Queen's was outgained 520-300 and won by 27 points. Western's a good team and Mike Faulds has many lives as his team had turnovers today — eleven. There are no final victories in September, but Ottawa's loss at Windsor means Queen's has all but certainly clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with three weeks to spare.
Eleven turnovers is simply Sterling. It's a shame the purple prose of Grantland Rice's day is no longer journalistically acceptable. You could almost write of the Queen's D line, "In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Osie Ukwoma, Kyle MacDonald, Dee Sterling, and Neil Puffer and they formed the crest of the Kingston cyclone."
There will be much more later.
1:05 p.m.: Western is starting first-and-10 from its own 29. Two short passes fail to get a first down on the first series, and hey, a two-and-out.
1:09: A curious call on Queen's first offensive play — Dan Brannagan throws a swing pass to Mike Giffin, but it's a lateral and it's dropped, costing Queen's about 10 yards.
1:14: One would think Western might have been on alert for the fake punt — Pat Sheahan has pulled that before against them, plus the 50-yard line is an ideal spot to try it. Jimmy Therrien got the first down, but Western's fine D came up with a stop. Dan Village got a good coffin corner kick, and Western is pinned inside its 10 to start its second drive.
(Two other people in the office both laughed at me for yelling "Yes!" when Therrien had the ball and broke into the secondary. Typical Canada.)
1:17: A safety! A bad long snap goes over Western P Darryl Wheeler's head, and his only move is to cover it up in the end zone. The Mustangs have come out with five passes and no runs on its first two series — four of the passes have gone to rookie cornerback Josh Sultana and the other was a checkdown to a tailback.
1:19 p.m., 2-0 Queen's: The Gaels go 2-and-out — their only first down was on the fake punt — and Western will be starting at its own 25. We've seen this from Queen's before, but a TD on the board would assauge a lot of the angst.
The Score's Tim Micallef noted that "things might open up in Hamilton for (Mike) Giffin" if Jesse Lumsden leaves the Tiger-Cats. File that away for future reference. The Score referred to Queen's as the Golden Gaels, then quickly amended that to, "Apparently they don't want to be golden anymore" and noted that the alumni are quite upset.
1:26 p.m.: A pass interference call extends a Western series after they were backed up into a second-and-20.
Two plays earlier, Zach Bull had a first-down reception out to the 40-yard line. Western has not tried an inside run — their only rush was a misdirection play that Queen's defence. Mike Morreale has been critical of Queen's going to end-arounds and play-action when they have not yet shown a rush threat.
1:28: A Queen's fan would have to like the way the Gaels forced two incompletions — with heat on Michael Faulds each time.
Western just had its second bad punt snap. It was too far from the goal line for Wheeler to risk kicking out of the end zone, Queen's brings him down inside the 10-yard line. A touchdown here has got to be a gimme.
1:31, Queen's 9, Western 0: It took the full three downs, by Mike Giffin has the TD on a Mike Pringle-style one-yard walkover.
For readers who are at the stadium or following the game through radio, Scott Stinson was marked out at the Western 1 on the second-and-goal play despite knocking over the pylon. The Score's Mike Morreale made note that "usually when you knock it over, it's a touchdown."
1:34: Western has had two holding calls that were both immediately followed up by pass interference calls on Queen's. The second was, in Micallef's words, "a bailout call."
1:36: Faulds' streak of five straight incompletions ends with a a none-yard pass to John Leckie. Western is punting. To quote Cal Naughton Jr. in Talladega Nights, "I'm a little confused by your tactics." Western has not tried a conventional run, and their pass distribution has been heavily slanted toward the home run ball.
The moonshot kickoff after the Giffin TD was a good idea, considering the Western special teams have had a two miscues and they just went down by nine points.
1:40: Scott Valberg picks up the Gaels' first first down via a straightforward play, but two incompletions lead to a punt. Queen's has been in shotgun formation an awful lot so far; that's an unfortunate reminder of last season's game.
It's been a first quarter of feeling out, but Queen's has nine points despite not establishing much on offence.
1:45: Fumble-a-la-ya — Western's frosh halfback, Leckie, gets stripped by T.J. Leeper and the Gaels get the recovery. Queen's is starting the second quarter in plus territory. Again, they need seven when there's this kind of opportunity ...
— START OF SECOND QUARTER — Queen's 9, Western 0
1:49: ... And Village is wide left on a 40-yard field goal after Western wisely opted to accept a second-down holding call rather than give Queen's a look at a 30-yard kick. They're taking over on their 20.
