Ravens fall to McMaster in home opener

On a cold, rainy evening on Sept. 3, the McMaster Marauders made their way to MNP Park to take on the 1-0 Carleton Ravens in the Ravens’ first home game of the 2017 season. McMaster was able to control the game throughout and stuff the Carleton offence, winning by a final score of 23-9.

In front of a sold-out crowd, the game promised to be the first test for the Ravens in the fifth year of their program since it was revived in 2013.

A tough test came in the form of McMaster, who have been perennial contenders in the Ontario University Athletic (OUA) conference. Last season, Carleton opened their year at McMaster with a 40-10 loss, while both teams went on to earn OUA playoff berths.

Carleton came into the game following a season opening 22-17 win at Queen’s University on Aug. 26. 

In his second start of the year and his career, first-year quarterback Michael Arruda, a local boy hailing from Gatineau, had a rough night moving the football against a tough Marauders defensive line. Arruda was able to complete 13 of 23 passes for a total of 67 yards, before he was subbed out for second-year backup Giordy Belfiore.

The Marauders struck first blood on the scoreboard, with a five-yard pass in the first quarter to go up 7-0. The Ravens would respond, pinning the Marauders deep into their own five-yard line and forcing the punter out of bounds for a team safety, allowing them to escape the first quarter down by just five points, 7-2.

The first quarter was dominated by defensive football, with both teams forcing two-and-outs on their opponents.

“I think the game was defined by how I called the game defensively,” McMaster head coach Greg Knox said when asked about his team’s early strategy of crashing the offensive line and getting in the face of Arruda in his first home start.

The second quarter started quickly, with the Ravens opening the scoring with their first red zone trip. A 21-yard field goal following a 58-yard drive was able to bring Carleton within two points.

McMaster quickly answered back, driving the Ravens deep into their zone. Carleton was able to force a fumble on the goal line, but the ball was recovered by first-year Marauder Mitch O’Connor in the end zone for another McMaster touchdown.

The two teams would trade safeties, which brought the score up to 16-7 going into the final minute of the half. On the ensuing drive, Arruda threw his first of two interceptions, a pick-six which was returned 55 yards by McMaster cornerback Robbie Yochim with 36 seconds remaining in the half, upping the visitors’ lead to 23-7.

Flags and turnovers for Carleton would be the main factor of the third quarter, as no points were scored. Arruda threw his second interception of the night, which prompted head coach Steve Sumarah to swap his quarterbacks. Belfiore came in and quickly asserted himself in the offence, throwing a 44-yard screen pass for a touchdown.

The touchdown was taken back due to an illegal block to the back, which caused Sumarah to have a dramatic burst of anger on the sidelines directed towards the officials. In all, the Ravens gave up more than 70 yards of penalties.

“The discipline was poor, it will be addressed for sure tomorrow,” Sumarah said, visibly frustrated by the big momentum swings that the flags allowed the Marauders to take advantage of.

The fourth quarter was another opportunity to try and bring the game back in favor of Carleton, however the team would settle for another safety and an empty red zone trip, ending the game with a final score of 23-9.

Turnovers and flags were the biggest story of the game for Carleton, with fumbles being attributed to the aggressive McMaster defense as well as the wet conditions. The Ravens turned the ball over six times, with four lost fumbles and two interceptions thrown.

The Ravens also gave up 143 yards of penalties, which contributed to negating two interceptions as well as a touchdown in the third quarter, which hurt the momentum of the comeback before it could truly get anywhere threatening to McMaster’s lead.

The Ravens will face another difficult opponent next week travelling to face the defending Yates Cup champions, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, who are coming off a big win at home over the University of Toronto Varsity Blues 39-0.

Despite a tough night for Arruda, Sumarah has not yet said which quarterback he will go with for the game next week.

“Everybody can have a bad day, we have to look at the film and continue to evaluate and see from there,” Sumarah said.

Photo by Dan Robertson