No would suggest it's easy to coach or play in one of those games. At least those guys have some sway over Saturday's 10-dollar-word worthy matchup between the Western Mustangs and Queen's Golden Gaels, fellow unbeatens who aren't much on fellowship, at least not this week. There's worry around every corner. For starters, the Saturday forecast for Kingston calls for 70% rain. That could affect, well, everything Queen's tries to do.
Western coach Greg Marshall, perhaps indulging in a psychological ploy, said during an interview on The FAN 590 that the poor field conditions worked to Western's advantage in the playoff game last year. It bogged down Queen's defensive line, allowing Western to move the pile in the running game (There's still major memory burn over since-graduated Randy McAuley getting 38 carries.) The inference seemed pretty clear. Citing the field conditions is one way to remind the Mustangs camp not to take anything for granted, while saying, hey, if there is a downpour on Saturday, we've been there before.
There's no definitive answer on how rain would change Queen's mode of attack. No running back, even a 225-pounder such as Mike Giffin, prefers shaky footing to a dry, clear field where he can make his cuts. The quarterback has to adjust to receivers running more rounded routes, coming out of their breaks just a fraction of a second slower.
Xs-and-0s wise, Queen's defensive line, between Osie Ukwuoma and Neil Puffer on the ends and Dee Sterling in the middle, has seemingly cultivated a very dangerous personality. Mike Faulds is a pretty smooth quarterback and his receivers catch almost everything they get their hands on. Keeping them to 17-20 points is not going to be easy. Queen's has only three interceptions from four games; a gut feeling is they'll have to get at least one pick.
On the other side of the ball, Dan Brannagan is facing Western for the fifth time as a starter. He and offensive co-ordinator Warren Goldie should by know what they're going to see from the Paul Gleason-coached Mustangs defence. Queen's offensive line, based on how it went last year, also might have more to redeem than any other position group on the team. Giffin was below 50 yards on the ground in the playoff game; talk about a motivating factor.
One overarching theme to latch on to, from a Queen's perspective, is that some of Queen's best teams had the memory burn of a disappointing loss. It's way too early to start mentioning these Gaels in the same breath (wouldn't want to jinx it, you know), but what happened in 1992 was in many ways influenced by '91. Nineteen seventy-eight was influenced by '77. The next time around, those Queen's teams got it done.
It's going to rain on Saturday, probably pretty hard. However, a team worthwhile finds a way while everyone else finds yes-buts. Queen's, thinking back to last fall, Laurier and Mac in 2002-03, is so overdue to win one of these showdowns that it's not even funny anymore. (Really, it's not.)
Queen's has a better chance this time than it did last November, when we all thought they had a strong chance. A good game from Giffin, a couple turnovers and some early two-and-outs would set them up very well to pull out, say, a 20-17 win.
There's no ultimate victory with a one-loss Ottawa team coming to Kingston in three weeks. That being said, this doesn't feel like one regular-season game out of eight.
- CFRC Sports has the audio of Pat Sheahan's press conference from Thursday. Money quote:"We've had other sellouts, but I can't remember time when we had a sellout this early in the week."
Remember, CFRC 101.9 FM (cfrc.ca) will probably have a hour-long preview on Friday.
- Western starts three rookies on the offensive and D-lines. Matt Norman and Ahmad Jaradat on offensive and defensive tackle Mike Van Praet will leave a mark on the OUA. That being said, they're young.