The field goal try came up after John Surla blew up the screen pass to Giffin. The word "craven" came to mind right there.
1:56: Back-to-back runs by Leckie gave Western a first down. The series would have ended, but an unnecessary roughness call on the punt gave Western its third first down of the half via penalty. The Score called it an "extraordinary strange call."
On the first play of the 'Stangs possession, Faulds put up another 40-yard incompletion. Tim Micallef posed the question, "Is this an admission by Greg Marshall that his team can't run the ball against Queen's?" That might be a bit strong, especially since Western will be able to make halftime adjustments. Having to cover so many deep passes might end up tiring out Queen's secondary.
2:01: Faulds has hit three in a row, all intermediate routes, and Western is humming, with a first down inside the Queen's 40. It's boring, but it's their life. This is what was seen from them through the second half of last season.
2:05 p.m., Queen's leads 9-1 (early 2nd quarter): Someone send a text message to Western's Ryan Tremblay: "You just got DePrato'd."
Western had a perfect play set up to the running back, and Alex DePrato perfectly closed to jar the ball loose — a put-a-star-next-to-it play. Darryl Wheeler was wide right on the field goal, which went for a single.
An eight-point lead has got to be the most uncomfortable lead in football, especially when Western has an edge in time-of-possession. Time of possession only matters when a team is doing something with it, and Western is beginning to. The next series looms large for Queen's.
2:11: It ends up being two plays, loss of three yards and punt, but Western went two-and-out, with Chris Smith sacking Faulds to bring up a punting situation. (Faulds had been stretching the limit of intentional grounding on a couple broken plays.)
Faulds thus far is 10-of-22 for 74 yards — did you see Jim Allin close on that quick hitter to Western wideout Jesse Bellamy?
Queen's is taking over its own 48. At some point that field position has got to pay off.
2:12: Not this time, though: Vaughn Martin makes successive stops and Queen's is punting. Thaine Carter is down with a good hit, making Western start at its 20-yard line for the second straight drive.
2:15: It's no peaceful, easy feeling seeing Faulds find Bellamy up the seam for a 28-yard gain to get out of bad field position. Queen's is being outgained. The offence hasn't shown much through 26 minutes of football.
2:17: Congratulations, Western, on your second bailout pass interference call of the afternoon, moving the ball to the 23-yard line. It was a legit call, but the ball was underthrown, which is why the receiver got contact from Josh Sultana.
2:22, Queen's 16, Western 1: The Mustangs got DePrato'd again — Alex jumps an underneath route, and it's 96-yard return from one red zone to the other. That's the fourth turnover for Western and Queen's has its second straight touchdown drive that went less than 20 yards, with Giffin getting another walkover touchdown.
The interception might not have been Faulds' fault — two receivers were in the same area, which screams miscommunication.
Incidentally, it sounded like Doug Jeffries is back on the PA today at Richardson Stadium. It's either that or Tim Cunningham disguises his voice very well.
2:30, Queen's 23, Western 1: You read that right. Faulds suffered a sack-forced fumble after Western's return man took a knee on the kickoff, burying his team at its own 4-yard line. Western really needed to run twice and give up the safety, just to get out of bad field position and stanch the bleeding. Trying to run a first-down play there was tough, especially since the Homecoming classes were ringing the end zone.
A family member who's at the game called "there's a lot of 'you fucked up, you fucked up' coming from the student side."
Western's had five turnovers and two bad punt snaps, which have accounted for basically all of Queen's points. The Gaels are probably below 100 yards total offence, and are up by 22 points. It's nuts.
From the dot-org:
If I am Greg Marshall, down now 22 points....I would put (backup QB) Donnie Marshall in, put subs in that WANT to play CIS football. Western, in front of a national audience is looking like a big FRAUD right now..Number two team in the country????HALFTIME: Big Yellow Guys 23, Western one
On the day that the world lost Paul Newman, everyone watching is quoting from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: "Who are those guys?"
It could refer to Queen's defence and Western's offence. The front four has been like the invisible hand in this one — Michael Faulds has had a lot of rushers in his face. Meantime, the game-changing plays have come from not from the all-stars, but from Alex Daprato and T.J. Leeper, who don't always command the spotlight. Daprato had two red-zone plays — a pass breakup and the game-changing interception return, while Leeper forced one fumble and recovered another. That speaks to Queen's depth.
The upshot for Western is that it's had five turnovers leading directly to all 23 of Queen's points. It isn't so far behind that the deficit is completely insurmountable. They have 30 minutes to make up a three-TD deficit and their defence has got the job done in the first half, with Mike Giffin rushing 10 times for just 12 yards.
