Marshall Ferguson's best scramble of the season was not on the football field.
Rather, it was what the quarterback who also has ambitions of a broadcasting career did after helping the Marauders beat the Guelph Gryphons 20-15 to win the Ontario university championship game in Hamilton. Ferguson is also sports director of the McMaster campus radio station, CFMU 93.3 FM, and was slated to do play-by-play for CFMU/OUA.tv simulcast of a basketball doublehead on Saturday.
The tense championship football game ended around 4 p.m., and the first basketball game tipped off at 6. While his teammates were ready to let loose after winning their third Yates Cup in four seasons, Ferguson's day was just beginning.
"It was a quick turnaround — it was a little bit weird changing into dress clothes, celebrating with the guys in the locker room for maybe about 10 minutes," Ferguson said Sunday, in between watching NFL games like the typical university football player on his one free day of the week. "I tried to enjoy it for a moment, then got in the shower, got in the dress clothes. I ran over to the radio station to make sure we were all set up on the technical side. Then I sprinted back to the gym, missed about the first two minutes of the women's game while my colour guy [Christopher Séguin] covered me. I was on air for four hours, had a great time and fortunately both our teams won, which made it a greater day.
"I was laughing about this morning with our backup quarterback Asher Hastings," added Ferguson, whose No. 3-ranked Marauders will host No. 6-ranked Mount Allison in a national semifinal game next Saturday in Hamilton. "There was tweet once from [Toronto Star sports columnist] Bruce Arthur — I forget why he tweeted it, but it said something to the effect of, 'I remember calling a University of Saskatchewan game from the top of the stadium, it was minus-15 and the snow was blowing.'
"It seems like everybody that gets into broadcasting and journalism has kind of 'war stories' from when they were starting," the Glenburnie, Ont., native added. "Hopefully I make a name for myself at some point and look back and laugh at the day I pulled double duty."
As a fifth-year player, Ferguson went into Saturday knowing that it might be his last competitive football game. Having his basketball broadcast duties was a welcome diverison, but he also wanted to make sure it did not detract from preparing to face Guelph, which was ranked No. 5 in Canada. Fortunately for him, McMaster's hoops teams were slated to play Lakehead Thunderwolves from Thunder Bay on both Friday and Saturday. The big man on campus spent his Friday in the CFMU studio, doing tech work for the basketball broadcast and learning Lakehead's lineups.
"I just didn't tell anybody that I was doing it," he said. "I just made sure the priority was the football game. I prepped harder than I ever have for a game. We had the best week of prep that we've had in the two years I've been the starter here.
"As the play-by-play guy, I know I just have to know names and describe what's going on. I have a really good colour guy, Chris Séguin, who prepares really well .. I knew that it was a nice way to distract from the stress of possibly having my last game. It didn't really take away anything from the football preparation."
The rigours of having competed in a playoff game caught up to Ferguson while he was on air. He pushed through and finished calling the Marauders' 81-73 win.
"I stiffened up in the second half of the men's game," he said. "Normally it doesn't hit me until the next day — you wake up and figure out the parts that somebody decided to throw a helmet into. I stiffened up, but it wasn't too bad. I used to work the midnight shift at Metro and I'm used to going from job to job."
There is something of a roll call of former Canadian university quarterbacks who have shone in broadcasting. Former CBC Sports announcers Steve Armitage and Mark Lee started for Saint Mary's University and Carleton University in their youth.
Current Sportsnet columnist/reporter Justin Dunk, who starred for Guelph from 2005-09, has an even better breaking-in story than Ferguson. In March 2011, Dunk did solo play-by-play of the longest collegiate hockey game ever, a six-overtime game between Guelph and Queen's.
Broadcasting is in Ferguson's blood. His father, Brian Ferguson, is creative services supervisor for CKWS, a the TV station in Kingston. Marshall recalls watching Super Bowls in the station since his family's TV antenna at their home north of the Eastern Ontario city couldn't get a strong enough signal from the closest FOX Network affiliate in Rochester, New York.
That passion has spun off into hosting radio shows dedicated to McMaster's sports teams and to the Ontario Varsity Football League. One of his interview subjects on the OVFL show last summer was James Roberts, the Guelph quarterback he went head-to-head against on Saturday.
"I've been given some opportunities through my football playing days at Mac," Ferguson said. "I'm grateful for that, but at the same time you have to have the talent and take every oppportunity you can to build it."
"It's kind of funny that yesterday I was going against a guy, that I had also interviewed, for the Yates Cup. And two months ago I was interviewing him. James and I laughed about that on the field after the game. It came a little bit full circle for me."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.