A view from Hamilton

The Gaels team that will play the McMaster Marauders in this weekend’s OUA semifinal is a very different team from the one the Marauders beat on Sept. 5.

Since that 26-2 loss, the Gaels have gone from looking like an unorganized bunch to one of the hottest teams in Canadian Interuniversity Sport.

Unfortunately for Queen’s fans, the same could be said of the Marauders.

In that Week One win at Richardson Stadium, McMaster scored just one offensive touchdown and made their share of mistakes, showing some flaws that the Western Mustangs exposed badly in Week Two with a 48-21 blowout.

Since then, the Marauders have looked arguably as good as any team in the CIS. They haven’t lost in nearly two months thanks to a relentless aerial attack and a stingy defensive backfield.

After star quarterback Kyle Quinlan was suspended on Sept. 15, McMaster went 3-0 in his absence thanks to the steady play of backup Marshall Ferguson. Now, with Quinlan back in the fold, they’ve looked even better.

Quinlan averaged a CIS-leading 341.6 yards passing in his five games, depending on CIS receiving yards leader Mike DiCroce, deep threat Brad Fochesato — 26.7 yards per catch — and the steady-handed Matt Peressini, who had a league-high eight touchdown catches.

As good as McMaster’s air game has been, their pass defence has been nearly as impressive. They led the league in interceptions, including eight in their final three games.

But the Gaels’ biggest strengths are in McMaster’s biggest areas of inexperience.

The Gaels’ vaunted front seven has been relentless all season and will be facing off against a relatively young McMaster offensive line that lost three starters to graduation last year. Meanwhile, a pair of rookie linebackers in Aram Eisho and Nick Shortill will be charged with stopping the CIS rushing yardage leader in running back Ryan Granberg.

The Marauders’ expectations are high. The team has been on fire since September and it’s the best shot they have at a Yates Cup since legendary running back Jesse Lumsden graduated in 2005.

But with another red hot team coming to Hamilton on Saturday, their season could very quickly turn ice cold.

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