This will all be cut-and-pasted into chronological order after the game ... for now the second-half will be on top.
3:01 p.m.: Queen's has a pretty good track record with the first drive after the halftime break, and back-to-back first downs after a good return up the middle by Therrien have them in plus territory before the drive stalls. Western brings a blitz on second-and-10, which results in an incompletion. Good call on their part.
Western is starting — stop if you've heard this before — inside its own 25, at around the 16-yard line. Queen's defence has not let up one bit.
3:12 p.m.: No doubt there will be some hand-wringing over Dan Brannagan having a couple overthrows, including one that just brought up a punt. The slow track has affected the receivers' ability to run vertical routes.
Brannagan also hasn't had a sack or a turnover on a bad-weather day. He's managing the game very well. It might not be sexy, but with the way the D is playing, it doesn't always have to be.
3:25 p.m., still 23-8, but Western is in the red zone: Faulds, give him credit, has done his best to resuscitate Western — a scramble got them going, and then a long completion — after the Queen's D-back had slipped and fallen — brought the ball out to midfield.
Queen's has been on the field a lot. The upshot is that Western is taking a lot of time to score, but the third quarter is too soon for clock-watching.
3:29 p.m., Queen's 23, Western 7: John Leckie caps the 10-play, 103-yard drive with a two-yard run on a toss play.
Going for the two-point conversion was enigmatic, to say the least. It's still a two-possession game with a lot of time left, but really, you're not supposed to go for 2 until the fourth quarter.
3:35 p.m.: Dan Village has punted very well under the circumstances. Michael Botting, who had an interception earlier in the day, got shaken up after colliding with his own man, David Rooney, on a pass play. Queen's is already down a veteran starter at cornerback, with Jay Oduwole sitting out. Jimmy Allin has to be the shortside corner.
3:37 p.m. A third-down gamble was very good call by Western. Western's looking at a second-and-long after its third holding call of the day, but typical of the way it's gone in this second half, Faulds buys times with his legs and finds a receiver for a completion inside Queen's 10-yard line.
It's goal-to-go to start the fourth quarter. A 16-point lead doesn't feel all that safe.
3:45 p.m., Queen's 23, Western 14: Leckie is over for the TD and Western opts to take the sure one-point convert, leaving it a two-possession game. Western had 203 yards offence in the third quarter — compared to 160 — in the first half. Faulds is close to 300 yards through the air, while Brannagan has just 130 (but no picks).
3:53: Neither offensive line is going to be too proud of this game — Queen's gets the strip-sack to scotch a Western drive, but the Mustangs sack Brannagan and force a punt with under 11 minutes left. The turnovers are 6-0 in Queen's favour, not counting the bad punt snap that resulted in a Golden Gaels safety. It's hard to feel about only being up by nine points.
3:59: Western has nine lives and seven turnovers. Queen's stuffed Faulds on the third-and-short sneak, and there's a chance to melt a little more time on the clock.
4:00: The second-down run was something you never saw from Dan Brannagan before this season. At 25 yards, it might be Queen's longest offensive play, not counting that DaPrato interception return. On the Score, Morreale has wondered if it would be the "dagger," and it's switched the field position for Queen's for the first time since that 103-yard drive the Mustangs had for their first touchdown.
4:06, Queen's 30, Western 14: Relax, Kingston, you can breathe. Queen's second successful fake kick of the day, Jim Allin running out of field goal formation, keeps the drive going. Brannagan, who's looked better than his numbers, finishes it with a play-action pass on the crossing route to Scott Stinson and it's time to break out the Oreos.
4:13: Queen's 33, Western 14: Turnover No. 8, on downs this time, leads to Giffin's first trademark burst off tackle and a Village field goal. There's three minutes left.
That was Ben D'Andrea, wearing his father Jim D'Andrea's No. 26, had the third-down breakup.
Ottawa has lost 40-38 at Windsor, and suddenly, the barn door is wide open for Queen's to have home-field advantage throughout the OUA playoffs regardless of what happens vs. a two-loss Ottawa team.
4:29 ... OK, let's get this over with. Western is still vainly putting up an air battle,
4:31: Queen's 43, Western 16: This is just cake — Giffin slices through the left side for his third TD today, and 31st of his career (a Queen's record). Paul Correale's old mark set from 1995-99 has been eclipsed.
That was a bit of salt-in-the-wound TD. The rushing attack had been poor for 3-plus quarters, so that's probably why the Giffinator was still in there, trying to get some rhythm back.
Eleven turnovers in one game. Eleven.
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