Hawks keep playoff hopes alive with blowout win
For the first time this season, the skies at University Stadium continued to bleed purple and gold.
The Wilfrid Laurier University men’s football team kept their playoff dreams alive the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend with a dominating 65-30 victory over the Ottawa Gee-Gees. The Hawks used a combination of their run and air game to put up a total of 637 all-purpose yards on 79 plays.
“I’m so proud of our guys,” head coach Michael Faulds said. “We were really down after the Windsor game a couple weeks ago. Captains, everyone said they were going to dig deeper. We proved that we dug deeper last week against Waterloo, but this week against a team that’s fighting for the playoffs like Ottawa with a quarterback like [Derek] Wendel, I couldn’t be happier for our guys.”
The Hawks came out with a flying start, focusing on their air game against the Gee-Gees, scoring two touchdowns when starting pivot Eric Morelli threw a staggering 58-yard touchdown pass to Greg Nyhof and a five-yard pass to Anthony Pizzuti to give the Hawks an early lead. The Hawks continued their first-half dominance, combining for 447 yards of offence in the first two quarters.
When Ottawa began to focus on limiting the Hawks in the air, Laurier went back to fifth-year running back Dillon Campbell to smother the Gee-Gees on the ground. Campbell broke the school record for most carries in rushing with 37 carries and ran for 246 yards, enough for third in the all-time school rushing yards in a game and beating out his coach, Ryan Lynch.
The second half saw the Hawks continue to command the game, jumping to a 55-10 lead before the Gee-Gees began a late rally. However, the Hawks defence suffocated Ottawa quarterback Derek Wendel and continued their dominance, with Morelli cycling between Nyhof, Pizzuti and Marcus Arkarakas as targets for the passing game.
“Give our offensive coordinator Mark Surya, we did a great job of loading up the box,” Faulds said. “We had extra tight ends and full backs in the game because we knew that they were thinking we were going to run the ball, and that created one-on-one matchups.”
“Nyhof, Pizzuti, Arkarakas, Kurleigh Gittens Jr., all of them had one-on-one matchups and Eric just played with a confidence tonight,” he continued.
“I really focused this week on trying to just be calm back there and trust the guys up front,” Morelli said. “Not that I’ve ever not, but really try to take everything that the coaches are saying and trust in my guys and everyone else to do their jobs, and tonight they made my job very easy to pick and choose my spots.”
It was a record night for many Hawks, as Pizzuti tied the single-season record for most touchdowns in a game with three while Morelli went 20-for-24 with 298 passing yards and six touchdowns, tying Bill Kubas for most touchdown passes in a game set back in 1992 and 1994.
Ottawa quarterback Wendel went 25-for-42 with 290 yards, one interception and one touchdown.
The 65 points is also the most points scored since Faulds took the helm and is also the most points that Ottawa has allowed in a game this season.
With the win, the Hawks improve to 3-3 on the season and continue on the post-season hunt as they host the McMaster Marauders on Oct. 17. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. at University Stadium.