Welcome to Monday Morning Quarterback, a weekly look at all the best U SPORTS stories from the week.
Gee-Gees best Ravens 38-27 for first Panda Game win since 2013, while Rams’ Noah Picton becomes U SPORTS’ all-time passing leader and Gryphons upset No. 8 Golden Hawks
The 50th edition of the renowned Panda Game between the Ottawa Gee-Gees and Carleton Ravens took place Saturday in front of a sellout crowd of over 24,470 at TD Place, and this one had a lot on the line. Unlike last year (a wild 33-30 double-overtime win for Carleton, but a battle of unranked teams), this year’s clash had significant Top 10 implications, with the 4-1 Ravens ranked fifth and the 3-1 Gee-Gees ranked ninth heading into Saturday’s game. And this 50th Panda Game also ended with a 38-27 Ottawa win, a dramatically different result than what we’ve seen lately.
The Panda Game started in 1955 and was played annually through 1998, but Carleton’s cancellation of their football program after that season meant it went on hiatus until the Ravens brought back football in 2013. Ottawa won the 2013 edition 35-10 at home, but 2014 saw the Panda Game return to TD Place (located at its old home of Lansdowne Park), and it also saw the start of a Carleton winning streak. Last year’s win set a school record of four straight for the Ravens (the Gee-Gees hold the series record for consecutive wins with seven from 1957-1963), and while it only improved their lifetime Panda Game record to 17-32, recent history was definitely in their favor. This year, though, the Gee-Gees reversed that trend, and they lifted the famed Pedro the Panda trophy for the first time since 2013:
The very first play from scrimmage of that game was a remarkable one, as Carleton quarterback Mike Arruda tossed a lateral to wide receiver Quinton Soares who then threw a deep pass to Dominic Walker for what wound up being a 78-yard touchdown:
The Ravens looked to extend their lead soon afterwards, as defensive back Jon Edouard picked off Ottawa quarterback Sawyer Buettner on the Gee-Gees’ first drive. However, Arruda threw an interception of his own on the ensuing drive, with Ottawa’s Rashad Spooner hauling in a pass after it was tipped. That led to Buettner orchestrating a drive that he capped off with a touchdown pass to Carter Matheson, tying the score. The Ravens responded with another touchdown of their own, but the Gee-Gees bounced back with a touchdown and a field goal to take a 17-14 lead into the half. Ottawa then scored the next 21 points, aided by a fumbled punt return and by multiple interceptions, and Carleton’s attempted fourth-quarter comeback was too little, too late.
On the day, the Gee-Gees’ defence particularly stood out, picking off Arruda four times and holding him to 19 completions on 34 attempts (55.9 percent) for 248 yards and a touchdown. 2017 first-team All-Canadian Jamie Harry led the way with two picks, giving him five on the year (topping the U SPORTS leaderboard). Fellow DBs Spooner and Luke Griese recorded the other interceptions. And on offense for Ottawa, Buettner completed 16 of 28 passes (57.1 percent) for 243 yards and five touchdowns with one interception, finding Kalem Beaver five times for 128 yards and two touchdowns. Buettner also added 24 rushing yards on four carries, while running back Dawson O’Dei rushed 25 times for 142 yards (an average of 5.7 yards per carry) to help give the Gee-Gees the win.
Elsewhere in U SPORTS football, the No. 10 Regina Rams not only pulled off a 32-31 overtime road win against the Manitoba Bisons Saturday, they saw quarterback Noah Picton set the all-time Canadian university passing yardage record in remarkable fashion in the process. The throw that put Picton ahead of former Sherbrooke quarterback Jérémi Roch was a 35-yard touchdown pass to receiver Kyle Borsa (who finished with 293 all-purpose yards, the fourth highest single-game total in Regina history, behind three games from the famed Neal Hughes) on the first overtime possession, and it was a beautiful deep ball:
Regina kicker Aldo Galvan then converted the extra point, leaving Manitoba seven behind the Rams. The Bisons then scored a touchdown of their own on their own first possession of overtime when Des Catellier hit Shai Ross for a 16-yard touchdown pass, but their attempt to go for the two-point conversion and the win didn’t work out, with fifth-year Regina linebacker Cole Benkic knocking down Catellier’s attempted pass to Trysten Dyce.
