Eleven weeks of OUA football play has brought us to the championship game. This is the 103rd Yates Cup championship game. The Yates is among the oldest trophies in North American sports with the first Yates Cup being awarded in 1898 to the Toronto Varsity Blues. Today, Frank Clair Stadium in Ottawa plays host to a game that could easily go down as a Yates Cup classic as the Ottawa Gee-Gees host the Western Mustangs.
Yates Cup Final: #2 Western Mustangs (8-1) at #1 Ottawa Gee-Gees (8-1)
The Yates Cup is a rematch of what was arguably the best game of the OUA regular season. In Week Two, Ottawa barely topped Western 20-19 at Frank Clair Stadium on a last-minute drive that ended with Brad Sinopoli connecting with Steven Hughes from 27 yards out for the game-winning major with only 29 seconds left on the clock.
This game is going to be a battle between the unstoppable force and the immovable object to borrow a line from Gorilla Monsoon (that I’m told I’ve used on more than one Mustangs broadcast). Brad Sinopoli is the best quarterback in the OUA. He’s a threat to take off running on every down and can pick out his very skilled receiving corps at will. Sinopoli may be the favourite to pick up the Hec Crighton after being basically the only choice for the OUA MVP award but he’s got the OUA’s toughest defence to get through for a shot at Vanier Cup glory. The Mustangs’ defensive strength lies in their front seven which protects a secondary that is prone to getting lit up. Take the Week 2 matchup. Sinopoli threw for 439 yards which is six times the team’s running yardage of 74. This team eats up so many yards through the air that they don’t need a running attack to wear the Mustangs’ front seven. If the O-line can protect Sinopoli and give him time in the pocket, he’ll eat the Stangs for lunch.
On the flip side, the Stangs are basically running a 50/50 run and pass attack. Marshall threw for 210 yards on 20 attempts in Week Two while the team ran for 144 yards on 31 attempts. The Stangs plan of attack should be to pound the ball against the Gee-Gees defense until they break. Gratuitous use of screens, flats, draws and tosses should be used to set up play action so Marshall can throw the deep ball. He’s not near as pinpoint a passer as Sinopoli so the deep bomb that the receivers have the freedom to track down is what they need to free up. By the way, in the semi-final against Mac, Western ran for 220 yards. Marshall threw for 217 yards. The Mustangs will have to hit that Ottawa defence hard to have a chance in this one.
The special teams advantage clearly goes to Western. Lirim Hajrullahu can out kick Matt Falvo both distance and accuracy wise. Darryl Wheeler is the best punter in the OUA period. The return game will see things even up as both Ottawa’s Chayse Elliott and Western’s Andrew Thibaudeau are quality kick returners who can bust out a big run on any given play. Elliott is the better returner statistically but Thibaudeau has to be riding high after his big game last week. The punt return is essentially even with Elliott less than a third of a yard ahead of Craig Butler in return average. With the return games being so close, Western’s kicking game will have to help them make up the difference between the two offences. Deep punts will have to keep Ottawa pinned in their own territory in order to give the offense a short field in order to put points on the board.
The Gee-Gees come in as the clear favourites despite the narrow win during the regular season and an even closer battle last week against Laurier. History, however, favours the Mustangs. Ottawa was won the Yates Cup four times in their history. Western, on the other hand, is the winningest school in Yates Cup history having raised the trophy 28 times.
The winner of this game advances to the Uteck Bowl where they will face the Dunsmore Cup winner (QUFL Champion) on the road. Barring a massive upset, the winner here will play at Laval for a chance to play at Laval the following week for the Vanier Cup.
TV: The Score
Radio: CJBK 1290 AM (London)
Other CIS Playoff Games:
Loney Bowl (AUS Final) – Acadia Axemen (5-4) at St. Mary’s Huskies (5-3)
Dunsmore Cup (QUFL Final) – Sherbrooke Vert er Or (6-4) at Laval Rouge et Or (10-0)
Hardy Cup (Canada West Final) – Alberta Golden Bears (4-5) at Calgary Dinos (7-2)
OUA Regular Season Standings
1. Ottawa Gee-Gees (7-1)
2. Western Mustangs (7-1)
3. McMaster Marauders (6-2)
4. Wilfred Laurier Golden Hawks (4-4)
5. Guelph Gryphons (4-4)
6. Queen’s Gaels (3-5)
7. Toronto Varsity Blues (3-5)
8. Windsor Lancers (2-6)
9. York Lions (0-8)
Note: Information on broadcasters has been pulled from athletic department websites, the OUA website, and various articles read during the week. We make no guarantees over the completeness or accuracy of the listings.