The first response to the Gaels doing the funky chicken (let that be the last wedding reception-related pun in this post) on the injury-riddled Windsor Lancers on Saturday, rolling 38-3, is that it's about to come back to reality over the next two weeks vs. the OUA's other 4-0 teams, Laurier at home this Saturday and Ottawa on the road on Thanksgiving weekend. So what?
The Gaels probably stand a tenfold better chance against the past two conference champions than almost any observer would have granted them when the OUA schedule was published in March. At first blush, the response was to say, well, a 5-3 finish and a home playoff game was certainly possible, even though Laurier and Ottawa back-to-back seemed like a write-off.
For one, Queen's group of blockers and the guy running behind them, Mike Giffin (pictured), look far better equipped to go up against a fast defence like Laurier's or Ottawa's than they did in the past. On the whole, the team has three wins over playoff teams from last season -- compared to the Golden Hawks' two and the Gee-Gees' one. That might mean sweet nothing, but it suggests the Gaels are just as legit as anyone else.
Saturday, the defensive line did a bigger number on Windsor than the spirits did on us while celebrating a good friend's nuptials. Lancers QB Dan Lumley, limited by a sore ankle, was harried into throwing three interceptions. (Two of the picks went to Jimmy Allin, who also set up the first touchdown with a long punt return.) Queen's outgained Windsor by a factor of 2 1/2, with Giffin running for three touchdowns, bringing his season total to nine. That is exactly as many as the entire Western Mustangs team has after four weeks, not that anyone's counting.
Monster inside receiver Scott Stinson made a highlight-reel one-handed touchdown catch. Suffice to say, it all made for a pretty impressive highlight package on The Score in the wee hours of the night, especially since the gold uniforms seem made for high-def TV.
It was a nice moment, but one that can't be savoured for too long. Laurier seems to have had Queen's number for a while (if the Hawks had been on the 2006 schedule instead of York or Toronto, there might not have been any playoffs). QB Dan Brannagan doesn't have a track record against Laurier, save for part of a game in a 45-0 loss in his first CIS game two seasons ago. He's struggled in three losses vs. the Gee-Gees, throwing 90 passes for 382 yards, a 4.2 average, poor for a running back, let alone a passer. The Gaels also have a new right tackle (Colin Boyle, an Ottawa boy who's not to be confused with the Colin Doyle who plays hockey for RMC, won't be back till the playoffs, if at all) on the offensive line, so there's a lot of ifs to contemplate.
Winning at Windsor's homecoming was redemptive for some of the more emotionally stunted alumni in the 25-34 age demographic. Still, the Gaels are in the Yates Cup hunt, so our reflexive cynicism is atrophying amid thoughts of our longest-standing sports obsession maybe just maybe going a-trophying.
(OK, that was brutal -- Western Mustangs brutal. By the way, Claude Scilley's game story in the Whig-Standard does a good job of picking some nits with the Gaels' showing in a 35-point win.)
Some quick bullet points:
- Something to keep in mind with Lancers tailback Daryl Stephenson (109 yards Saturday despite) shooting for the OUA and CIS career rushing records is the conference might no longer be as generous to running backs as it was a couple years ago.
Only two of the OUA's 10 teams (U of T and McMaster) are giving up more than 5.0 yards per carry. That's down from past years:
2006 -- 4
2005 -- 8
2004 -- 8
Who knows why this is the case, but it's possible teams have put more emphasis on recruiting and developing front-seven players in an effort to stop the league's star runners. Maybe the bar has been raised for a 1,000-yard season.
- Mark Wacyk of cishoops.ca has a full report on the men's basketball Gaels' 90-73 pre-season rout of Algoma Thunderbirds on Saturday. Mitch Leger put up 31 points for the Gaels, who actually led by as much as 40 points in the first half.
- It's only exhibition season, but the women's hockey Gaels knocked off Carleton 6-0 and Ottawa 2-1 on the weekend. Becky Conroy, a Pembroke native, had a hat trick vs. the Ravens as the Gaels pumped six goals past the best goalie in the CIS, Valerie Charbonneau. Saturday, Conroy had the game-winner vs. the Gee-Gees. Man, if the Gaels could only jump to the Quebec conference...
That's all for now. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.