The game only got to overtime thanks to an impressive fourth-quarter comeback from Manitoba, as the Bisons trailed 25-8 partway through the fourth. But they scored on their next three possessions, tied the game with 48 seconds to go, and almost won it in regulation on a punt return from Marcel Arruda-Welch before a shoestring tackle from Regina rookie linebacker Josh White saved the day. It worked out for the Rams to go to overtime, though, as that gave Picton the chance to break the record this week. All in all, Picton completed 20 of 30 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns, and he now has 11,496 career passing yards. And he still has three regular-season games left to extend that record.
Speaking of the record books, Laval Rouge et Or head coach Glen Constantin recorded his 170th Canadian university football victory as a head coach (all with Laval, where he’s been the head coach since 2001) in the No. 2 Rouge et Or’s 53-2 win over the Concordia Stingers. That put him second all-time in career wins, passing renowned Western coach Larry Haylor (169 career wins, inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014). Constantin now only trails record-holder Brian Towriss (196 career wins), the famed Saskatchewan Huskies’ coach who was honored by that team two weeks ago. And this also increased Constantin's lead amongst active coaches; second there is Queen’s head coach Pat Sheahan, who stayed on 156 this week thanks to a 26-23 loss to No. 1 Western.
One final notable moment from the U SPORTS football world this week came in Waterloo, where the Guelph Gryphons earned a 27-24 road win over the No. 8 Laurier Golden Hawks. The Queen’s Gaels spoiled Guelph’s Homecoming game last week with a 33-32 win, and the Gryphons returned the favour this week, spoiling Laurier’s Homecoming game thanks to six interceptions, including this 69-yard pick-six from Dotun Aketepe:
No. 1 Carabins extend regulation-time shutout streak to a calendar year in 5-0 win over Stingers
The No. 1 Montreal Carabins have a truly remarkable shutout streak going. The Carabins picked up a 5-0 win over the Concordia Stingers Sunday, and they’ve now gone a full calendar year without allowing a goal in regulation, in both the regular season and the playoffs. The last goal Montreal allowed in regulation came Oct. 1, 2017 against the UQAM Citadins. And keeper Claudia Dubé-Trempe has been key to much of this shutout streak.
Oh, and the only overtime goal the Carabins have allowed in that span came in a double-overtime 1-0 loss to the Laval Rouge et Or in last year’s RSEQ championship. Montreal bounced back from that to win the U SPORTS championship, posting shutout wins over Guelph, Trinity Western and Cape Breton to do so.
Huskies snap Golden Bears’ home winning streak, spoil banner-raising
The Alberta Golden Bears claimed last year’s national championship, and they raised that banner in their season opener at home against the Saskatchewan Huskies Saturday.
However, the rest of the night didn’t go so well for the Golden Bears, as they fell 5-2. The evening started off well for Alberta thanks to goals from Cole Sanford and Curtis Miske, but Saskatchewan then received goals from Kohl Bauml, Tanner Lishchynsky, Logan McVeigh, Jordan Tkatch and Jaimen Yakubowski, plus 30 saves from Taran Kozun. McVeigh’s impressive shot from a sharp angle (on a delayed penalty) would prove to be the eventual game-winning goal.
The Golden Bears got some revenge on Sunday, though, storming out to a 5-0 lead and notching an eventual 5-1 win. They were dealing with plenty of injuries and only dressed 16 skaters, but got two goals from Taylor Cooper plus single tallies from Sawyer Lange, Steven Owre, and Clayton Kirichenko. Zach Sawchenko made 14 saves in the win. This shorthanded breakaway goal from Cooper was particularly nice:
Heat host first-ever U SPORTS race, claim first and second on both sides, while Hufsmith dominates at Sled Dog Open
The UBC Okanagan Heat are new to cross country U SPORTS competition this year after spending the last seven years competing at the CCAA level, and they hosted their first U SPORTS meet this weekend with the UBC Okanagan Invitational, a dual meet with the Thompson Rivers Wolfpack that counted as part of the Presidents' Cup Athletics Challenge between the schools. That went quite well for the home team; the Heat claimed the titles on both the men’s and women’s sides, with Mike Mitchell, Turner Woodruff and Owen Harris sweeping the men’s podium and Veronika Fagen (last year’s individual CCAA champion) and Brittany Webster taking first and second on the women’s side.
