After a start to the season that featured a regular rotation of their three young quarterbacks, it looks like the Marauders may have finally settled on a starter. Freshman Jackson White from Cambridge, ON, made the start for the Marauders on Saturday, and was able to expand upon the minimal action he has already seen under centre.
In his first start, White posted a respectable stat line, throwing two touchdowns on 255 yards and completing 20/32 passes. White also continued to show his duel threat abilities, rushing for 63 yards on the day. However, the freshman’s first start was not completely spotless, giving up two interceptions to the Ottawa defence early in the game.
“We didn’t start the way we wanted to in the first half,” White said. “The first pick sailed on me, and I felt a bit nervous. But after that, I felt like we got things rolling. We got down into the red zone twice, but we miscommunicated and then I threw that pick – it hurt going into the half”.
A game that was poised to be a battle of two defensive powerhouses, the first half went as expected, with Ottawa heading into halftime up 4-0. However, following halftime locker room speeches, the momentum shifted in favour of the Marauders’ offence.
“Coach Knox got us fired up at halftime,” White added. “I thought that we, as an offence, had a great half in the second, probably our best half of the year. Obviously, you have to give credit to the defence, allowing just four points in the first half, and we had tons of safeties. They really played lights out.”
The defence had another stellar game of the season, making game-changing plays once again that continues to anchor the team’s wins. The Marauders defence finished the game with four sacks, seven broken up passes, and held the Ottawa Gee-Gees to 138 yards of total offence.
While the defensive line and linebacker core have held the run game in check, the secondary has made it tough for any opposing quarterback to feel comfortable playing Mac. Defensive back Nolan Putt picked off another pass for his second interception of the season. A pass defence that thrives on competition for shutting down their opponents, their consistency can be attributed to their pre-game planning.
“It’s preparation, attention to detail and focus,” said Putt. “That’s what we hear from the staff and ourselves every week. That’s our number one priority, and we’ve been holding to it.”
This season has already shown Marauders fans that their defence is one of the best in the league. Yet once again, the offence had to fight hard throughout the game to get things going in the second half. This time, Mac was successful in putting points on the board.
Despite 192 yards in penalties, the Marauders were able to capitalize on the 89 penalty yards given up by the visiting team. Given the amount of flags being thrown, the offensive game was characterized as a battle by head coach Greg Knox. In the face of this, White was able to lead the Marauders offence to the end zone on the first drive of the second half.
“We limited our mistakes,” Knox said. “We played with more confidence, and hopefully, although we’re a young and inexperienced team, we’re learning from those mistakes. We responded well in the second half and came out with some pepper.”
Knox highlighted how White progressed well over the course of the game, using this game as an opportunity to work on his decision-making ability as a quarterback. Often, it can be tough to stick through offensive struggles as a member of a team’s defence, but the Marauders were able to do that against the visiting Gee-Gees.
“We trust the process,” Putt said. “That’s what the offence tells us every game, to trust their process and believe that they’ll get us there. We know that they’ll eventually get it going, and today they really did.”
This Saturday will feature a rematch of the 2016 Ontario University Athletics quarterfinals as the Guelph Gryphons will host the Marauders for their Homecoming game. Traveling to Alumni Stadium, Mac will face a strong team in a difficult environment.
“We expect every game to be tough,” Knox said. “We’re taking these one at a time. It’s their Homecoming, and we got them a couple of times last year. They’re going to be loaded up for that, but that’s fine, because so are we.”
In a season mired in uncertainty at quarterback and struggles on the offensive front, the Marauders have proven they are back on track and able to produce on the scoreboard. Boasting a more balanced game on both sides of the ball, the Gryphons are the next team in the way of a steaming Mac team.