This appeared to be a week when the contenders distanced themselves from the pretenders. There was a lot of lopsided scores this week, with those at the top it seems all too keen to flex their muscles. The dramatic domination by some teams this week has lead to a shakeup in the Top Ten, but kicking us off despite a loss this weekend is a familiar face.
10. Alberta Golden Bears
Previous Ranking: 9th
Last Game: Loss Vs. Saskatchewan Huskies (38-16)
Next Game: @ Regina Rams
There’s no shame in losing to the 2022 Saskatchewan Huskies, they are a powerhouse and one of the favourites for the Vainer Cup. Saskatchewan may have lost the game, but there were some positives to take for Alberta. The Golden Bears put up 406 yards of offence up on the Huskies, with quarterback Eli Hetlinger throwing for 322 of those yards. The sixteen points Alberta put up on Saskatchewan was the most the reigning Hardy Trophy champions had conceded all season. While Alberta lost the game 38-16, they shouldn’t lose heart and they should be looking forward to another epic matchup away to the Regina rams.
9. Carleton Ravens
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
Last Game: Win Vs. Windsor Lancers (24-7)
Next Game: Vs. Ottawa Gee-Gees (Panda Game)
The race for playoff seeding in the OUA is wide open, and the Ravens did themselves a big favour by beating the Windsor Lancers last week. Both teams went into the games on two wins, but Carleton wasted no time distancing themselves from their OUA rivals, racing into a 17-0 lead before the end of the first quarter -a lead they would not relinquish. The Carleton defence played a key role on the day, accounting for nine (a safety and an interception return) of the twenty-four points scored on the day. In total, they put up three sacks, and limited Windsor to just seventy-five passing yards. The offence put up points, but three turnovers from fumbles and the 188 penalty yards the team as a whole surrendered is also a concern. If they can clean that up, they’ll have a great chance of winning the famous Panda Game against city rivals Ottawa next week.
8. Ottawa Gee-Gees
Previous Ranking: 8th
Last Game: Win @ Laurier Golden Hawks (21-18)
Next Game: Vs. Carleton Ravens (Panda Game)
What a game! After a poor first half that saw Ottawa behind by ten points against Wilfrid Laurier, the Gee-Gees came storming back to win 21-18 to stun the Golden Hawks fans in Waterloo. Ottawa once again played to their strengths, one of which is simple, give the ball to Jean-Paul Cimankinda. The running back had a season-high 147 yards on the ground, and also proved to be a threat with his hands, catching a 39-yard pass for a touchdown. Also playing his part is Ottawa kicker Campbell Fair. Fair leads U Sports in successful field goals, and the game tied at 18-18, he lined up to hit a 55-yard game-winning field goal. As time expired, he drilled it through the posts to not only seal the win, but to also hold the record for the longest successful field goal in all U Sports this season. Having a kicker with a strong leg is a huge advantage in tight games, and there’s every chance Ottawa will need the likes of Cimankinda and Fair to be at their best when they play their hated rivals, Carleton, next week!
7. Regina Rams
Previous Ranking: 4th
Last Game: Win @ UBC Thunderbirds (21-13)
Next Game: Vs. Alberta Golden Bears
This is a good team, and four games in, the clear number two side in Canada West. Desperately unlucky last week against Saskatchewan, Regina went into Thunderbird stadium knowing it wouldn’t be easy against UBC, but the Rams stood firm once again! Like they have done all season, Regina’s defence stood firm. Star defensive lineman Anthony Bennett recorded his fifth sack in just four games and linebacker Ryder Varga put up a season-high eleven tackles, including 3.5 tackles for a loss. Meanwhile, the offence did enough to ensure Regina left Vancouver with a 21-13 win. Next week they face Alberta, a crucial matchup in the fight for Canada West playoff seeding.
6. St. Francis Xavier X-Men
Previous Ranking: 5th
Last Game: Win @ Mount Allison Mounties (26-7)
Next Game: Vs. Bishop’s Gaiters
In a way, the convincing manner in which STFX defeated their closest AUS rivals plays a part in them sliding in the ranking (as well as the fashion in which other teams won). STFX showed once again that they are absolutely the class of their conference, and without being too disrespectful, it might be holding them back. But let’s concentrate on the good, against an unbeaten amount Allison side the X-Men completely dominated. They had nearly double the number of first downs the Mounties had, and nearly four times as many yards on offence. Quarterback Silas Fagnan had by far his game, putting up season-high stats on touchdowns thrown, yards thrown and completion percentage. On the ground, he also added forth rushing yards – showing us all why he was AUS MVP last year. The defence also played lights out, putting up an impressive seven sacks and holding Mount Allison to just 141 yards! At this point sitting at 4-0, the X-Men must surely have one thing on their mind, a National Semi-Final appearance.
