Always the headliner of the OUA football regular season schedule, the Panda Game is upon us once again. The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees and the Carleton Ravens are set for their annual clash at TD Place, where Pedro and civic bragging rights are on the line once again. The highly-anticipated matchup between the cross-town is set to kick off on Saturday at 12 p.m.
A jam-packed sold-out crowd of 24,600 is expected to be on-hand to set a modern Panda Game record on Saturday. The 51st edition of the Panda Game will be the first time in five years that the Gee-Gees have a chance to fight to keep Pedro, having defeated Carleton 38-27 in last year's game. Ottawa holds a 33-17 overall record all time in the matchup.
Fans who were unable to secure tickets can watch the game live on Rogers TV Ottawa, OUA.tv, or listen live on TSN 1200 radio.
"The guys are pretty excited about this," said Gee-Gees head coach Jamie Barresi. "They're focused on themselves, worried about doing their jobs and focusing on what they need to do. They're in a good frame of mind."
"We've talked about everything, not only the standings, but what this game can mean to the community, the alumni, etcetera […] there's a lot of implications for about 50 years down the road."
The Gee-Gees enter the game looking to get back to their winning ways after a loss at Guelph last week. Ottawa has faired better this season than their rivals thus far, winning three-straight before the loss last weekend. Meanwhile Carleton snapped a three-game losing streak against Toronto last weekend and will look to ride some momentum into the game.
One Gee-Gee who is no stranger to the Panda Game is receiver Kalem Beaver. The fifth-year captain logged an outstanding performance last year as he racked up 128 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
Not as familiar with the game is quarterback Ben Maracle, who will be suiting up for his first Panda Game. Maracle, however, is not necessarily a stranger to playing in-front of large crowds, as it was something he became accustomed prior to his time with the Gee-Gees.
"I'm excited for it," said Maracle. "In high school at Football North, we played in-front of big crowds in the States, so I'm used to it a little bit. It's a big game for both us and Carleton, regardless of who comes out on top it's going to be a big win."
On the defensive side of the ball, the Gee-Gees will look to continue to their strong season. The Ottawa defence is the third ranked team in pass defence with 224.2 yards allowed per game, while leading the OUA in tackles and fumble recoveries per game.
A standout player on the defensive line that will be looking to make an impact on the Ravens offence is Tramayne Stephen. The 6-1, 300 lb. Toronto product is currently tied for fifth in the OUA in tackles for loss this season with 7. Stephen has also forced two fumbles, and sacked opposing quarterbacks three times this season.
In the defensive back field, fourth-year halfback Alex Douglas has been impressive so far this season. Douglas has racked up 20 tackles, two tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and recoveries, along with an interception.
Heading into the game, the Gee-Gees have their eyes set on a second-consecutive win, which would go a long way towards securing a berth in the playoffs and possibly a home playoff date.