Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bleeding Tricolour: Big Yellow Guys big enough to get by

First things first, no one knows the seriousness of Mike Giffin's right knee injury. The official word is that the talismanic tailback was taken out as a "precaution" after getting nicked up on the first play of Queen's 38-22 football win over Waterloo on Saturday. The bye week before the OUA semi-final will come in handy, needless to say.

It was argued here following the Ottawa game that Queen's offence is much more diverse than it was in 2007. For a change, "it's not about one guy" is not coachspeak. Besides, didn't the '83 Gaels go the Vanier Cup with Larry Mohr on the sidelines?

It is tough to win a football game throwing the ball 40 times, especially in Canada in November when the playing conditions are more unpredictable than Mark Wahlberg when he's watching an episode of Saturday Night Live. A team needs three big earth-movers along the offensive line and a capable tailback or two (or three) to win at the time of year.

Giffin and his mates have two weeks to rest up and get ready for the OUA semi-final on Nov. 1 in Kingston against either Guelph, Ottawa or McMaster (probably the second one, even though it made a task of beating U of T). Saturday, Dan Brannagan threw a season-high 39 times, eight more attempts than he averaged through the first seven weeks. (He had 342 yards.) Depending on whether you're a glass-half-full or half-empty type, that is either ominous -- what happened against Western last fall is still fresh in many minds -- or simply a one-off adjustment. Waterloo no doubt spent all week in practice getting Giffed up to stop the run, so calling for more passes makes some sense.

However, Queen's has more ways to threaten the whole field than it did in 2007, thanks to the Brannagan-helmed passing game. The defence and special teams have also thrived at setting up their mates with a short field. The '07 team would have been lost without Giffin, but this group is much better equipped, although obviously the hope as a fan is that it would not come to that. There was a bit of necessity is the mother of invention last season; this season, Queen's put up more than 700 yards offence against Guelph when it was missing its best inside receiver, tight end Scott Stinson.

As a fan, one prepares for the worst and hopes for the best. Here's hoping this is a minor nick and Giffin will be good to go on Nov. 1 in the OUA semi-final at Richardson Stadium. His backups, Marty Gordon and Jimmy Therrien, could pick up some of the slack. Ultimately, the running game is really more about blocking as a group and calling the right play at the right time -- nothing happens if those elements are absent.

Queen's ended up with the OUA leaders in rushing (Giffin), receiving (Scott Valberg, 1,013 yards), touchdown passes (Brannagan with a school record-tying 24) sacks (Osie Ukwuoma, 9½) and returning punts (Jim Allin, 576 yards). They allowed the fewest rushing yards per game in the OUA, although Western and McMaster had a lower yards per carry. None of that happened by accident.

The bottom line is if Queen's as mature and focused as they say they are, then they can shoulder the loss of one player. This is all worrywartism Giffin's prognosis is known.

Additionally ...
  • Ottawa and Guelph deserve each other.

    The Gee-Gees have not been a good road team, for whatever reason. The Gryphons got a home playoff game by running the table against the four non-playoff teams, although they were only a couple points from being 6-2. They're both basket cases -- when they're on, they're on, but they've each been off rather frequently.

    The Gee-Gees hope to have some injured receivers back, including Ivan Birungi and Marc-Andre St-Hilaire. QB Josh Sacobie also needs to heal after taking a whack on his passing hand Saturday. They are also a turf team who will be playing on the grassy knoll that Guelph calls a home field (Birungi played in the Atlantic conference before Acadia and St. Francis Xavier anted up for new surfaces, so he's used to bad fields.)

    Guelph has potential ... they're good enough in all three phases of the game to win. They could be 6-2 with a little luck, but their actions say they're 4-4.

  • Whig-Standard sports editor Mike Koreen's early impressions of Kingston is that Richardson Stadium fans are too quiet.
    "Clint Walper, our Gaels beat reporter, told me it was 20 times louder at the Regi-Holy Cross Friday night (high school) game than it was at the Gaels-Ottawa Gee-Gees game the next day (Saturday, Oct. 11). Some fans don't like the elevated volume of the music -- it is ear-splitting near the press box -- and some of the new promotions, but, still, that shouldn't stop fans from being the 13th man."
    Former Laurier receiver Andy Baechler, who's now writing for The Score's website, also listed Richardson Stadium as the toughest place to play in the OUA. The bottom line is there's no reason not to be loud a week from this Saturday.

  • The CIS Blog is in full swing with game capsules and such.

  • Andrew Bucholtz has posts up at Sporting Madness.

  • How about a hand for the women's hockey Golden Gaels? They were three skaters short and fell behind by three goals, but came back to beat U of T 4-3 Saturday. If you have read this far, you are thus obligated to pay attention to the Tricolour teams that are obsessed over the round ball and rubber disc.


Andrew Bucholtz said...

Great post on football: you got pretty much everything I've been thinking of. Yeah, the women's hockey win was huge as well, especially as it came over league-leading U of T (it was the Varsity Blues' first loss). I'll have more on it in Tuesday's paper.

Anonymous said...

Nick Fitzgibbon, the Gryphon RB hurt his ankle early in the Western game and was pulled for the duration. Like Griffin, there is no definite word as to whether it is serious or not.

One never wishes for any person to be injured, but is is sure hard for an Ottawa fan to have much sympathy as to how it affects a team after what we have suffered through this season.


Here is hoping that everyone is able to play and we have a real humdinger of a playoff season.

Anonymous said...

Okay--I know it is Giffin not Griffin--my spell checker does not pick up that kind of typo--my brain seldom does either.


Anonymous said...

Ottawa could've been 7-1 with any luck. Lost to Western by 4 and drove down into Western's end with under a minute. Lost by 2 to Windsor and by 1 to Laurier.

Also they played Queen's closer than both Laurier and Western.

Only 1 Reciever has dressed for every game, and only 2 have dressed for more than 4.

sager said...

Fair enough, not to go Bill Parcells on everybody, but at the end of the day you are your record. Guelph is a couple plays from being 6-2; Ottawa's a few plays from 7-1, that's true. They both could be a lot higher in the OUA, but they're not for whatever reason.

Anonymous said...

Yep.Ottawa and Guelph are only 4-4 teams on the regular season, like a couple of Yates cup finalists last year.
So , good thing for them both that a new season starts on Saturday.