It’s not easy losing what could be considered the biggest game of the season, especially when it’s against your biggest rival in front of roughly 15,000 of your peers. That’s the exact situation that the Carleton Ravens football program is facing right now after a crushing 19-17 loss at the hands of the Ottawa Gee-Gees last weekend.
“It was definitely a hard loss with them beating us by a field goal and not being able to rally a drive together towards the end to get us in the position to score a field goal and win,” said Reid Vankoughnett, the rookie quarterback the Ravens have called on in the absence of Tanner DeJong. “The moral was down, obviously because of the loss, but we came back ready to go this week against the University of Toronto, but we’re excited.”
After the loss, the Ravens sit with a 1-2 record but are currently in third place in the OUA’s East Division. While they are in a position to make the playoffs at the moment, they don’t have much security with the Gee-Gees themselves breathing down their necks, making the matchup with the University of Toronto Varsity Blues all the more important.
“This week is a short week,” said Vankoughnett. “We play Friday, so it’s a little bit shorter. Get in with the coaches, talk to the coaches, watch some film and make the nessecary adjustments that we should have made against Ottawa. Try to put those things together so we can come out with a win.”
No game that doesn’t have the potential to end a team’s season is really a must win game, you can argue that the Ravens’ tilt with the University of Toronto is as close to it as you can get at this juncture of the season. The Varsity Blues come into the week sitting at 1-1 and in second in the OUA East Division, and falling to them would make it very difficult for the Ravens to leap them in the standings.
The importance of finishing in second (or higher) in the division can’t be understated either. It would mean hosting a playoff game for the Ravens, but that quest starts with earning the win on Friday night.
“Oh, it would be big,” said Vankoughnett. “We’re in a crucial moment right now, were 1-2 and this is a big game for us. Trying to get to 2-2 is something that were definetly looking forward to. Coach has been pushing that all week.”
“We’ve gotta come out and we’ve gotta win this week,” he said. “It’s a pretty big game for our season.”
On a personal level for Vankoughnett, being tossed into action for his first start at the U Sports level was difficult, especially to do it in the Panda Game. Heading into his second start, he’s looking to build on what he has started.
“It was a big game to get thrown into,” he said. “The Panda Game is huge with a bunch of fans there. I would say it was a learning experience defeinetly. The speed, the size of the players, kinda just everything all together. You get a look in practice, but it’s not the same as in a game.”
Despite the Panda Game loss, Vankoughnett hasn’t lost his confidence in himself or in his football team.
“I’m pretty confident in myself, I’m pretty self-aware,” he said. “I feel like I can go out there and make any throw on the football field, and hopefully we’ll be able to display that this weekend.”
Vankoughnett knows that he can’t get the job done himself on Friday night and will have to turn to his teammates at some point to make things happen.
“For me personally, get the ball into playmakers hands,” he said. “Don’t force anything, keep control, and keep confident. As a team, just doing things that we have been doing in practice and put it on the field like we did against York when we beat them. Just trying to keep things moving and flowing so we can go out and get a win.”
One of those players that can be turned to is Nathan Carter, the new record holder for career rushing yard in Ravens’ history. The record had previously been held by Mark Brown since 1988.
It doesn’t matter how it gets done, but the Ravens hope to be back in the win collumn on Friday night. It would be a good start to the weekend for the team.