Since 2014, the Gee-Gees football team has been waiting to get a burden off of their back. On Saturday afternoon, in-front of a sold out crowd of over 24,470 at TD Place, the team finally did it.
The U SPORTS ninth-ranked Gee-Gees (4-1) defeated the fifth-ranked Carleton Ravens (4-2) by a final margin of 38-27 to win the 50th Panda Game.
As the Gee-Gees have done all season, a balanced attack on offence and stifling defensive pressure led to the victory. An offensive explosion of 31 unanswered points, and four interceptions by the uOttawa secondary were the keys to the win.
"It's a big one. It's a football game but at the same time it has so much tradition," said Gee-Gees quarterback Sawyer Buettner. "It's big for the school, it's big for the alumni. Getting rushed on the field there by the students is just awesome. I think it brings our school a bit tighter – knowing that we can do it. It's big for our school."
Buettner, playing in his first Panda Game, was outstanding for the Gee-Gees, throwing five touchdowns on 16 completions for 243 yards. Fourth-year receiver Kalem Beaver had a landmark game with 128 yards and two touchdowns, fellow receiver Carter Matheson also found the end zone twice, two of his three catches in the game.
Second-year running back Dawson Odei continued to be a force on the Garnet and Grey offence. Odei is second (by merely a half yard) in the OUA in yards per game after racking up 142 yards on 25 carries in the win.
"It's been a long time coming and it feels great. It feels great," said Beaver. "Our defence is bringing it every game, and our offence needed to step up. It was finally time for us to come together."
Defensively, U SPORTS First Team All-Canadian Jamie Harry proved to be one of the most dominant players in the nation. With two interceptions in the game, Harry's five takeaways this season leads the nation through week six. Fellow defensive backs Luke Griese and Rashad Spooner also had instrumental moments taking the ball away from Carleton QB Mike Arruda.
"It's a good win for our players – they were resilient because we knew we were going to have a tough battle," said Gee-Gees head coach Jamie Barresi, after earning Pedro for the second time in his tenure. "There were a lot of things that were improved on our side today, and they conducted themselves with poise."
After the Gee-Gees' streak of unanswered points, flashbacks of Pandas past came creeping back to the surface. Two fourth quarter drives for touchdowns by the Ravens made the game closer
than comfort, but stellar defensive play on the final Ravens' possession quelled any chance of comeback.
"They were knowing at us and clawing at us and our kids came up tough up front, forcing him to make some throws he may want to take back. Jamie made a big play there at the end," said Barresi.
Though Pedro's return to the University of Ottawa is more than sweet enough, the game also had serious playoff implications in a very heated OUA race. With the win, the Gee-Gees moved up to second place in the conference, behind Western, ahead of the final three weeks of the regular season.
Up next, the Gee-Gees will not have much time to celebrate the win as they prepare for a pre-Thanksgiving weekend matchup with the winless Toronto Varsity Blues. The teams will face off in Toronto on Thursday night at 7 p.m.