Record breaking season
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Regina, Saskatchewan is almost 2,600 kilometres away from McMaster. That’s the distance Marauders’ starting quarterback Asher Hastings travelled in fall 2014 to officially make Mac his home. Hastings is in his second year, double majoring in Psychology and Sociology.
Prior to arriving on campus last fall, Hastings played four years of junior football for the Regina Thunder of the Canadian Junior Football League winning a national championship and a few individual awards that garnered the attention of national press. While playing for the Thunder, Hastings attended the University of Regina for two and a half years before transferring to Mac. McMaster’s wide receivers coach Al Anonech and former Marauders quarterback Kyle Quinlan stumbled upon Hastings’ YouTube highlight tape and relayed it to Head Coach Stefan Ptaszek. Soon after that Hastings took a recruiting trip to Mac.
Having spent all of last year as Marshall Ferguson’s backup, Hastings was ready for the limelight once his time came this year. In the sixth game of the season, he broke the OUA record for most touchdown passes in a season against the Waterloo Warriors on Oct. 8.
The record breaking is number is 25 touchdown passes. After this weekend’s 31-20 victory at Laurier, Hastings pushed that figure to 29 TD passes for the season (first in the OUA) and is now one TD pass shy of breaking the CIS record held by former Saint Mary’s Huskies QB Chris Flynn. That record has been intact for 26 years. Hastings’ completion rate is a stellar 72.4 percent (also first in the OUA); he has thrown for 2,300 yards (third in the OUA) and averages 328.6 yards per game (third in the OUA). The casual observer shines the spotlight on the quarterback’s arm but Hastings knows a collective effort is a key ingredient to his success.
“The biggest thing has been the play-calling in the redzone. It’s up to the coaches and what they want to run. We have a pretty dynamic receiving core,” said Hastings. “If you want to double cover Danny Vandervoort, we’ll throw it to Max Cameron, Dan Petermann, Josh Vanderweerd, Mitch O’Connor, or Declan Cross. I think our biggest strength is being dynamic in the redzone and being able to throw the ball to anybody.”
McMaster’s depth and skill at wide receiver tells the opposing defense to pick their poison. The amount of capable receivers at Hastings’ disposal forces other teams to play Mac honest because, on any given day, it could be a different guy catching Hastings’ passes. The versatility of Mac’s passing game is a big reason Hastings is breaking records. Danny Vandervoort has the school record for most TD receptions in a season with ten. Saturday at Laurier, Dan Petermann became the proud new holder of the school record for receptions in a season with 56 catches. The previous record was 52, held by Mike Bradwell.
In order to hit these receivers Hastings needs time in the pocket. That time has been provided by the protection of his stout offensive line, which gives up a little over a sack a game.
“They’re unbelievable. All five of those guys would do anything for me on and off the field. I love those guys so much. They’re great friends, great guys in the locker room, and great football players,” said Hastings. “McMaster has a reputation for recruiting enormous offensive linemen and so there’s a real feeling of safety when I’m in the game. I owe it all to them.”
Hastings’ skill-set as a true pocket passer is a bit of a change from the past two signal callers at Mac. Quinlan and Ferguson were more dual-threat than Hastings. Hastings openly admits he’s not much of a threat outside of the pocket, but stats show he is a killer within the pocket.
“I really have a specific set of skills meaning I’m not well-rounded so I have a very specific idea of what I like to run. I think my strength is the ability to make any throw,” Hastings said. “My biggest strengths are my ability to read defenses, make good decisions with the football and make any throw on the field.”
Logically speaking, a pass-heavy QB would be more prone to throwing interceptions, but that is not the case with Hastings. His claim that reading defenses and making good decisions with the football are his strengths is validated by his almost immaculate 29:4 TD to interception ratio.
“Our philosophy is to protect the football. It’s the golden rule of playing quarterback,” Hastings said. “I have it written on a whiteboard in my room.”
No. 6 McMaster is preparing for their last game of the season against the No. 3 Western Mustangs on Oct. 24. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Photo Credit: Jon White/Photo Editor