TORONTO (U SPORTS) – Eleven teams still boast perfect records heading into the third weekend of the U SPORTS football regular season, but that number is set to go down over the next few days as the Week 3 schedule features no less than three top-10 confrontations between undefeated squads.
Third-ranked Calgary (1-0) and No. 5 Regina (1-0) kick things off on Friday evening, followed by Saturday afternoon contests between No. 1 Laval (2-0) and No. 2 Montreal (1-0), as well as No. 4 Western (2-0) and No. 7 McMaster (1-0).
Here’s a game-by-game look at the Week 3 matchups.
No. 5 Regina (1-0) at No. 3 Calgary (1-0)
Regina crushed Calgary 39-3 in preseason action back on Aug. 23, even with Hec Crighton trophy-winning quarterback Noah Picton resting on the sidelines for most of the game. Friday’s contest counts in the standings, however, and the Dinos remember all too well that a 32-27 loss to the Rams in the only head-to-head confrontation of 2016 ended up being the difference between first and second in Canada West. Second-year pivot Adam Sinagra was named the U SPORTS Player of the Week on offence after he completed 27 of 33 passes for 426 yards and four touchdowns in the Dinos’ season opener against Alberta. Picton, who a year ago set a single-season U SPORTS record with 3,186 yards through the air (398.3 avg.), opened the 2017 schedule with a 335-yard performance against UBC.
Alberta (0-1) at No. 8 Saskatchewan (1-0)
New Saskatchewan head coach Scott Flory couldn’t have hoped for a better result in his first game in charge as the Huskies dominated Manitoba 44-23 last week in Winnipeg. Saskatchewan swept its two-game set against Alberta last season, winning 29-17 in Edmonton and 48-9 in Saskatoon. After being selected by B.C. in the 2017 CFL draft, wide receiver Mitch Hillis is back for a final season with the Huskies and had an immediate impact in Week 1 with eight catches for 120 yards and one touchdown. Nathan Rowe was a bright spot for the Bears in their 55-26 season-opening loss to Calgary as he racked up 208 yards on eight receptions, including a 109-yard score.
No. 1 Laval (2-0) at No. 2 Montreal (1-0)
Without a doubt the most intense rivalry in U SPORTS football over the past decade. The archrivals have met in each of the last four RSEQ finals, with all games – two wins on each side – decided by three points or less. Last fall, the three head-to-head duels ended 24-21 Montreal (regular season), 22-19 Laval (regular season) and 20-17 Laval (Dunsmore Cup). Reigning Vanier Cup MVP Hugo Richard is on fire, with 685 passing yards, five TD tosses against no interceptions as well as three rushing majors in his first two games. Samuel Caron, who was named the 2016 RSEQ player of the year in his first season leading the Carabins offence, went 27-of-38 for 338 yards and three scores in Montreal’s opener against Concordia.
No. 4 Western (2-0) at No. 7 McMaster (1-0)
In 2016, Western’s 19-18 win over McMaster on the final day of the OUA regular season earned the 7-1 Mustangs first place in the standings, while the 6-2 Marauders dropped to fifth. After crushing York 66-3 in their 2017 opener, the Mustangs looked vulnerable in Week 2, escaping with an overtime win over Guelph. Sophomore receiver Malik Besseghieur already has 15 catches for 248 yards and two touchdowns after two contests. In his first game succeeding record-setting quarterback Asher Hastings as the Marauders’ starter, Andreas Dueck was held to 65 yards on 9-of-22 passing but still led his troops to a road win over Carleton.
No. 9 Ottawa (2-0) at York (0-2)
The Gee-Gees have started the post-Derek Wendel era with back-to-back wins but haven’t looked overly convincing in a 24-21 overtime decision over Guelph and a 14-13 squeaker against Queen’s. In the only Ottawa-York matchup of 2016, the Gee-Gees dominated 54-20 on home turf. With eight field goals in his first two outings, fifth-year kicker Lewis Ward now ranks sixth on the U SPORTS career list with 73, two shy of the Gee-Gees team record. Freshman defensive back Desi Dixon has a team-leading 15 tackles after two games.
