U Sports: A look at the conference semifinals

TORONTO (U Sports) – Only four weekends remaining on the 2016 of U Sports football schedule, and 15 teams left standing on the road to the 52nd ArcelorMittal Dofasco Vanier Cup. Here is a look at Saturday’s conference semifinals.

ROAD TO THE ARCELORMITTAL DOFASCO VANIER CUP 

Saturday’s winners will advance to the conference finals, the Loney Bowl (AUS), Dunsmore Cup (RSEQ), Yates Cup (OUA) and Hardy Cup (Canada West), all set for Nov. 12.

The national semifinals – the ArcelorMittal Dofasco Mitchell Bowl (AUS at Canada West) and Uteck Bowl (OUA at RSEQ) – follow on Nov. 19, with the culmination of the 2016 season coming on Nov. 26 at 1 p.m. with the ArcelorMittal Dofasco Vanier Cup at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton.

Sportsnet and TVA Sports once again have live coverage of the U Sports football semis and championship game.

All the information on the 52nd Vanier Cup is available at vaniercup.com.

 

CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS 

12:00 MT (Shaw TV/Access & CanadaWest.TV): No. 9 Saskatchewan (5-3) at No. 6 Calgary (6-2) 

The nationally sixth-ranked Dinos and No. 9 Huskies meet for the third time this season. The first two confrontations went to the visiting team, Calgary winning 20-19 in Saskatoon on Sept. 16 and Saskatchewan returning the favour on Oct. 22 with a 38-35 decision at McMahon Stadium… The Dinos offence will be led for the third straight week by rookie quarterback Adam Sinagra as fifth-year senior Jimmy Underdahl is still sidelined with an injury. The CEGEP product from John Abbott College was solid if not spectacular two weeks ago in the three-point loss to Saskatchewan, completing 21 of 35 passes for 230 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions… For the Huskies, running back Tyler Chow – a Calgary native – led Canada West this fall with 828 rushing yards but was held to under 100 yards in both games against the conference’s top-rated defence (81 & 84)… Calgary and Saskatchewan also met in the semifinal round at McMahon Stadium a year ago, when the heavily-favoured Dinos needed 18 fourth-quarter points to escape with a 37-29 win… While the Dinos have played in eight straight Hardy Cup finals, winning a record six in a row from 2008 to 2013, the Huskies’ current six-year drought is the second longest in program history (1977-1987).

 

13:00 ET (Rogers Cable 13 & OUA.TV): No. 8 Carleton (7-2) at No. 3 Western (7-1) 

Third-ranked Western and No. 8 Carleton met in the nation’s capital back on Sept. 4, when the Ravens scored two touchdowns in the final six minutes to prevail 38-31 and hand the Mustangs their only loss of the regular season… Since Carleton returned to U Sports football in 2013, the two previous conference meetings between the two teams had ended with lopsided Western wins, 71-4 (2013) and 70-14 (2015)… Saturday’s duel will mark the first-ever post-season game between the two programs… The Ravens are coming off an impressive 45-9 defeat of crosstown rival Ottawa in the opening round of the OUA playoffs, while the Mustangs earned a much-deserved rest after finishing first in league play… Fireworks are expected at TD Stadium in London as Western topped U Sports in both points scored (49.1 per game) and total offence (569.4 yards per game) in conference play, while Carleton ranked third (39.8) and fourth (524.4) in those categories… An interesting battle of talented running backs pits Carleton’s Jayde Rowe (U Sports-leading 1,094 rushing yards in league play) against Western’s Alex Taylor (U Sports-leading 10 rushing touchdowns and 11 all-purpose TDs)… While the Mustangs have claimed a record 30 Yates Cup titles in their storied history, most recently in 2013, the Ravens are looking to advance to their first-ever Yates Cup final (due in part to the fact they played outside of OUA for many years).

