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Dramatic last-minute score gives Carleton victory in Panda Game

September 22, 2014

A stirring finish has put Pedro the Panda back at Carleton University for the first time since 1994.

In perhaps the most dramatic finish in the history of the annual cross-town match between the Ravens and the Ottawa Gee-Gees, Carleton scored on the final play of the game Saturday for a 33-31 victory.

Quarterback Jesse Mills, coming into the game for his first play with just four seconds on the clock, connected with Nathaniel Behar for a 55-yard touchdown as time expired, reversing a four-point Ottawa lead before a crowd of 12,500 at TD Place in Lansdowne Park.

In a game full of drama and lead changes, Carleton scored first, Ottawa led 18-14 at halftime and the teams were tied 21-21 going into the fourth quarter. Carleton then took the lead as Michael Domagala, who missed his first field-goal try, kicked consecutive field goals of 34 and 43 yards.

Derek Wendel, the former Kingston Grenadiers quarterback, scored from four yards out with 6:07 to play as the Gee-Gees regained the lead and Bayridge Secondary School grad Lewis Ward kicked his fifth field goal of the game, a 17-yard boot with 1:27 left, to give Ottawa a 31-27 lead.

The game appeared to be over when Carleton turned the ball over after just three plays but Ottawa couldn’t kill the final 61 seconds of the game. Wendel was sacked on consecutive plays, by James McCallum and Donner Picco, and the Gee-Gees had to punt the ball back. Domenic Bellardini was almost perfect, kicking the ball out of bounds at the Ravens’ five-yard line with just 25 seconds remaining.

Ravens quarterback Nick Gorgichuk threw incomplete, then gained 13 yards on a pass to Adam Zussino and 37 more on a throw to Behar. Another incomplete pass left Carleton at midfield with four seconds to play when Mills got the call.

The Saint Mary’s transfer, who was the Ravens starter last year and to begin this season, threw up a Hail Mary pass into a crowd near the 15-yard line. The ball bounced off an Ottawa defender and Behar snagged it before it hit the ground. The receiver dashed to the end zone untouched with the game-winning score.

Behar had a career day with 13 catches for 276 yards, both single-game highs in Ontario University Athletics this year. Those 276 yards represents the 11th-best receiving performance in Canadian university football history.

The two offences dominated the game, with Carleton gaining 500 total yards and Ottawa 481. Mack Tommy had 152 of the Gee-Gees’ 307 rushing yards. Ian Stewart had nine catches for 104 yards for Ottawa, while Gorgichuk threw for 318 yards and two touchdowns for the Ravens.

Sydenham High School grad Ben Fisher had two catches, for 16 yards, for Ottawa.

None of the other games Saturday was close, as the No.3-ranked Western Mustangs thumped the Toronto Blues 63-15, the Windsor Lancers whipped the Waterloo Warriors 63-4, the No. 7 Guelph Gryphons handed the Queen’s Golden Gaels the most lopsided defeat in the 133-year history of Queen’s football, 66-0, and the No. 5 McMaster Marauders became the first team in the conference to reach 4-0 with a 49-2 win over the York Lions.

Before a Homecoming crowd of 11,459 at London, the Mustangs amassed 804 yards of offence, almost four times more than the Varsity Blues were able to gain. The contrast was even more striking along the ground, as Western gained 408 yards rushing but held Toronto to minus-9 yards.

The Mustangs spread it around seven different ball carriers, with Yannick Harou the most productive individual, with 96 yards. Will Finch had a 25-for-37 day for 314 yards and two touchdowns—but four interceptions—as two Western quarterbacks threw to nine different receivers.

Amid all that Western achievement, there was one all-time CIS record set in the game, by Varsity Blues punter Aaron Gazendam. The former Queen’s Golden Gael from Holy Cross Secondary School punted from his own 24-yard line early in the second quarter. It didn’t stop rolling for 101 yards, deep in the Western end zone.

That surpassed by a yard the previous longest punt in Canadian intercollegiate history, by Calgary’s Brent Matich, Oct. 25, 1986, against Alberta.

Another former Gael, receiver Boris Isakov, had three catches for 40 yards for Toronto.

At Waterloo, the Warriors managed just 138 yards of total offence, while Windsor prevailed thanks largely to a 444-yard day rushing. Nigel Applewhaite ran for a career-best 166 yards and a pair of touchdowns for Windsor, while Beau Lumley had 114 more and Nick Vincent, who also scored two touchdowns, rushed for another 85.

It was pretty much over at halftime, as the Lancers led 38-0.

McMaster spoiled the Homecoming at York, as the Marauders scored 27 points in the second quarter en route to a 37-0 halftime lead. Quarterback Marshall Ferguson completed 10 of 14 passes for 152 yards before he left the game. He threw one touchdown pass, to former Frontenac Secondary School teammate Ben O’Connor, a 17-yard play in the final minute of the first half.

Rookie Daniel Petermann had the best game of his young career, with six catches for 107 yards and a touchdown for McMaster. Wayne Moore scored two touchdowns, both on short runs.

Todd Hoover was 11-for-15 passing for the Lions, but those completions generated just 77 yards. York had 182 total yards, only 64 yards of it along the ground, as the Lions failed to score a touchdown for the fourth game in a row.

This week, Windsor, 3-0, visits York, 0-4, on Friday night, while on Saturday Queen’s, 0-4, travels to McMaster; Carleton, 2-1, plays at Wilfrid Laurier, also 2-1; Toronto, 1-3, entertains Ottawa, 2-2; and Western, 3-0, visits Waterloo, 0-4. Guelph will enjoy a week off.

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