A full slate of 12 games is scheduled for the second weekend of the U SPORTS football regular season as Canada West teams join the dance one week after the start of league play in the three other conferences.
The reigning Vanier Cup champion Laval Rouge et Or, a unanimous No. 1 selection in the first national rankings of the campaign published on Tuesday, will look to improve to 2-0 when they visit the McGill Redmen (0-0) on Friday evening.
Another Friday-night affair to keep an eye on will see the seventh-ranked UBC Thunderbirds (0-0) battle the No. 5 Rams (0-0) in Regina, in the only top-10 confrontation of Week 2.
Here’s a game-by-game look at the Week 2 matchups.
Concordia (0-1) at Sherbrooke (0-1)
Concordia and Sherbrooke are both looking to get on the board following season-opening losses to RSEQ powerhouses Montreal, 37-19, and Laval, 40-5, respectively. Former conference MVP Trenton Miller passed for 368 yards in his season debut but the Stingers’ senior pivot received little help from his rushing attack, which finished with minus 15 net yards. It was the opposite for the Vert & Or against defending Vanier Cup champion Laval as running back Gabriel Polan racked up 109 yards on only 10 carries, while second-year starter Alex Jacob-Michaud was intercepted twice and was held to 204 yards through the air. In 2016, Sherbrooke dominated 43-17 on home turf in its lone head-to-head meeting with Concordia.
No. 1 Laval (1-0) at McGill (0-0)
Showing no signs of a championship hangover, top-ranked Laval opened the new schedule with a near-perfect effort against Sherbrooke last Saturday. Reigning Vanier Cup MVP Hugo Richard went 29-of-41 for 361 yards, four total touchdowns and no interceptions, while the vaunted Rouge et Or defence limited the opposition to 12 first downs. In its 2017 opener, McGill will be looking for its first win since 2001 against the Quebec City powerhouse. In the only meeting of 2016 between the two teams, Laval built a commanding 21-0 lead after 2:02 of play en route to a 61-9 victory.
No. 4 Calgary (0-0) at Alberta (0-0)
Calgary couldn’t wait for the regular season to start, nine months after a heartbreaking 31-26 loss to Laval in the Vanier Cup final, a contest in which the Dinos held the lead for over three quarters. Returning nine starters on offence and 10 on defence, the reigning Canada West champions expect a tougher challenge from provincial rival Alberta this weekend, after dominating the Golden Bears 50-15 in their lone duel last fall. Also returning nine veterans on offence, the Bears hope they can finally turn things around in 2017 and put an end to a streak of 10 straight losing seasons, including a 1-7 mark a year ago.
No. 7 UBC (0-0) at No. 5 Regina (0-0)
Last November, fourth-place UBC travelled to Regina for a Canada West semifinal matchup and proceeded to upset the first-place Rams 40-34. UBC’s Michael O’Connor, the 2015 Vanier Cup MVP, and Regina’s Noah Picton, the reigning Hec Crighton Trophy winner, both put up big numbers in that contest finishing with 397 and 364 passing yards, respectively. More fireworks are expected Friday night at Mosaic Stadium as O’Connor is one of 11 returning starters on offence for the Thunderbirds, while Picton, who set a single-season U SPORTS record last fall with 3,186 yards through the air, will once again team up with cousin Mitchell Picton, a 2017 draft pick of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, to terrorize opposing defences.
Saskatchewan (0-0) at No. 10 Manitoba (0-0)
In his first official game patrolling the Saskatchewan sidelines since taking over from Hall of Famer Brian Towriss, Scott Flory faces the dean of U SPORTS football head coaches in 22-year Manitoba bench boss Brian Dobie. Hoping to bounce back from a disappointing 3-5 campaign in 2016, the 10th-ranked Bisons not only return 11 starters on offence, they also welcome back spectacular running back/kick returner Jamal Lyles, who played in the CJFL last year after being named an all-Canadian in his university debut in 2015. While the Huskies went 5-3 in league play last fall, they dropped their lone contest against their Winnipeg rivals by 38-17.
