Fair’s late field goal overcomes string of fourth-quarter fumbles
Rain drizzles, tears fall, and grey clouds hang heavy over Lansdowne, matching the somber tone of the opening ceremonies. On the field, Francis Perron’s family and friends stand in silence as three University of Ottawa football players present them with his framed game jerseys.
As Perron’s highlights play on the jumbotron, the stadium stands in silence. It is a stark reminder of life’s fragility and a sobering moment for all in attendance.
A burst of fireworks pierces the deafening silence. The crowd turns on a dime.
It’s time to play ball.
Hostilities begin: the Gees receive the kickoff, and a short kick is caught by Johari McGregor.
The Gees offense hits the field: quarterback Ben Maracle hands the ball to running back J-P Cimankinda. He runs through the Ravens defensive line, new set of downs. Set-up, repeat and suddenly, the Gees are cooking up some steam.
Gees run the ball again, but the Ravens defense is ready this time. No gain. Time for the Gees to attempt a passing play. Emphasis on the word ‘attempt,’ as Maracle overthrows his receiver. Third down, the Gees punt.
In spite of not scoring, the Gees have created some excitement for the U of O crowd.
However, this first offensive drive is a bad omen, as the Gee-Gees offense has struggled so far this season, resulting in lackluster results in their first two games — scoring a combined 16 points — losing twice against Queen’s and Toronto, respectively.
The offense has particularly struggled to be the first out of the gate this season, and this was once again the case on this rainy day — some might say the team is failing to live up to its namesake.
The Ravens were thus the first to draw blood in what was the 52nd Panda Game. But it was not an easy feat, as they had to start the drive deep in their end zone and survive a very close third down which required the chains to be brought out. But in the end, quarterback Read Vankoughnett handed the ball to running back Nathan Carter, who went wide, found the end zone, and sent the Carleton faithful into a delirious “Fuck you Ottawa U” chant — if only they knew it was not grammatically correct, and also that Ottawa U is in Kansas.
But it wouldn’t stand for long as the Gee-Gees, sporting their overly bleached uniforms, managed to gain quite some yardage on the ground before Maracle attempted a pass to receiver Rodney Estimé, who was interfered with, resulting in a flag being thrown by the referee and giving the Gees a first down at Carleton’s 24-yard line.
Sadly for the Gees, despite multiple attempts, they could not break through the Carleton line and were forced to go for a field goal.
And that’s how the quarter ended.
With things looking grim for the Gees after an unsuccessful drive at the start of the second quarter, Maracle was able to find receiver Tristan Park, who had escaped Carleton’s safety, and managed a nice reception to take the ball downfield.
10-7. “Fuck you Carleton U” chants erupt.
While some might think Park’s 64-yard reception was the longest run of the quarter, they’d be wrong, as a Carleton streaker matched him late in the quarter, running the length of the field before being arrested by Lansdowne security.
Back to football: it would be the Gees defense that forced the next scoring play as they pressured Carleton’s punt receiver into his own endzone for a safety.
12-7 U of O. And that was the score going into the half.
With heavy rain pouring, the teams took the field for the third quarter. This would make things complicated for both offensives, as the ball would easily slip from their grasps.
With that in mind, the third quarter saw a lot of running plays and was pretty uneventful until the Gee-Gees last drive of the quarter, which resulted in a field goal, but which also saw a quarterback get injured as a Carleton player accidentally stepped on his leg while he was sliding to avoid a tackle.
Maracle was taken out of the game and replaced with Matt Mahler. He did seem to be okay, though, as he remained on the sidelines for the rest of the game.
16-7 Gee-Gees after three quarters.
Now, any football connoisseur knows that a two-possession game with a quarter left, especially in Canadian football and in the rain, means *bleep*. But for Carleton students, this game was over as they left in droves or decided to go streaking on the field.
For those who decided to stay, well they would get a show in bad football as the Gee-Gees nearly fumbled away the game in the fourth quarter. With the rain ceasing, one would think that the football would be easier to handle, but seemingly it was not, and Gees receivers couldn’t seem to handle a single reception in the quarter.
And it nearly cost them the game as the Ravens were able to capitalize with a touchdown to make it 15-14, and then, off a fumble, were able to get into field goal range and kick for the 3 points, giving them a 17-16 lead with under 3 minutes to go.
After exchanging difficult offensive drives, the Gee-Gees were finally able to receive a punt cleanly with a little under two minutes left in the game. On the ensuing drive the Gee-Gees rushed up the field, thanks to two twelve-yard rushes by Cimankinda and one seven-yard rush from Mahler.
“This is Panda so anything can happen. I felt confident and the biggest thing for me was … playing one play at a time, always staying positive, staying in it and I felt like they did that today so that that was definitely special to see,” said head coach Marcel Bellefeuille of his team’s comeback drive.
This put them in field goal position with about a minute left in the game. Kicker Campbell Fair, who had at this point been flawless, was called on to kick what could be the game-decisive points.
And through the uprights he kicked it, sending the students in Grey and Garnet into a frenzy in the grandstand. 19-17 Gees.
“It felt good. It’s [the] nature of a kicker, visualizing and being able to block things out, when you get in that circumstance. As a kicker, we want to be the most common players on the field at all time. So I suppose that’s all I was trying to do, and it worked out,” said Fair following the game.
With Pedro — the Fulcrum-created marketing ploy to promote the two teams’ rivalry — in sight, all the Gees had to do was smother the Ravens’ offense for the last 50 seconds of the game — and they did, giving the Gees the win.
And yes about that last claim, look it up. Pedro was created by a Fulcrum editor in 1955.
Anyways, this isn’t Live From The Archives, so back to 2021.
With the Gee-Gees winning, the U of O crowd, keeping with tradition, runs on the field to celebrate with the players. It is a harrowing moment and one that reminds us all of the scientific progress made in the last year that has led us to be able to see these kinds of scenes again.