By Martin Cleary
At the start of the NCAA Division 1 football season, Phil Jurkovec of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers was placed on the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award watch list.
The senior-redshirt transfer from Boston College was seen as the every-game starter to lead the Panthers to a great season in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
That was potentially unsettling news for Ottawa’s Christian Veilleux, who had seen limited duty with the Penn State University Nittany Lions the previous two seasons and had transferred to Pittsburgh for the 2023 campaign.
But when the Panthers finished the first half of their season at 1-4, head coach Pat Narduzzi felt a change was needed and he tapped Veilleux on the shoulder two weeks ago to prepare to start against the No. 14 University of Louisville Cardinals.
Narduzzi said he still had “a ton of confidence in Jurkovec,” but he felt he needed “a spark at that position to see what happens.”
Narduzzi liked what he saw as Veilleux’s fortnight of preparation for the starting quarterback role led to a come-from-behind 38-21 upset victory over the previously undefeated Cardinals.
While his accuracy wasn’t where he would have liked it in his first start as an NCAA quarterback, Veilleux showed aggressiveness and assertiveness on the field.
In his third game, but first complete game, of the season, Veilleux completed 12 of 26 pass attempts and connected for touchdowns with Bub Means (46 yards) in the first quarter and Konata Mumpfield (31 yards) in the fourth quarter.
Veilleux didn’t throw an interception, was sacked once by the Cardinals’ defence and ran the ball four times for 22 yards.
For this season, Veilleux has been successful on 24 of 53 pass attempts for 345 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
“I’m great,” Veilleux said at a press conference following the win. “Beating the No. 14 team while being 1-4 and having a rough last four weeks, we needed that to get us back to playing ball the way we can play.”
In his true freshman season with Penn State in 2021, Veilleux came off the bench to replace starter Sean Clifford in the first quarter and was impressive the rest of the game against Rutgers University. He sparked the Nittany Lions to a 28-0 win, throwing three touchdown passes and connecting on 15 of his 24 pass attempts.
During his two years at Penn State, he played in five games and completed 23 of 37 pass attempts for 382 yards and three touchdowns.
GEE-GEES, RAVENS IN FIGHT FOR OUA FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS
The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees and the Carleton University Ravens football teams will be looking to end the OUA regular season on a positive number Saturday, after recording critical victories last Saturday.
If both teams can win their final game – Ottawa at Queen’s University Gaels and Carleton playing host to the University of Guelph Gryphons – it would mean a berth in the playoffs.
The Gee-Gees, 4-3, scored points in every quarter to defeat the McMaster University Marauders 23-7, while the Ravens, 3-4, needed kicking heroics from Brandon Forcier for a last-second 31-30 decision over the University of Waterloo Warriors.
Amlicar Polk ran 15 yards for the Gee-Gees’ first touchdown and Riley Hildebrandt turned an interception into a 30-yard touchdown for uOttawa. Campbell Fair kicked a pair of converts as well as one single, and the club was credited with four team safeties.
Quarterback Josh Janssen gained 261 yards through the air by completing 17 of 27 pass attempts.
Trailing by six points with slightly more than three minutes left in the game, Ravens’ placement kicker Forcier booted field goals from 22 and 47 yards to tie the game 30-30. But a single off a missed Forcier field goal with one second left on the clock gave Carleton its third win of the season.
Forcier finished the game with 13 points off three field goals, three converts and one single. His other field goal was from 17 yards.
Receiver Hunter Brown and quarterback Tristan Lefebvre worked together well for the Ravens. Lefebvre tossed a pair of touchdown passes to Brown, covering 39 and 28 yards. Brown finished with five catches for 136 yards.
Kaseem Ferdinand had the other Ravens’ touchdown on a 47-yard pass-and-run play with Lefebvre, who completed 23 of 35 pass attempts for 288 yards.
CASSANDRA PROVOST CONTINUES HOT SCORING PACE
Striker Cassandra Provost continued her torrid scoring pace as she counted six goals off 16 shots to lead the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees to a pair of OUA women’s soccer shutout victories.
The Gee-Gees stormed past Toronto Metropolitan University Bold (formerly Ryerson University Rams) 7-0 and followed with a 4-0 decision over the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks.
The two victories allowed the Gee-Gees to remain tied for first in the East Conference at 9-0-1 with the Queen’s University Gaels.
Provost scored four goals off 10 shots and eight shots on goal against the Bold, while Allana Oriente counted two goals and Sabrina Mangiaracina had one goal.
In the match against the Ridgebacks, Provost scored twice, while singles went to Maya Smith and Nibo Dlamini. Provost ranks No. 1 in the OUA in goals at 22 and shots at 64, while Oriente, who had two assists, is No. 5 in shots at 30.
Juliann Lacasse earned a quiet shutout against the Bold as she didn’t face a single shot. Cassidy Joslin made four saves for the shutout against the Ridgebacks.
