in the 1993 cinematic masterpiece The Program, "Great Week 9 in OUA football -- wish I'd seen it."

(Half-full disclose: the stuff one watches on YouTube on the weekend while packing up to move to a new city and also tracking down Canadian divers who are 12 time zones away in Malaysia  never ceases to amaze.)

Long story short, OUA shook out in way that could have been foreseen in August: Western in first, Laurier, McMaster and Carleton getting a home playoff game, and Ottawa being inscrutable Air Raid team. The Ravens will have their first on-campus playoff game since 1986, while the rivals in the nation's capital will meet in the post-season for the first time since '96.

Anyway, now that the IV drip of Red Bull is inserted, we have narratives:

  • Western got a good scare from McMaster, a potential Yates Cup opponent, after squeaking by 19-18 in a first-place battle. It was a wind-affected game, which certainly hurt the probability of success, but chances are the weather will not better for the Yates on Nov. 12.

    Chris Merchant, Alex Taylor and Co. were 30 points and 200-plus yards below their seasonal average. And as Morris Dalla Costa's column notes, "with third-and one with 30 seconds left, for some reason, the Mustangs’ left Simon Bahru all alone in coverage. The Marauder receiver got behind in but quarterback Asher Hastings missed him." Western typically doesn't repeat mistakes or leave their leaks unattended, which is why they are always playing into November.

    Western prevailed on the margin of a missed field goal single after John Biewald got downfield to make the tackle two yards deep in the end zone.  
  • One is welcome to the Hot Take that a Carleton-Western semifinal would be a de facto championship game. Those are the two squads with the best offensive lines, and capable front sevens on the other side of the ball. Each has explosion play capability in the third phase.
  • One presumes Laurier defensive coordinator Ron VanMoerkerke might have glean some things from seeing how McMaster defended against Western. The upshot for the No. 2 seed Golden Hawks is they have the bye, but the three-score loss in London still has some stickiness.

    Many good teams have got it right the second time. Four of the last eight OUA champions finished second in the regular season (2008 and '10 Western, 2011 McMaster and 2015 Guelph).
  • Only Western, in 2007, has won the conference without benefit of the bye.

    The Carleton Ravens' path to the Yates goes through two teams they have defeated, Ottawa next week and potentially Western in the semifinal (although Western in November and Western on a hot summer night on Labour Day weekend ain't one and the same).

    The way McMaster and Mike Kashak (11½ sacks) get after it gives them a strong shot at being the second. (If they get upset by Guelph, this bullet point never happened.) Likewise, being in the 4 seed might work out for Carleton.
  • To the Jim Mullin Red Book! It can be ascertained that an Ottawa-Carleton postseason matchup has happened twice, in 1986 at Keith Harris Stadium and 1996 at Frank Clair Stadium. Each was a 4 vs. 1 semifinal, and the home team prevailed each time.

    In 1970 and '73, Ottawa and Carleton also finished first and fourth respectively. In 1967, they were second and third in the 12-team Central Canada Intercollegiate Football Conference (where were the marketing people to shorten that name?)
  • Coach of the week honours to the Gee-Gees' Jamie Barresi, one for going for the high-reward all-or-nothing plays twice to defeat Queen's 42-41 in overtime.

    As you might have heard, all-Canadian candidate Mitch Baines grabbed a tipped pass for the winning two-point convert.

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    As Barresi explained: "It meant everything to get that sixth win. The fact of the matter is that we learned from last year’s overtime against Carleton. That was a big lesson learned because we should have ended it then. Today, the players on the bench were in my ear a bit to go for it – we knew had a play. We all felt confident about it, and they urged me on to do it. But right away I thought about that Panda Game last year."

    Barresi and the Gee-Gees also went 'double or nothing' on the last play of the first half. Queen's Chris Osei-Kusi fumbled while trying to return a well-short 55-yard field goal attempt and Ottawa recovered with 10 seconds left. Ottawa worked the shallow cross / wheel combo pattern perfectly so that Bryce Vieira was wide-open for an easy touchdown, cutting Queen's lead to nine points.

    The Gees had a lot of mental outs: bad loss to Western, dank weather, the prospect of being locked into fifth place since Carleton was 99.98 per cent likely to win at Waterloo. They made it matter.
  • A sign of being in the upper quadrant of second-rate minds is believing Queen's can be held to account for the Homecoming "debacle," while having a heart for the coaches and players.

    A season-ending  walk-off  must feel devastating. Queen's defensive back Jason Shamatutu, who tipped the ball, did his job by reading and side-shuffling into the window Derek Wendel had to throw to Baines. The ball just happened to deflect right to a likely all-Canadian receiver.

    The Gaels hung in while losing starting QB Nate Hobbs, and having another injury-dictated change in the kicking game. Kyle Gouveia had a decent 17-of-26, 172-yard, two-TD passing line in relief on a wet day. They also had a contacting the kicker penalty that extended Ottawa for a field goal drive in the third quarter.
  • So Baines put Queen's out of the playoffs, and put Guelph and his brother, OLB Riley Baines, into the playoffs. 
  • Wendel upped his CIS single-season completions record to 232. Regina's Noah Picton has 197 heading into his final game at Manitoba on Saturday.

    There is a chance, then, that Wendel could have a national record nicked by a Canada West QB. Last season, of course, he got the passing yards mark with 3,136, which set the bar for Calgary's Andrew Buckley to go off against Alberta and finish with 3,162. 
Enjoy the playoffs.
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