Lack of execution, record breaking attendance highlight fight for Pedro

Last year, in the recap of the Panda Game, I wrote that “sometimes lightning strikes twice”, for the Gee-Gees and their fans—lightning just struck again.

For the third consecutive year, the Carleton Ravens football team entered the annual battle for Pedro the Panda as the underdog, only to find a way to come up victorious.

With an audience of 23,329 and more tuning in on television across the nation, the tenth-ranked Ravens blew out the seventh-ranked Gee-Gees by a final score of 43-23.

In 2014, a stroke of luck beat the Gees, while in 2015 it was a defensive collapse that led to the overtime game winning kick. In 2016, it was a story of missed opportunities and lack of preparation that played the biggest hand in the Gee-Gees defeat.

The game was a close contest for the majority of the first two quarters, as the Ottawa offence led by fifth-year quarterback Derek Wendel was able to move the ball at will.

The game would’ve had a different outcome had the Gee-Gees swapped their field goals for touchdowns. The Carleton defence held together enough to stunt offensive drives and force the Ottawa coaching staff to send out kicker Lewis Ward.

On offence, Carleton employed a tactic of short passes, mostly to receiver Nate Behar, and handing off to Jayde Rowe, who has been the best running back in the nation so far this year.

Rowe pounded the Gees for 130 yards and a touchdown, while his counterpart third-year Gee-Gees running back Bryce Vieira racked up 113 yards in the match.

 

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Rowe and the Ravens pound the Gee-Gees defence. Photo: Kim Wiens.

A point of note was the officiating, which called only five total penalties in the first half before tossing 15 flags in the second half, oftentimes hampering the Gee-Gees’ drives on offence or rhythm on defence.

Possibly the most commendable job, apart from execution on special teams, was the Ravens’ effort to keep the ball out of Wendel’s hands. When the star QB was on the field, he was hindered by dropped passes and pressure from the Ravens defensive line.

Wendel still managed to post solid numbers in the game, passing for 339 yards and one touchdown. But the the Gee-Gees still took too long to find their offensive momentum, leaving their most impressive drives to the end of the game.

“They were the aggressor. They came after us,” said Gee-Gees head coach Jamie Barresi. “We managed to do some things, but we let the ball get away from us too many times.”

The team simply caught far too many bad breaks and were unable to properly respond to the shots Carleton was taking.

“This wasn’t my expectation, we’re much better than this,” Barresi added. “I don’t know if we prepared the way we should have … I thought (the players) were a little nervous, more nervous than they should’ve been. We’re a better team than that and we’ve shown it before.”

For veteran players like Wendel, the hope is that the game doesn’t come to define an otherwise stellar season.

“I was really focused on it with a couple of minutes left,” said Wendel. “We really stepped it up late in the game … I think that’s something we can carry into next week and as long as we can keep focusing on the future and not the past, we’ll be good for the rest of the season.”

The team will have a short turnaround before taking on York in the first home Friday night matchup since Gee-Gees Field opened.

Wendel lauded the talent of his team, but stressed the importance of execution and it’s value in games like this.

The focus will now shift to preparing for York, a team with an offence that shows promise, but a very shaky defence and a losing 2-3 record.

Although Pedro didn’t make the trip back home to Sandy Hill, the Gee-Gees still have their sights set on more important trophies in the postseason.

Kickoff against York is at 7 p.m on Oct. 7 at Gee-Gees Field. Tickets are available at tickets.geegees.ca.