Former Queen's coach Bob Howes -- no coincidence that he joins the coaching staff at the University Toronto and it wins for the first time in seven years, eh? -- once had a great phrase about a football team being able to stay at its "optimal point."
The big takeaway from that was that a team has to find a way to be halfway between living in the magnitude of the moment and still realizing that sun wil come up on Sunday, no matter what happens on Saturday. That applies to Queen's game on Saturday vs. the Laurier Golden Hawks, a team whom as we all know,
Queen's has no excuse if it can't beat a 1-1 Laurier team at home with a fourth-year starting quarterback, Dan Brannagan (who would still be first in the CIS in passing yards even if his stats hadn't somehow been doubled on the CIS website). Laurier is no slouch, but this week is exceptional for distractions for the Gaels, real or imagined. It's home game after a big road win, football alumni from the 1963, '68, '78 and '83 championship teams who will be on hand -- and no doubt want to see that the torch is still in able hands -- and an opponent who has owned Queen's in the only two meetings between the schools since the 2003 playoff game.
Then there's the recent history with Laurier. The Gaels' core group -- Brannagan, Mike Giffin, Scott Valberg, Tim Poffley, Jimmy Allin, Thaine Carter -- has only played Laurier twice, and failed to get in the end zone either time. If what happened last year and three years ago -- ancient history -- that's the biggest worry posed by a matchup vs. Laurier, Queen's should be able to get it done. It's about who has the better team on Saturday. The Gaels defence got burned a few times vs. Guelph, but the offence and special teams are a little ahead of schedule in their progress.
Laurier seems to have been slower out of the blocks in the first two games. They squeaked by Guelph in Week 1, were beaten pretty soundly by Western last weekend. By the looks of it, their offensive and defensive lines, hit hard by graduation, were not able to set a tempo, although it's not unheard of for a group to look completely different after a good week of practice.
As of late last night, at this writing 26 of the 36 people in cisfootball.org's season-long pool had taken the Gaels to win. The Golden Hawks won't go down easily; they've probably had a week of back-to-basics and will come out with something they haven't shown in the first two weeks. For their sake, they better have.
For anyone who's lucky enough to be at Richardson Stadium, it should be a good one.