Mount Allison (1-0) at StFX (0-1)
The post-Tivon Cook era did not get off to a good start last week for defending two-time AUS champion StFX. Playing without the reigning conference MVP quarterback for the first time in five years, the X-Men were held to 274 yards of total offence in a 38-23 road loss to Saint Mary’s. For its part, Mount Allison could not have hoped for a better season opener as the Mounties racked up 34 first downs and 595 net yards in a 64-23 victory over Acadia. The old rivals have met in each of the past three Loney Bowl finals, with the X-Men winning the past two by 29-8 and 14-12.
Bishop’s (0-0) at Acadia (0-1)
The biggest news of the off season in U SPORTS football was without a doubt Bishop’s move from Quebec to the AUS conference. The Gaiters and new head coach Cherif Nicolas are hoping the move will prove beneficial for the team from Lennoxville, which has gone 1-7 in each of the past three campaigns. Their rivals on Saturday, Acadia and 15-year bench boss Jeff Cummins, were also looking for a fresh start this fall after a 2-6 campaign in 2016 but didn’t get the result they were hoping for last Saturday in their league opener against Mount Allison, losing convincingly 64-23.
No. 8 McMaster (0-0) at Carleton (1-0)
In a matchup between OUA contenders, eighth-ranked McMaster kicks off its regular schedule against a Carleton squad that got all it could handle from Queen’s last weekend, finally prevailing 22-17 after scoring 10 points in the final 80 seconds of the contest, including a rushing touchdown by first-year starting pivot Michael Arruda with 18 clicks remaining. Both offences have a new leader behind centre this fall as record-setting Maurauders quarterback Asher Hastings and Ravens veteran Jesse Mills completed their university careers in 2016. McMaster dominated Carleton 40-10 last September in the league opener for both teams.
York (0-1) at Waterloo (1-0)
Could this be the year Waterloo finally turns it around? That question has been on many people’s minds since last Sunday, when the Warriors opened their OUA schedule with an impressive 54-33 road win against Windsor. Defensive back Tyrell Ford was electrifying on special teams in his U SPORTS debut with a mind-boggling 297 overall return yards, including punt return touchdowns of 100 and 98 yards. York, on the other hand, continued to struggle in its 2017 opener, a 66-3 home loss to third-ranked Western.
Queen’s (0-1) at No. 9 Ottawa (1-0)
Ninth-ranked Ottawa began the post-Derek Wendel era with a win but the Gee-Gees needed six field goals by fifth-year senior Lewis Ward, including a pair in the shootout session, to edge Guelph 24-21 in double overtime. For its part, despite a heartbreaking home loss to Carleton, Queen’s showed it could compete with the best in its opener, especially with veteran Nate Hobbs (25-of-40, 310 yards, 2 touchdowns) at the helm of the offence. The two teams produced one of the most exciting games of the regular season in 2016, with Ottawa prevailing 42-41 in extra time on the final day of OUA league play.
Guelph (0-1) at No. 3 Western (1-0)
Most people agreed Western would be back with a vengeance this fall following a shocking loss to Laurier in last year’s Yates Cup final, and the third-ranked Mustangs didn’t disappoint last weekend in their 2017 debut with a 66-3 domination of York. After leading U SPORTS in points and total yards last season, the prolific Western offence racked up 596 yards and 34 first downs against the Lions. After a disappointing 2016 campaign, Guelph was competitive last Sunday against Ottawa, scoring 11 points in the final 2:35 of regulation to send the game to overtime. The Gryphons, however, must now try to compete with the powerful Mustangs, who crushed them 50-16 in Guelph last September.
Windsor (0-1) at Toronto (0-1)
Things can only improve for the Lancers and Varsity Blues, who were defeated 54-33 by Waterloo and 39-0 by Laurier, respectively, in their OUA openers last weekend. Marvin Gaynor was a bright spot for Windsor in Week 1 with 139 rushing yards. In the 2016 head-to-head matchup, it was advantage Lancers, by 51-30.