Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bleeding Tricolour: Big Yellow Guys are big game hunters

Queen's is who we thought they were.

The Golden Gaels -- Dee Sterling, after not-so-politely inviting himself into Western's backfield all afternoon, politely corrected The Score on that count after "Queen's Gaels" was uttered during a post-game interview -- beating Western 43-16 leaves one scrambling to find the right state of restrained jubilation. Listening to Weezer's Island In The Sun, oh, about 12 times, once for every Western turnover, worked like a charm -- just like the Jimmy Allin fake field-goal run that set up the clinching touchdown.

The one thought that's on a continuous mental loop is, "It's only September ... it's only September." Forgive anyone who gets up today and has to check the calendar to confirm it is Sept. 28. It's easy to lose sight of that fact, especially since Ottawa is now a two-loss team, meaning Queen's has home-field advantage through to the national semi-final already locked up.
The big takeaway was that Queen's defensive front seven -- Sterling, Osi Ukwuoma, Kyle MacDonald, Neil Puffer along the line; the linebacking trio of Thaine Carter, Chris Smith and T.J. Leeper -- pretty much forced Western to junk its running game on the ride over to Richardson Stadium. When did you ever expect to see that from a Greg Marshall-coached team?

It might have seemed like a great plan for Western to come out pass-wacky. Everyone has a plan until they get hit, and Michael Faulds got hit a lot. He also ended up with four interceptions, tripling his season total in the course of an afternoon. Meantime, Dan Brannagan, who had thrown the most interceptions in the CIS coming into this weekend, was pick-free.

Defensive halfback Alex DaPrato, before breaking the game open with his 90-yard-plus runback on a goal-line interception, also roughly separated Western halfback Ryan Tremblay from the ball on a pass play that would have put the 'Stangs inside the 10. On one level, it was just a very good defensive play. On a larger level, moments like that pointed up how Queen's, at least as seen from a distance, seems to breathing and moving freely.

The Gaels have their moments where they're imprecise. That makes them just like the other 25 CIS teams not named Laval. Notwithstanding the offence getting contained -- Western's Paul Gleason prepared his defence very well -- today further suggested that the Gaels are at the right point between knowing they have expectations to live up to and knowing, hey, this is just a football game.

Queen's played like they wanted to be in a big game, like a straight-A student who knows most of the material.

Western did not show that quality in any abundance. It might be a stretch to say that manifested itself in the bad punt snaps, the turnovers, and rookie receiver Nathan Riva's knee touching down at his own four-yard line on a kickoff return late in the first half, which led directly to a touchdown..

For non-partisan observers, the game might have only got interesting when Western got the margin down to 23-14 heading into the fourth quarter. However, the order was already established by that point. Western was driving, inside the 40, when MacDonald beat his blocker, Andrew Rady, for sack-forced fumble (which Ukwuoma recovered). Western got one more crack at it, before a third-and-1 stop, followed soon thereafter by Queen's second successful run out of a kicking formation on the day, extinguished theflickering purple flame.

All that proves, though, is Western is more of a work-in-progress than the Gaels. There's always a fear, as a fan, that a team has peaked too soon,. In that regard, which might mean that it's kismet that Mike Giffin was held to 20 rushes for 69 yards. At least there's something to work on ahead of the York game next week. Queen's also got outgained by more than 200 yards, which can't be overlooked, even with the 27-point win.

There are no final victories to be had in September. Go ahead and break out the "Over-rated!" chant for the Mustangs, but only do it once. There's a ton of season left.

  • The final tally from Homecoming: Twelve turnovers for Western on Saturday afternoon and 13 pages' worth of Kingston Police reports on Saturday night.
  • Mike Giffin became Queen's all-time touchdown leader with his three scores, passing Paul Correale.
  • Not only is the D-line channeling the Gold Rush of yore, but there's another link to the late '70s: Ben D'Andrea, son of 1978 co-captain Jim D'Andrea, made a third-down pass breakup in the fourth quarter. He's wearing his father's number, 26, too.
  • Western made some odd choices. Going for two while down 23-7 and then kicking the extra point after making the score 23-13 were each odd decisions. The decision to pass on second-and-long inside their own 5 late in the first half, which led to a sack/fumble and a touchdown, was probably defensible -- they needed to get momentum.

    However, Western was also at the end of the field that was ringed with the Homecoming classes, who might have been trying to make some noise.
Linkin' rhymes with drinkin', but I only got to do one
  • If the Ottawa Gee-Gees haven't been feeling pressure all season, now is a good time to start. One odd parallel is that Phill Cote was injured during the national championship season in 2000 (James Baker started the first three playoff games), and now Ottawa might be going with a backup QB.
  • The intreprid Andrew Bucholtz has his game story posted at The Queen's Journal, along with posts over at Sporting Madness. Andrew also found time get a post up about Rob Bagg's six-catch, 146-yard day for the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Sunday.

    The 'Riders lost the game, which means in the eyes of one writer, Bagg having a 72-yard catch is actually a bad thing: "Although Bagg had two long receptions, he is not going to scare defences. His lack of speed was noted when he didn't score on the 72-yarder."

    Fair enough, but Bagg has presumably done everything he can to get faster and what would you prefer him to do, drop the ball when he's open? It's always better to put the onus on the team's coaching and management and not slag individual players. Let's assume it was a weak moment from the writer in question.
  • The Whig-Standard and London Free Press game stories are on the web. Please note that importune is not a synonym for inopportune.
  • There was a liveblog.
  • Over at The CIS Blog, there's the standard Nine Stories, along with game capsules.
  • For those who like to follow the whole league, the Guelph Mercury's Greg Layson is back on the horse at his Big Man on Campus after a break for vacation.


Greg said...

It was, indeed, a great day for Queen's.

After all those years I attended Queen's that the Golden Gaels were a mediocre-at-best team, it's good to see them looking like a potential champion now.

Should I reserve Vanier Cup tix?

sager said...

No ultimate victories yet, Greg. We don't have any laurels. Not a damn one. (Yes, I'm quoting Friday Night Lights.)

(FYI, the Gaels were 6-2 in 1997 and finished first in a conference whose champion went to the Vanier Cup that year and each of the next three. That was "mediocre at best?" Thank you, Hank Steinbrenner.

Duane Rollins said...

Well...Queen's is now the Yates favourite (and don't let the CanWest killjoys tell you that the Yates doesn't matter). And, SMU looks beatable.

Laval v Queen's in Hamilton isn't a crazy thought.

Glad to see it. The CIS needs a strong Queen's.

Queen's college colours we are wearing once agian...

Dan Pawliw said...

"Glad to see it. The CIS needs a strong Queen's.

Queen's college colours we are wearing once agian..."


"Laval v Queen's in Hamilton isn't a crazy thought." but Laval v Queen's at Rogers Centre would be a better one ...