 

13:00 ET (CHCH & OUA.TV): No. 7 McMaster (7-2) at No. 5 Laurier (7-1)

This will be the first meeting of the season between No. 5-ranked Wilfrid Laurier and No. 7 McMaster… A year ago, the Golden Hawks upset the Marauders 29-15 in OUA quarter-final action in Hamilton, thanks in large part to 285 rushing yards by Dillon Campbell… While Laurier enjoyed a first-round bye last weekend after taking second place in the conference standings, McMaster survived a scare on home turf and edged defending Yates Cup champion Guelph 17-11 thanks to a goal-line, last-second interception by defensive back Keldyn Ahlstedt… On Saturday, the prolific Hawks offence, which topped U Sports in rushing yards (281.4 per game) and ranked second in points scored (42.6 per game) in league play, goes against a Marauders’ defence that was the stingiest in Ontario allowing only 10.9 points per contest… Laurier’s defensive unit has been stellar as well this fall, placing second in the OUA with an average of 15.8 points against… It could be a long afternoon for quarterbacks Asher Hastings of McMaster and Michael Knevel of Laurier as the Hawks and Marauders finished 1-2 in the nation with 36 and 30 sacks, respectively, including a U Sports-leading 11.5 by fifth-year McMaster defensive lineman Mike Kashak… McMaster (17) and Laurier (16 – tied with StFX) were also 1-2 in the country in interceptions… The Marauders hope to return to the OUA championship game for the first time since 2014, when they captured their third Yates Cup title in four years, while the Golden Hawks last reached the conference final in 2006.

14:00 AT (Bell Aliant Fibe TV1 & AUStv.ca): Acadia (2-6) at Mount Allison (3-5)

Mount Allison won both head-to-head confrontations in the regular season, 20-12 at home on Oct. 1st and 15-13 on the road on Oct. 15, the latter thanks to a blocked field goal attempt on the final play of regulation… Both teams have struggled to put points on the board this fall, the Mounties finishing 19th in the country with 19.6 points per contest and the Axemen placing 25th with an AUS-low 15.5 per game… On the defensive side of the ball, Acadia had a slight advantage over Mount Allison in both points allowed (26.8 per game vs. 29.8) and yards conceded (445.0 per game vs. 453.1)… Players to watch on defence Saturday in Sackville, N.B., include Axemen defensive back Brandon Jennings, who led the country in league play with six interceptions, as well as Mounties linebacker Kyle Horsman, who topped the AUS and placed fifth in U Sports with 59.5 tackles… The two teams meet in the playoffs for the first time since a 19-10 semifinal win by Mount Allison in 2013… The Mounties have played in the last three Loney Bowl championship games, winning back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014, while the Axemen last competed in the conference final in 2012, when they defeated Saint Mary’s for the AUS banner.

14:00 ET (TVA Sports): McGill (4-4) at No. 2 Montreal (7-1)

In the only head-to-head meeting of the regular season, last Saturday at McGill, No. 2-ranked Montreal blanked the Redmen 13-0 to clinch first place in Quebec thanks to a slim six-point advantage over Laval in the points allowed column… While the Carabins are reigning two-time RSEQ champions and are coming off back-to-back Vanier Cup appearances, including the first national title in program history in 2014, the Redmen are making only their second post-season appearance in the past decade (46-9 semifinal loss to Laval in 2012)… The crosstown rivals have only met once in the playoffs since Montreal returned to U Sports football in 2002, the Carabins taking a 38-18 semifinal decision in 2004… Overall, the Carabins’ only losses to McGill since their return to the league came in their winless 2002 season, when the Redmen scored lopsided 41-0 and 58-0 wins… Montreal’s shutout victory last weekend served as an exclamation point for a defensive unit that topped U Sports in conference play in points (9.0), total yards (268.1) and rushing yards (71.5) allowed per game… Despite its 4-4 record, McGill’s defence was also among the national leaders in total yards (304.6) and rushing yards (72.1) conceded per contest, placing third and second in those categories… On the other side of the ball however, the Carabins had a clear advantage as they scored an RSEQ-best 37.0 points per game (6th in U Sports), while their Mont-Royal neighbours were 20th in the country with a 19.5 average.

