TORONTO, ON – Three weeks after the first game of the season, U SPORTS football is officially in full swing. For the first time in 692 days, regular season Canadian university football was played outside of Quebec on Saturday, as the OUA and AUS conferences kicked off their 2021 seasons.
St. FX and St. Mary’s kicked off Week 4 of the U SPORTS season with their season opener on Friday night. Then on Saturday, it was the defending AUS champion Acadia Axemen in New Brunswick to tangle with the Mount Allison Mounties. As has been discussed, the AUS is perhaps the most evenly matched of the four conferences, with each of the five teams boasting a case to make the Loney Bowl.
In Quebec, Week 4 featured a pair of rivalry games. First, on Friday night, it was the 52nd annual Shaughnessy Cup game between the Concordia Stingers and McGill Redbirds. The following day, it was the matchup everyone’s been waiting for between the two longtime ring leaders of the RSEQ, Montreal and Laval – playing the first of two games against each other this season.
One province over, 10 of the 11 OUA teams returned to the field on Saturday, save for the Guelph Gryphons. One of those teams was the Ottawa Gee-Gees, who were in Toronto to battle the U of T Varsity Blues. The Gee-Gees lost the game, but, tragically, suffered another loss – one that runs much deeper than football – with the tragic and extremely untimely death of 5th-year senior defensive lineman Francis Perron on Saturday following the game.
YORK 6 | LAURIER 37
This was a game that Laurier needed to get, coming in as heavy favourites on home turf against a York team that was ranked last in the OUA pre-season rankings. And the Hawks didn’t disappoint. They jumped out to a 27-0 lead, and won it 37-6. They dominated in all three phases, including special teams, where they forced two blocked punts and a blocked field goal. The one negative from that game was an early injury to starting quarterback Connor Carusello, who left with a sling on his left arm. Rookie Taylor Elgersma came in to replace Carousel but was pedestrian in his OUA debut, going 7-18 for 112 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Dawson Hodges was 4-4 in the kicking department for the Hawks.
McMASTER 13 | WESTERN 41
This was billed as the best game of Week 1 on paper, but the 2019 Yates Cup rematch turned out to be anything but. The game was close until the 4th quarter, when the hometown Mustangs scored 24 unanswered points to blow open what was once a 17-13 lead into a 41-13 victory. Western was paced offensively by 2nd-year tailback Keon Edwards’ three major scores. Edwards carried the ball 26 times for 174 yards in the win. The former understudy to McMaster quarterback Andres Dueck, Jackson White – now the starter at Western – wasn’t relied on much in the passing game, going 12-17 for 131, with two touchdowns and a pick. Dueck was solid for the Marauders, throwing for 212 yards on 20-28 passing, with a touchdown and an interception.
QUEEN’S 18 | CARLETON 6
The Carleton Ravens have high aspirations in 2021. With the OUA separated into two divisions, and one team from each division participating in the Yates Cup, they believe this could be their year to play for a conference championship. While early, those aspirations took a major hit in Game 1 for the Ravens. Their game with Queen’s was a defensive struggle. Queen’s led 7-3 at the half thanks to the ultra-rare QB-to-QB connection, 4th-year pivot James Keenan to his backup, Ben Langlois, for a 40-yard touchdown. In the 2nd half, it was Keenan again on the deep ball, this time to Richard Burton for the 50-yard score. Carleton’s only points came off the foot of Brandon Forcier, who hit field goals from 32 and 18 yards, respectively.
OTTAWA 10 | TORONTO 11
The Gee-Gees came up short on their final drive in a game that is an upset victory for Toronto, and one that goes a long way in aiding their playoff chances. The result of this game is secondary in the wake of the tragedy in the Gee-Gees program following the game. Gee-Gees head coach Marcel Bellefeuille told the Ottawa Sun, “Our hearts are broken. In losing Francis, we’ve lost an outstanding person, teammate, player and veteran leader that made us better in every way possible.”
WINDSOR 14 | WATERLOO 42
I picked the Warriors to win the Yates Cup in my OUA preview piece, and they made that prediction look like a wise one, at least in Week 1. After needing a last-second field goal from the now-departed Jonah Zlatinsky to beat the Lancers back in 2019, this game was much different. After a bit of a slow start offensively, the Warriors put the game away with 26 second-quarter points. Tre Ford once again showed his dual-threat ability – throwing for a touchdown and rushing for two others – while twin brother Tyrell was tremendous at boundary corner and was electric in the return game. He ran back four punts and a kickoff for a total of 132 return yards, not including a touchdown that was called back thanks to an inadvertent whistle. The Lancers usually-potent offence was stifled by the Warriors’ ‘D,’ highlighted by Michael Reid, who had 4.5 total tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries (including one for an 80-yard scoop-and-score. Jordan Travis also forced a fumble and had an interception from his field corner spot.