Elsewhere in cross country, Saskatchewan’s Courtney Hufsmith turned in a great showing at the Huskies’ own Sled Dog Open, finishing in a personal-best time of 28:06 and picking up her second win in two races on the year. That was 2:15 ahead of second-place finisher Meghan Manor of the Calgary Dinos. The Huskies also wore orange singlets in honor of residential school survivors:
Despite Hufsmith’s stellar showing, Calgary took the women’s team title thanks to Manor, plus teammates Kate Anderson and Emily Simpson (who finished third and fourth). Saskatchewan finished second, while Alberta was third, Manitoba was fourth and MacEwan was fifth. On the men’s side, Calgary won the title thanks to Russell Pennock, Stefan Daniel and Ryan Grieco sweeping the podium, beating out Manitoba, Regina and Alberta.
Kristian Yli-Hietanen scores four for No. 3 Thunderbirds, Marauders beat No. 7 Gryphons, No. 8 Golden Bears’ Connor James sets Canada West record
There were several cool storylines from men’s soccer this weekend, starting with the showing from fourth-year UBC forward Kristian Yli-Hietanen. In Sunday’s home game against the UNBC Timberwolves, Yli-Hietanen scored four goals, helping the No. 3 Thunderbirds to a 7-0 win. Here’s his fourth, on a nice header that was UBC’s seventh goal of the game:
That was a major contrast from the 1-1 draw between the teams Friday night. However, it should be noted that this was UNBC’s fourth game in seven days. They beat Calgary in a regular game last Sunday and beat Victoria 2-1 in a road makeup game Thursday, one that was originally supposed to be played in August but was rescheduled thanks to wildfires. But still, the Thunderbirds as a whole and Yli-Hietanen in particular looked great in this one.
Elsewhere in men’s soccer, the unranked McMaster Marauders edged the No. 7 Guelph Gryphons 3-1 at home Sunday. That game was tied at 1 until the 88th minute, when Antonio Sereno put McMaster on top. Guelph tried to press for an equalizer, but Robert Tamale added an insurance marker on the counterattack soon after.
And the No. 8 Alberta Bears and Pandas came up with a 3-0 win over the Lethbridge Pronghorns Saturday and a 4-0 win against the Saskatchewan Huskies Sunday, both at home. Sunday’s game saw Easton Ongaro record a hat trick and an assist, while Ajeej Sarkaria added a goal and two assists. But it was keeper Connor James who really made history, recording three saves for his fourth-straight shutout and setting a new Canada West record with his 29th career clean sheet.
Redblacks’ Howell pays off Panda Game bet with teammate Gillanders, while Gee-Gees best Ravens in rugby and Thunderbirds’ Sandhu gets first win as a field hockey head coach
The aforementioned Panda Game was also notable for a lot of social media posts around it. Some alumni of both Ottawa and Carleton who have gone on to CFL success got quite into it, and Ottawa Redblacks’ defensive back Justin Howell (a Carleton grad) wound up wearing a Gee-Gees’ jersey thaks to a bet with teammate Brendan Gillanders (an Ottawa grad):
Another alumnus prominent in the discussion around the game was former Gee-Gees’ quarterback Brad Sinopoli, who’s turned into a star receiver with the Redblacks. He was interviewed on the sidelines during the game:
Sinopoli was only one of many Redblacks at the game:
And many fans shared their photos from the game, too:
The Panda Game wasn’t the only Ottawa-Carleton contest of the week, though. The two schools also faced off in women’s rugby, where No. 1 Ottawa beat No. 7 Carleton 17-10 in the Gee-Gees’ closest game of the season so far:
Meanwhile, the UBC Thunderbirds have hoisted the McCrae Cup the last seven years as U SPORTS women’s field hockey champions, but they’re undergoing some change this year. Former player Poonam Sandhu took over as head coach this offseason, and her team was held to a pair of draws in their season-opening games against Victoria two weeks ago (they had a bye last week). But on the road Saturday in Calgary, Sandhu recorded her first career win as a head coach: