Asher Hastings and Guelph’s defensive line
Hastings has been dynamite in the air. He has the third highest completion percentage (64.7) and the best touchdown-to-interception ratio amongst OUA quarterbacks (7:2).
Guelph’s defensive line will look to put pressure on Mac’s QB before he has time to look downfield. Guelph currently ranks second in the OUA in recorded sacks (11), and will use their frontline pressure to reach Hastings as much as possible.
Linebacker pair and first time starters Lukas Korol and Riley Baines have been standout defensive players for Guelph and currently rank in the top five in total tackles in the OUA (41 and 34 respectively), while St Mary’s transfer Matt Delmas has already collected three sacks on the season.
Danny Vandervoort and Guelph’s Defensive Secondary
Danny Vandervoort has been unstoppable this season. Vandervoort is McMaster’s leader in career touchdown receptions (27), fourth in receiving yards per game (88.5) in the Ontario University Athletics conference, and fifth in touchdown receptions (seven), despite sitting out against Waterloo.
Always a deep threat, Guelph will look to contain him quickly and force the Marauders to other options.
“In every game we have to figure out early how teams are going to try and take away Danny Vandervoort,” said offensive coordinator Jon Behie. “Everyone has a different plan to do that, and they have some veterans in the their secondary, so who matches up against Danny and how [they do it] is going to be an important piece of the puzzle for us.”
Free safety Tristian Doughlin has been absent from the Gryphons’ lineup due to injury, but third-year player Mike Carney has stepped into his role and played consistently well. Guelph’s secondary kept Ottawa to a season-low 286 passing yards, 160 yards less than his season average, when they met in week four.
Doughlin and the rest of the secondary will look to take Vandervoort out of the offense, and force Mac to adjust on the fly.
Keys To The Game
Capitalize on offence – McMaster has struggled to finish off long drives this season, with 14 field goal attempts but only nine touchdowns on the year.
“We need to score touchdowns instead of just field goals,” said Behie. “That is something we have been struggling with this season but against Guelph we are going to need 7s instead of 3s.”
The offence has entered the red-zone only eight times. While they have scored on every trip to the redzone, only four times have they scored a touchdown. Look for them to create long drives to wear down the Guelph defence.
Playing disciplined – Guelph is second in the OUA in defensive interceptions (seven), while Mac has struggled with a league high 552 total penalty yards, giving opposing teams more opportunities gain ground.
If Mac gives Guelph the ball on offence, odds are that the Gryphons will take advantage, who are currently third in first downs (137) in the OUA. Guelph quarterback James Roberts has been consistent with 91 completions for just over 1000 yards this season, and a balanced run game already has eight touchdowns.
Ground n’ pound – To keep the field open for Hastings and his receiving core, Mac will look to running backs Chris Pezzeta and Jordan Lyons to keep the Guelph defence on their toes.
“[We have to] establish the run game early to help open things up downfield,” said Behie. “We weren’t able to do that against Guelph last year and it hurt us, so that will be a point of emphasis for us throughout the week of preparation.”
Both Pezzeta and Lyons will look to carry their momentum from Waterloo, where they picked up two touchdowns and 105 receiving yards respectively.
Wildcard: McMaster’s Defence
McMaster currently leads the league in defensive interceptions with 11 through four games. Taking possession back from Guelph on defence could play a major part in the momentum of the game.
Bad blood – a Marauder history
2014: McMaster 34 vs Guelph 27 – The Marauders came back with ten points in the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime. QB Marshall Ferguson ran the ball into the end zone to seal a Mac win in their home opener.
2014: McMaster 20 vs Guelph 15 – Mac captured their third Yates Cup in four years by beating Guelph in a defensive battle. The Marauders had five interceptions and no touchdowns, but did enough to come away with the win.
2015: Guelph 33 vs McMaster 23 – Playing in Guelph’s second homecoming in three years, a 96-yard drive late in the fourth quarter kept things interesting, but McMaster’s struggles in the rain saw them fall to the eventual Yates Cup champions.
Home field advantage
McMaster has the highest average home attendance in Ontario, and when Behie was asked how important their playing at home would be, the answer was clear.
“It’s huge. Our record at Ron Joyce stadium since it opened is very good. It is a great environment to play in and our fans, especially at homecoming, have been the 13th man for us. I think it’s a huge advantage playing an opponent like Guelph at home as opposed to on the road.”