Manitoba (0-1) at No. 10 UBC (0-1)
UBC and Manitoba both struggled to put points on the board in their season opener despite returning 11 starters apiece on offence. The two units clicked on all cylinders in last year’s lone head-to-head matchups, won 53-50 by UBC in quadruple overtime. Former Vanier Cup MVP Michael O’Connor looks to rebound after a subpar season-opening performance that saw him go 14-of-25 for 155 yards and one interception against Regina. Running back / kick returner Jamel Lyles is back after spending last season in the CJFL, and the 2015 Canada West rookie of the year made his presence felt last week against Saskatchewan with 218 all-purpose yards.
Carleton (1-1) at No. 6 Laurier (1-0)
Coming off an early break, Laurier proved two weeks ago that its 2016 OUA title was no fluke, blanking Toronto 39-0 in its 2017 opener. In last year’s only head-to-head duel, the Hawks edged the Ravens 17-16 in the nation’s capital. Second-year starter Michael Knevel, the reigning Yates Cup MVP, was superb against Toronto going 25-of-39 for 341 yards and one major. Nathan Carter has a team-leading 206 rushing yards after two contests.
Toronto (1-1) at Waterloo (2-0)
Thanks in large part to a whopping 106 points scored, Waterloo – coming off back-to-back 0-8 campaigns – has won two games in a season for the first time since 2012 (2-6) and is 2-0 for the first time since 2007, when the Warriors won their first three games before ending league play with five straight losses. In 2016, Toronto won the head-to-head matchup 38-7 on the final day of the OUA schedule. Splitting quarterbacking duties with veteran Lucas McConnell, newcomer Tre Ford has racked up an OUA-leading 260 rushing yards on 25 carries in his first two outings. Defensive back Nick Hallett ranks third in the country with 17.5 tackles in two games.
Acadia (1-1) at StFX (1-1)
To say the AUS conference has been hard to predict so far in 2017 would be an understatement. In Week 2, StFX rebounded from a 15-point loss to Saint Mary’s with a 37-0 domination of Mount Allison, while Acadia, crushed 64-23 by Mount Allison in its opener, rebounded with a 27-10 win over Bishop’s. A year ago, the X-Men went 3-0 against the Axemen in league play. Senior Jordan Socholotiuk leads the nation with 291 rushing yards in two contests. Receiver / kick returner Eugene McMinns has already amassed 334 all-purpose yards.
Saint Mary’s (1-0) at Bishop’s (0-1)
Bishop’s lost 27-10 to Acadia last Saturday in its first game as an AUS member and things don’t get any easier this week for the Gaiters as they face a well-rested Saint Mary’s team, which is coming off a bye after defeating reigning two-time conference champion StFX in its opener. New starting pivot Kaleb Scott was impressive against StFX with 367 yards and two touchdowns on 26-of-47 passing, to go with a team-leading 86 yards on the ground. Defensive back Arnaud Dandin was a bright spot in the loss to Acadia with 10.5 tackles.
McGill (0-1) at Sherbrooke (0-2)
First-year bench boss Mathieu Lecompte is still looking for his first win as Sherbrooke head coach. The man he replaced at the helm of the Vert & Or, David Lessard, is now McGill’s offensive line coach. The teams split their head-to-head series a year ago. Senior receiver Remi Bertellin had both Redmen touchdowns in a 50-14 season-opening loss against Laval and finished with 112 yards on six catches. After racking up an impressive 109 rushing yards against Laval in Week 1, Gabriel Polan was held to 37 yards on 11 carries by Concordia a week ago.
Windsor (0-2) at Guelph (0-2)
While both teams are still looking for their first win, Guelph could easily be 2-0, having lost a pair of heartbreakers in overtime to nationally-ranked Ottawa and Western. A year ago, as defending OUA champions, the Gryphons were upset by Windsor 33-29 in Week 2. Senior linebacker Luke Korol ranks second in the country with 18 tackles in two games. Marvin Gaynor has 226 rushing yards in two outings.