OUA WEEK 2 SCHEDULE:
Waterloo [1-0] @ Laurier [1-0] (Sat, Sept 25 – 1:00 pm ET)
Ottawa [0-1] @ Queen’s [1-0] (Sat, Sept 25 – 3:00 pm ET)
Carleton [0-1] @ York [0-1] (Sat, Sept 25 – 4:00 pm ET)
Western [1-0] @ Guelph [0-0] (Sat, Sept 25 (6:00 pm ET)
BYE: McMaster, Toronto, Windsor
ST. FX 33 | ST. MARY’S 23
The St. FX X-Men enter 2021 looking to bounce back off a disappointing 2-6 season in 2019, and that quest got off to a good start against the St. Mary’s Huskies in Halifax. Redshirt freshman quarterback Silas Fagnan dazzled in his U SPORTS debut, throwing for 311 yards and two touchdowns. in Week 1, including a 45-yarder to his brother Isaac, a 4th-year receiver. This game was the epitome of a back-and-forth affair. After St. FX got out to a 6-0 lead on two Max Capriotti field goals, the Huskies scored the next 16 points to lead 16-6. St. FX then came back to tie it at 16 before taking the lead at the half, 23-16. The X-Men added to the lead in the 3rd and went on to earn the victory, 33-23. Along with his touchdown, Isaac Fagnan hauled in 8 passes for 127 to pace the X-Men offensively. Capriotti was good on all 4 of his field goal attempts. From a St. Mary’s perspective, freshman signal-caller Kristian Stembridige, also making his first AUS start, wasn’t quite as impressive, going just 20-35 for 201 yards, no touchdowns, two INT’s and a lost fumble.
ACADIA 9 | MOUNT ALLISON 10
The Axemen began their defence of their perfect 10-0 2019 season against a Mount Allison squad looking to take the next step in a closely-contested Atlantic conference after they fell in the AUS semifinal to Bishop’s last season. This game was a defensive slugfest, with all first-half points coming via special teams. After a missed field goal by Acadia’s Ben George resulted in a rouge point, the Axemen surrendered a safety deep in their end zone to make it 2-1 Mount A after one. The Mounties added two more field goals to go up 8-1 before the only touchdown of the game – an 82-yard hookup between Duncan Patterson and Matthew Gledhill tied it at 8. The next three points came on missed field goal rouges – the first by George and the next two from Mounties kicker James Parker – giving the Mounties an ugly, but effective, 10-9 win, halting the Axemen’s 11-game AUS regular season win streak dating back to 2018. Patterson was moderately effective for Acadia, completing 18 off 29 passes for 185 yards to go along with a touchdown and a pick. His counterpart, Julian Wytinck, however, had an extremely tough day, throwing for just 85 yards on 10-22 passing.
AUS WEEK 2 SCHEDULE
Acadia [0-1] @ St. Mary’s [0-1] (Sat, Sept 25 – 2:00 pm AT)
Mount Allison [1-0] @ Bishop [0-0] (Sat, Sept 25 – 2:00 pm ET)
BYE: St. FX
CONCORDIA 36 | McGILL 33
A lot has happened in the RSEQ through three weeks of the season, with both top dogs, Montreal and Laval being upset. Concordia was the author of one of those upsets in Week 2 against Montreal, and they were visiting their cross-town rival McGill looking for a second straight victory. That hunt didn’t get off to an ideal start as the home side looked to be in control, leading 23-4 early in the 3rd and 33-11 in the 4th. But, if we’ve learned one thing about the Stingers so far this season, it’s not to count them out, and they proved that statement true once again. First, it was a 6-yard TD pass to Olivier Morencey from Olivier Roy to make it. 33-18 with 7:23 left. Then, just over three minutes Roy connected with Jacob Salvail from 35 yards out to make it a one-score game, 33-25. And finally, Concordia got the ball back with 2:36 to go and drove the field to tie it, capped by a short 2-yard TD pass to Jeremy Murphy. Needing a 2-point convert, Roy called his own number and got in to tie it at 33, sending it to overtime. In the additional session, after McGill, for some reason, turned the ball over on downs on 3rd and 23, the Stingers completed the improbable comeback with a 21-yard chip shot from Andrew Stevens to win 36-33.
MONTREAL 18 | LAVAL 17
In a week full of big games across the country, it concluded with what was perhaps the biggest, between two longtime francophone foes, the Montreal Carabins and Laval Rouge et Or. Both clubs were coming off Week 2 losses, and were looking to avoid a second consecutive defeat. A Vincent Blanchard field goal put Laval on top 3-0 early. The teams then traded touchdowns, and Laval led 10-7. Before halftime, Montreal’s Michael Arpin nailed a 25-yard field goal to put his team back on level terms at the break. Blanchard hit two field goals – from 28 and 13 yards, respectively, to put the host Rouge et Or up six heading to the 4th. In the final frame, the Carabins were able to cut the lead to four on a safety conceded by Laval. Then, with just over 8 minutes left, the Carabins executed a tremendous onside punt recovery and took over inside the Rouge et Or 30. That lead to another field goal to give Montreal the lead, 18-16. Laval still had time to respond, however. They would get down inside the Carabins 40 yard line, but Blanchard missed what would have been a go-ahead field goal with 0:40 left; a rouge was scored, but that wasn’t enough as the Carabins held on in a nail-biter, 18-7. The loss is a history-making one for the vaunted Laval program. This is the first time since 2002 they’ve lost twice in a season and the first time this century – since 1999, to be precise, they’ve dropped consecutive games.
RSEQ WEEK 5 SCHEDULE:
Sherbrooke [1-2] @ Concordia [2-1] (Sat, Sept 25 – 1:00 pm ET)
McGill [1-2] @ Montreal [2-1] (Sat, Sept 25 – 1:00 pm ET)
In Canada West exhibition action on Saturday, it was the Saskatchewan Huskies earning a 31-14 victory over the Manitoba Bisons. The Can West regular season begins September 25th with a full 3-game slate:
CAN WEST WEEK 1 SCHEDULE
Regina [0-0] @ Manitoba [0-0] (Sat, Sept 25 – 2:00 pm CT)
UBC [0-0] @ Alberta [0-0] (Sat, Sept 25 – 1:00 pm MT)
Saskatchewan [0-0] @ Calgary [0-0] (Sat, Sept 25 – 4:00 pm MT)