Carleton remained in fourth place at 5-2-3, following a 2-1 victory over the Bold and a 1-1 draw with the Ridgebacks.
Selena Moussa scored once for the Ravens against the Bold and assisted on the game-winning goal by Ava Mills. Mikayla Moser was the Carleton goal scorer against the Ridgebacks, who tied the game in the 90th minute.
After winning its first nine OUA East Conference men’s soccer games, Carleton tied Toronto Metropolitan 2-2, and remained in first place at 9-0-1.
OTTAWA WILL FACE LAVAL IN RSEQ WOMEN’S RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
Emma Wade scored two trys to spark the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees to a 19-0 win over the Concordia University Stingers in the RSEQ women’s rugby semifinals.
The Gee-Gees will advance to Saturday’s conference final at Laval University, after Rouge et Or turned back the Carleton University Ravens 40-13.
Leigha Stiles also scored a try for Ottawa and Aurora Bowie kicked two converts.
Anna Norman was the top Carleton scorer with one try and one convert.
OTTAWA TAKES 1 BASKETBALL TITLE, CARLETON WINS 2
Defending national champion Carleton University Ravens men’s basketball team won the House-Laughton Hoops Classic on home court with three wins in as many days.
The Ravens defeated the University of Guelph Gryphons 76-70, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies 75-62 and the Université du Québec à Montréal Citadins 93-77.
Tournament MVP Marjok Okado, who scored 30 points against the Citadins, and Xavier Spencer represented the Ravens on the all-star team. Spencer was Carleton’s top scorer with 14 points and added five rebounds and five assists against Guelph.
At the University of British Columbia Okanagan Heat Fall Classic, the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees men’s team was unbeatable, winning all three of its games.
After defeating the host Heat 99-76, the Gee-Gees stormed past the Trinity Western University Spartans 74-48 and the St. Francis Xavier University X-Men 90-66.
Brock Newton scored 43 points in three games for Ottawa, while Dragan Stajic contributed 36 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists and 12 steals.
Meanwhile at the UVic Invitational women’s basketball tournament in Victoria, Carleton emerged as champions, sweeping all three of its games.
The Ravens defeated the University of Victoria Vikes 84-61, the University of British Columbia Okanagan Heat 85-79 and the University of Alberta Pandas 73-68.
Kali Pocrnic led the Ravens by averaging 22.3 points a game. Tatyanna Burke needed only one more rebound in the game against the Heat to record three double-doubles. Burke had 20 points and 13 rebounds in the win over the Vikes.
GEE-GEES QUALIFY FOR OUA WOMEN’S SOFTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
The OUA women’s softball championship tournament will include the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees, who ended their regular season in second place in the East Conference at 14-6.
The Gee-Gees swept the Queen’s University Gaels 4-1 and 6-3 to finish their regular-season schedule. The Gaels posted 15-4 and 10-0 wins over the Carleton University Ravens, who finished in sixth place in the East at 2-18.
The eight-team OUA championship will be held Saturday and Sunday in Brant/Paris.
6 OTTAWA SOONERS NAMED ONTARIO FOOTBALL CONFERENCE ALL-STARS
The Ottawa Sooners had a short playoff season in the Ontario Football Conference, when the junior team lost its semifinal 29-3 to pennant-winning St. Clair Saints.
When the conference named its league all-stars, the Sooners were well represented: offensive lineman Ahmed (Rash) Hafizi, receiver Marcus Lynch, placement kicker Jad Olleik, defensive lineman Richard Graham, linebacker Noah Nelson, and defensive back Schneider Jean-Baptiste.
LAST, BUT DEFINITELY NOT LEAST
· Carleton University Ravens defeated McMaster University Marauders 10-2 to win the bronze medal at the OUA baseball championship. The Ravens dropped their semifinal 8-3 to the University of Waterloo Warriors.
· Freshman Alym Kurji won the men’s 50-metre backstroke in a team record 25.52 seconds as well as the 100-metre backstroke as the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees placed second in the men’s, women’s and overall standings in the RSEQ Cup No. 1 swimming meet.
· Daniel Ryan of Carleton University tied for 16th place in the men’s competition at the OUA golf championships at the Grey Silo Golf Club with rounds of 74-73 for a five-over-par 147, while teammate Tyler Rouse shared 23rd at 72-77-149. Mackenzie Deveau of the University of Ottawa tied for 16th in the women’s championship at 85-79 for a 22-over-par 164. Ottawa was ninth in the women’s team standings and 11th for men, while Carleton was 11th and 13th respectively.
· Ava Acres’ RCMP Curling Club rink defeated Katrina Frlan of the Huntley Curling Club 6-4 to win the Stu Sells U18 women’s tankard in Barrie, ON.
· Jack Dufour and his Boxing Without Barriers club made history as the first athlete with a disability to be featured on a card in Ottawa at the Beaver Boxing Club’s Octoberfist on Saturday.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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