Pyear: Mac's forgotten man
By JOSH WEBSTER -- SLAM! Sports
The 96th edition of the Yates Cup was supposed to be a battle of two of the top running backs in the CIS.
Instead, it was Kyle Pyear who ran into the spotlight.
Pyear rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown as McMaster won its fourth consecutive OUA championship with a 41-17 victory over Laurier on Saturday.
The game could have been renamed the Pyear Cup as it was Kyle's final game against brother Ryan, Laurier's starting quarterback. Their father Barry Pyear is also a running back coach with the Golden Hawks.
It's understandable if Kyle was an afterthought for McMaster entering the game. All the hype this season has gone to Mac's Jesse Lumsden and for good reason. The CIS rushing leader was just three yards short of 1,500. He also scored 20 touchdowns for the Marauders.
But on Mac's fourth play of the game, Lumsden suffered a back injury that stopped play for about 10 minutes. It turned out to be less serious than originally feared, and the geography major (a fitting subject considering he covers so much ground) was able to walk off the field under his own power and return late in the first quarter.
"I just landed on my head and I got a stinger all the way down my back so I just kind of laid low a little bit and let the doctors take care of me," Lumsden explained. "I just didn't want to do anything drastic especially when it was dealing with my back."
McMaster turned to its forgotten man while Lumsden was on the sidelines, and Pyear delivered. The fifth year geography student (again, another running back in geography) scored a few plays later to put the Marauders ahead for good.
"I just got the opportunity and our o-line blocked great," explained Pyear. "I just tried to find the holes, tried to fill in for an injured running back and did the best I could."
Pyear is no slouch when it comes to the running game. He was the CIS rushing leader last season with 1,227 yards, and although Lumsden has received the majority of the carries in 2003, Pyear has done his part with 523 yards this year. His 7.16 yards per carry is better than his average last year.
As for his brother, Ryan had seen better days completing 15 of 30 passes for 230 yards and one touchdown. He was intercepted twice, sacked three times and hit countless others.
"You never like to see your brother get banged around," Kyle admitted. "He's a tough guy."
"It adds a little more emotion to the game (playing your brother)."
Every game could be Kyle's last in the CIS, something he doesn't think about when he walks onto the gridiron.
"It hasn't really crossed my mind too much," admitted Pyear. "I just play my guts out and hopefully we end up with the 'w'."
When Lumsden did return to the field, he was contained for two quarters. It wasn't until the fourth quarter when Lumsden started rolling, ending the game with 104 rushing yards and a touchdown.
It's crazy to call that kind of performance an off day, but for Lumsden, that's the kind of year it has been.
"I think it was just a little mental," explained Lumsden about playing after the injury. "It's something I had to get over and I was pretty pee-oed at myself at the bench. I got out of it and started running like I can, started running over people."
On the other side of the ball, the second leading rusher in the OUA was a non-factor. Derek Medler (not a geography student -- he majors in commerce) rushed for 1420 yards in the regular season, but only managed five yards on three carries against Mac. He did make a pair of receptions for 24 yards, but was nursing a shoulder injury suffered in a previous game.
The play of the game came courtesy of McMaster's Brandon Little, who returned a kick off 109 yards for a touchdown.
The Yates Cup championship marks the fourth time a school has won the trophy four years in a row. McMaster will go for the elusive five-peat next season, but for now there is some unfinished business.
As successful as the McMaster program has been, the team has not reached the Vanier Cup since 1967 with three straight losses in the national semi-final game. Mac players obviously know what is still at stake -- the players refused to hoist the Yates Cup above their heads, perhaps fearing a jinx, but more than likely realizing that there is another 120 minutes of football to be played if the Marauders are to consider this season a success.
"Since it is four in a row it isn't as exciting," claimed Pyear. "We've got bigger plans down the road. We want to hoist up a couple of other trophies after this one. We stay humble after this one."
McMaster will face Laval next week in the Mitchell Bowl at the friendly confines of Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton.
Because of past results in the national semi-final, there is a sense of urgency, especially for Pyear since this is his last chance at a national title.
"You're going to have to focus on the past," admitted Pyear. "There is a little more pressure on us this year to make it past this (Mitchell). I think this year we have the team to do it, we just have to come out firing."
The Yates Cup was played in front of 12,464 fans at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton, the largest crowd to watch a McMaster football game.
You can bet the Marauders are hoping to play in front of a couple more large crowds in the next two weeks en route to that elusive national championship.