Wendel Watch was in full effect as the Gee-Gees took the field against the Toronto Varsity Blues. Ottawa needed a victory and a Queen’s win to qualify for the final playoff spot in the OUA. Unfortunately for the Garnet and Grey, the Gaels weren’t able to topple the Laurier Golden Hawks but Ottawa's season did close with a record setting bang. The Gee-Gees took control of the game early and racked up yardage to finish with a 45-9 win.
Coming into the game, quarterback Derek Wendel had completed 182 passes for 2572 passing yards and 20 touchdowns while receiver Ian Stewart had 916 yards receiving in 2015. Stewart needed 20 yards to break Rob Harrod’s school record of 936 yards in a single season set in 1998 and 84 to become the first Gee-Gee to ever reach the 1000 yards plateau. Wendel on the other hand had the opportunity to break many school, OUA and CIS records most notably most passing yards, completions and touchdowns thrown in a single season.
Despite all the offensive records at stake, it was the defence who put on a show early stopping Toronto in the early goings culminating with fourth-year veteran Tunch Akkaya's 83-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Running back Bryce Vieira fumbled in the early minutes of the game, causing head coach Jamie Barresi to take him out of the game. Barresi later admitted that his starting running back was playing with an injured knee and the decision was taken to protect the runner. “He’s been hurt. He wasn’t himself, he wasn’t confident handling the ball.”
When the offence finally managed to click, the floodgates opened and the records started to be broken. Shortly after a five-yard gain, Stewart broke both the school record and the 1000-yard mark with a 90-yard touchdown catch and run. It was the start of a stellar final game for the wideout who finished his final CIS game with 175 yards and two touchdowns.
Stewart attributed his success to the chemistry and communication between he and Wendel but also to the fact that, “He just had the confidence to throw it to me deep so many times.”
Barresi only had praises for his receiver following the game, saying that Stewart was an extension of himself on the field. “I could come in the meeting room at 2:30 and have 20 new concepts and Ian absorbed them and he would get everybody right on the field. He was more like a coach on the field.”
Wendel broke his own school record of 542 passing yards in a game finishing with 564 to establish a new OUA mark. Before kickoff he was ranked 17th on the all-time CIS single-season passing yards list. After four quarters he was alone at the top with 3,136 yards.
The record-breaking performance almost didn’t happen, as late in the fourth quarter Wendel needed one completion and 50 yards to break the two remaining records. However an interception and a few three and outs put a damper in the plans.
With only a few minutes left in the game and with a healthy lead, Barresi opted to sit his quarterback, but his players were able to talk him into going for it. “The players came to me and asked. We knew we were 50 yards away, we knew what play we could run and we ran it and hit it.”
Barresi's hesitation was formed over sportsmanship and respect of the opponent. “ I didn’t want to score another touchdown. I told him: I just want you to complete a pass and let’s get out of here. I didn’t want to get into that sort of thing, piling on the other team.” After breaking the CIS passing record, Wendel capped off a stellar season by using his legs to get into the end zone.
Wendel was proud of his team’s and personal performance, though it was not enough for them to earn a shot at the Yates Cup. “We were rolling on offence. It was a bit distracting but we stayed focused; as you can see by the result. It’s a great feeling, it would have been better if we would have made [the playoffs]. I’m still happy to be a part of this team. We had a great season and I feel great right now that coach gave me a chance to get a couple yards at the end.”
The Gee-Gees record setting season came to a close to the tune of 45-9 victory and will hope that next year playoff records will be broken as well.