And the crowd goes wild.
McMaster gave their fans something to cheer for on Oct. 1 in their showdown against Guelph, avenging last year’s loss with a 27-15 victory at home over the Gryphons. With the win, McMaster remains perfect in their last 16 homecoming appearances, and improves to a solid 4-1 record on the season.
But it wasn’t easy. Tight through the first two quarters, Mac failed to hit their offensive stride, trailing Guelph 7-5 at the half. Injuries to fullback Blake Reason and backup Matthew Decicco forced the Marauders to adjust early, while execution struggles and a few timely penalties kept Mac out of the end zone.
“Half the game we played really well, but we struggled in the first half,” said offensive coordinator Jon Behie. “We had some key injuries early and we were struggling to accommodate that. It took us two quarters to figure out what we would really do… but I’m so proud of the way our players responded.”
And respond they did. McMaster came roaring out of halftime to score 16 unanswered points in the third quarter in just under five minutes. Fueled by their strong game on the ground, fifth-year veteran Chris Pezzetta had 143 yards on 22 carries in his final homecoming game, securing key first downs and providing more options for a deep receiving core.
“It was a big day for him,” said Behie. “He’s battled back from three knee injuries, and that’s not easy, but we were able to ride him in the second half.”
Perhaps the unsung hero of the Mac’s comeback was the stellar play their offensive line. Executing well throughout the game, they gave Pezzetta room to operate on the ground and cleared space for quarterback Asher Hastings when he needed it.
Fifth-year senior Zach Intzandt was a part of that offensive stronghold, and was happy with his line’s performance.
“Our goal is to always win every game,” said Intzandt. “As the offensive line when we keep rushing, a goal of ours is always to try and rush 150 yards. If we get it we get it, if not we go back and clean it up. But tonight, I think we did a good job.”
Penalties have been a thorn in Mac’s side this season, but they managed to keep the penalty yards to a minimum. Meanwhile – thanks mostly to Mac winning the battle in the trenches – the Gryphons committed 18 penalties for 125 yards, stalling many of their drives on offence and any momentum they had during the game.
“It’s like coach Knox always says to us… preparation, focus, and attention to detail,” said Intzandt. “We’ve had two weeks to focus on those things, and I think that really showed today.”
On the other side of the ball, Mac’s defence hung tough to hold Guelph to just 15 points, down 12 from their season average. Fifth-year senior Michael Kashak had five tackles on the night, citing support from the defensive coaching staff for his success.
“A lot of it has to do with coaching,” said Kashak. “Carm Genovase and Jeff Robertshaw get us ready from the technical side, and coach Knox had a great game plan… When you have a unit that is all on the same page with minimal mistakes, you are going to get a good game.”
Looking ahead, Mac’s next challenge is a quick turnaround to host Queen’s at home, under the lights on Oct. 7. Coming off a short week, the Marauders will need to recover physically to keep a two-game win streak alive. But head coach Greg Knox believes his team’s resilience will play a key role moving forward.
“Football is a tough sport. If grit is a missing ingredient, then you have to inject the grit into what you do and how you do it. We showed a little more of that today, and I think the results speak for themselves.”