14:00 ET: Concordia (4-4) at No. 1 Laval (7-1)

Top-ranked Laval enters the playoffs on a U Sports-best seven-game winning streak dating back to a 24-21 season-opening loss to Montreal, a sequence that includes a 37-18 road victory over Concordia on Sept. 10… Despite the lopsided score in that head-to-head duel, the Stingers outgained the Rouge et Or 364 total yards to 340, including a 361-209 advantage through the air, and also held a 23-20 edge in first downs… A big question mark going into Saturday’s contest is the status of Concordia quarterback Trenton Miller, the 2015 conference MVP, who missed his team’s regular season finale against Bishop’s with an injury… Laval and Concordia meet in the RSEQ semifinals for the third straight year, each time at TELUS-UL Stadium in Quebec City, the last two post-season confrontations ending in convincing decisions for the hometown favourites, 52-8 in 2015 and 74-18 two years ago… Laval’s defence was once again dominant in conference play, finishing second in the country in both points (9.8) and total yards (294.0) allowed per game and placing third against the run (91.8) and fourth against the pass (202.3)… After leading U Sports with 12 quarterback sacks last season on his way to rookie-of-the-year honours, Laval defensive end Mathieu Betts finished first in Quebec and second in the nation this fall with nine, including eight in his last three games… Concordia has relied on its passing game for most of the season, topping the RSEQ with 300.4 yards per contest, but in Miller’s absence last weekend, the Stingers ran the ball a whopping 55 times against Bishop’s, including 234 yards on 36 carries by Jean-Guy Rimpel.

15:30 (Shaw TV/Access & CanadaWest.TV): UBC (3-5) at No. 4 Regina (6-2)

Saturday’s game at Mosaic Stadium will mark the first-ever post-season contest between fourth-ranked Regina and UBC, and the first home playoff game for the Rams since 2012… Regina finished first in Canada West for the first time in program history this fall thanks to a 6-2 mark that included a pair of close-fought wins over the Thunderbirds, 20-10 in Vancouver on Sept. 17 and 35-33 at home on Oct. 21… It marked a remarkable turnaround for a Regina program that was coming off a 0-8 campaign in 2015… For its part, UBC never really got going this season, a year after capturing its first Vanier Cup title since 1997, and enters the playoffs on a three-game losing streak… The T-Birds are only the second Canada West team to make the post-season despite losing its final three league games, joining the 2000 UBC squad… Individually, the story of the year in U Sports football has been Regina quarterback Noah Picton, who set a new national record with 3,186 passing yards and also finished first in the country in touchdown passes (25) and completion percentage (69.3)… Adding to the story is the fact Picton’s favourite target is his cousin Mitchell Picton, who led U Sports with 11 TD catches and was first in Canada West in receptions (58) and receiving yards (834)… For UBC, sophomore pivot Michael O’Connor, last year’s Vanier Cup MVP, quietly enjoyed a solid season of his own despite his team’s sub-.500 campaign and finished league play with a UBC-record 2,598 passing yards to go with 20 TD passes and only eight interceptions… In fact, O’Connor had more passing yards than Picton in both UBC-Regina contests in the regular season, including a 347-282 advantage in the first meeting (Picton’s season low) and a 362-329 edge two weeks ago.

WEEK 11 SCHEDULE (all times local)

NOTE 1: Click HERE for the complete 2016 regular season schedule & results

NOTE 2: Click HERE for the complete 2016 playoff schedule & results

November 5 (conference semifinals)

12:00   No. 9 Saskatchewan (5-3) at No. 6 Calgary (6-2) (Shaw TV/Access & CanadaWest.TV)

13:00   No. 8 Carleton (7-2) at No. 3 Western (7-1) (Rogers Cable 13 & OUA.TV)

13:00   No. 7 McMaster (7-2) at No. 5 Laurier (7-1) (CHCH & OUA.TV)

14:00   Acadia (2-6) at Mount Allison (3-5) (Bell Aliant Fibe TV1 & AUStv.ca)

14:00   McGill (4-4) at No. 2 Montreal (7-1) (TVA Sports)

14:00   Concordia (4-4) at No. 1 Laval (7-1)

15:30   UBC (3-5) at No. 4 Regina (6-2) (Shaw TV/Access & CanadaWest.TV)

 

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