5. Laval Rouge et Or
Previous Ranking: 7th
Last Game: Win Vs. Concordia Stingers (60-14)
Next Game: Vs. McGill Redbirds
Well Laval certainly made the most of the bye! In front of a raucous home crowd of 13,520 – Laval set out to squash any pre-season motion that Concordia could possibly finish above them in the standings, and they made sure it wasn’t even close. Arnaud Desjardins had yet another monster performance, throwing for 364 yards, five touchdowns and completing 86.2% of his passes – elevating him surely into the conversation of one of U Sports’ best passers. Laval wore down the Stingers’ defence in the ground by committee, six players got at least two carries and it worked to the tune of 210 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The score finished an astonishing 60-14, and was even as lopsided as much as 60-7 for a period of the fourth quarter! Laval Rouge et Or sent all of U Sports (and me) a message against the Concordia Stingers, underestimate them off at your peril!
4. Montreal Carabins
Previous Ranking: 3rd
Last Game: Win @ McGill Redbirds (29-12)
Next Game: Vs. Concordia Stingers
It’s four games played, four games won for the reigning Dunsmore Cup champions, and against the cross-city rivals McGill, it was business as usual. As it was against Laval, it was the defence that was the star of the show as the Carabins defence held McGill to just 172 yards, and forced McGill QB Eloa Latendresse to get familiar with the ground with nine sacks! Leading the charge was Nicky Farinaccio, who now leads U Sports with six sacks all season! He and fellow defender Philippe Lemieux-Cardinal combined for five sacks between them as the McGill O-line struggled to contain them all game! Jonathan Sénécal and the Carabins offence quietly went about their business as they won the game comfortably 29-12, with the season halfway done – the goal now has to be securing home-field advantage for the playoffs!
3. Queen’s Gaels
Previous Ranking: 6th
Last Game: Win @ Guelph Gryphons (62-11)
Next Game: Vs. York Lions
I don’t think there’s any doubt that Queen’s are the second-best team currently in the OUA, they’ve proven time and time again this season and against what was supposed to be a tough task away to Guelph, they made it look all too easy. The key to this was the rushing game, the Gaels’ offensive line utterly dominated the game, allowing the rushing attack to go off for 379 yards – including 244 yards for running back Anthony Soles. Soles leads all of U Sports in rushing yards, yards per game and rushing touchdowns and even now, I think they’ll be Guelph defenders seeing him in their nightmares. One issue for Queen’s was signal called James Keenan having to leave the game early, but fortunately, the backup Alex Vreeken played well in relief. Vreeken threw for 192 yards and two touchdowns, and with Queen’s next game up against bottom side York, they might be tempted to keep him in to help give Keenan more recovery time.
2. Saskatchewan Huskies
Previous Ranking: 2nd
Last Game: Win @ Alberta Golden Bears (38-16)
Next Game: Vs. Manitoba Bisons
With every passing week, this team looks more and more like the best of the West! It wasn’t expected to be easy against an in-form Alberta team, but despite playing the game in Edmonton – the Huskies completely dominated in a 38-16 win Saskatchewan put up 528 yards of offence, with QB Mason Nyhus once again demonstrating his good chemistry with receivers. Both wideouts Daniel Perry and Caleb Morin had plus 100-yard games and through the first four matches have both combined for a total of 658 yards, nearly half of Nyhus’ entire yardage total on the season! But perhaps the even bigger talking point is the defence. The Huskies have only given up 41 points this season, enough to give them the best points against record in all of U Sports. Alberta’s Eli Hetlinger came into the game as a top-five quarterback statistically, but Saskatchewan forced him to throw three interceptions and complete only 20/40 passes. All while recording three sacks, two fumbles and one fumble recovery. Manitoba is Saskatchewan’s next opponent, and their offence will have to be perfect if they’re to have any chance of slowing down the reigning Hardy Cup champions.
1. Western Mustangs
Previous Ranking: 1st
Last Game: Win Vs. Waterloo Warriors (66-3)
Next Game: @ McMaster Marauders
Quite frankly, Western have looked like they’re on another planet compared to their OUA rivals. Against Waterloo, the Mustangs had not one…not two…but THREE running backs rush for over 100 yards on the day in a 66-3 utter humiliation of the Warriors. Waterloo simply couldn’t stop Western’s run attack. But that’s been the case all year and O-Lineman Phillip Grohovac, Erik Andersen, Zack Fry, Alex Berwick and all the others who have played in the trenches this season deserve all the credit possible for allowing the running backs to rush for on average 257.7 yards a game! Evan Hillock Was only required to throw eighteen times, but he still managed to pass for two touchdowns, giving him a touchdown to interception ratio of 11 to 0 through four games this season – he’s been perfect so far in terms of ball protection. The defence held Waterloo to just nine first downs (three coming from penalties) and 105 total yards on offence, don’t sleep on them either. To put it bluntly, Western looks unstoppable at the moment, and it’s a generous twist of fate they don’t play the lowly York Lions this season!
Subscribe to 13th Man Sports to get email notifications when we post!