Friday, October 10, 2008

Bleeding Tricolour: Role reversal on rivalry week

Not having a lot to say might say it all about Ottawa-Queen's.

The Golden Gaels and Gee-Gees have completely changed roles from this time two years ago. At Thanksgiving weekend, 2006, Denis Piché had Ottawa pointed toward a playoff run that fell a couple minutes short of going to the Vanier Cup. Pat Sheahan's Gaels were a .500 team that played like it was unsure of what football team it wanted to become.

That's all changed. This lot of Gaels, led by the likes of Jim Allin, Dan Brannagan, Thaine Carter, Mike Giffin, Dee Sterling, Osie Ukwuoma and Scott Valberg, et al., are the darlings of the OUA. Thirty-three of 36 participants in a's weekly pool have taken the Gaels to win on Saturday (1 p.m., The Score, at Richardson Stadium, which has been named the toughest place to play in the OUA.

Ottawa seems to be reeling. I've overheard people saying that injuries – what is it, six receivers who have gone down? – have reduced their offence to a "one-man team." Still, they came into the year touted as a talented team, and are certainly physical and fast. One never presumes to know what goes on within a football team, but between the knack for losing close games and the penalty troubles, one wonders what's going on. Anyway, here's a quick breakdown on all three phases of the game.

Gee-Gees O vs. Gaels D

Ottawa cannot be written off so long as Josh Sacobie under centre (and his backup Brad Sinopoli is no slouch). He's just scary good. Queen's, led by the Gold Rush II up front, has given up only 34 points in three home games. Given Ottawa's struggles on the road this season and their injuries, Queen's should be able to contain Sacobie, especially with so many new receivers.

Gaels O vs. Gee-Gees D

Ottawa can still play the run, having held foes to just less than 4.5 yards per carry (although it hasn't faced Guelph, the OUA's most prolific running team). The real test is whether Queen's can run the ball on a good Ottawa run after Mike Giffin was held to less than 3.5 yards per carry in the Western game.

Saturday will also provide a first look at shutdown cornerback Chayce Elliott, who has been ballyhooed big-time after transferring in from Western Washington in the NCAA.

Special teams/intangibles

This is probably the area that tips the game to the Gaels. Ottawa hasn't had a standout return or kicking game (they're 14th in the CIS in kickoff distance after being fourth last year with the now-graduated Ara Tchobanian). The Gee-Gees are also the third-most penalized team in the CIS (122.5 yards per game), while Queen's is 20th (71 yards).

It's telling that Queen's can be 6-0, Ottawa is 3-3 and still it doesn't feel like a sure thing. The Gee-Gees still have two games to get straightened out before the playoffs. More to the point, though, the Gaels have shown that they can play a full 60 minutes. There's a difference between being capable and showing that you're capable.

Queen's wins by a field goal (that was the prediction for the Western game, too).

Other business

  • Please read our own Tyler King's post at CFRC Sports about ultimate act of cutting your nose off to spite your face that is Queen's administration considering putting the new arena on West Campus.
    "They'll have to spend less on this West Campus rink than on the one they were going to put at Union and University -- a really cool design that involved a rink below street level, so that passersby on the street could actually see games in progress from outside. Do you think this West Campus rink will be as impressive if it’s considered a cost-saving measure? They might as well stay at the Memorial Centre. I'm officially dubbing this new arena the 'Queen’s Cardboard Box' until someone proves to me it’ll be of any higher quality."
    It's not known if the king of Kings is a drinking man, so forgive me for saying there's a mental picture of Tyler draining an entire bottle of Jack Daniel's while he wrote that post -- and then reading it over and bashing himself over the head with the empty bottle.

    This and other topics will be covered on Tyler's CFRC show Offsides on Friday at 4 p.m.
  • According to uOttawa sports information, the Gee-Gees guard Sean O'Donnell and his brother Matt, Queen's right tackle, have a bet on the game -- loser wears the winner's jersey on Saturday.

    Matt O'Donnell wears No. 66 -- which was Sean's number when he played for Queen's.
  • Former Gee-Gees receiver Adam Nicolson, now with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, has a hairline fracture in his fibula.
  • The Hec Crighton Trophy could well come down to Queen's Mike Giffin against the Laval QB Benoît Groulx.
  • Remember, after football, there's basketball, and Queen's is going to be pretty decent this winter. Mitch Leger and Dan Bannister combined for a 45 points in an exhibition win over Bishop's on Thursday.
  • One hopes that the Kingston-over-Ottawa karma wasn't all used up on Wednesday when the Frontenacs pasted the 67's 5-1.
  • There's a write-up of Thursday night's action over at The CIS Blog.
  • There will be a liveblog on Saturday. Send your comments to
Rivalry Week

This grew out of a post at The Axeman pertaining to Syracuse's lack of true football rival -- who are Queen's and Ottawa true rivals?

Most Queen's fans would probably say that the Western game is the rivalry game. They began played each other in 1929. The Mustangs are viewed as old guard in the OUA. Having Kingston in your blood, being way out yonder in Eastern Ontario, is to always feel like a bit of an outsider in Ontario. Beating Western, especially since it's a bigger school, matters.

Ottawa and Queen's have a rich history of playing each other. There has been bad blood, bitter memories -- Paul Greenhow's 115-yard punt-return touchdown that would have won the 1995 Dunsmore Cup being nullified by a penalty -- and close games over the years. They are the only two universities between Toronto and the Quebec border who play football. Queen's and Ottawa have also played each other continuously since 1970s, unlike with Western.

It's still never seemed like a true rivalry, though. If you did what The Axeman calls the "Family Feud test" on Ottawa fans, it's not clear whom they would name as their main rival, even though there's been a decade to adopt one since Carleton dropped the sport early in 1999.

This could be a commentary on Ottawa proper's tendency toward isolationism (read the chapter about Ottawa in Andrew Cohen's The Unfinished Canadian for a further explanation). Ottawa has no problem being the small city going up against the big city (see Leafs-Senators, 2000-04), but doesn't play the other role so well, even though it's a capital city of nearly one million people. Kingstonians also don't look at Ottawa as the big city -- that would be Toronto.

That being said, with a glove tap to Merv Daub's Gael Force, here are five significant Ottawa-Queen's games from down through the years (not necessarily the five best). Here's hoping there will be more feeling of rivalry.

  1. Sept. 7, 2002: Queen's 29, Ottawa 28 -- This was the night that Tommy Denison era really began. Queen's had gone 6-4 in 2001, the first season for Denison and the team's first back in the OUA, but that year had ended with a ninth consecutive loss to Ottawa, 47-12 in a playoff game.

    Queen's struggled through the first three quarters -- "You almost had to be there to see how bad the Gaels were playing," Claude Scilley wrote in the Kingston Whig-Standard -- and trailed 28-13 with eight minutes left. Denison, however, authored two touchdown drives, setting up the first score with a 75-yard pass-and-run play to Brad Smith and taking the Gaels 70 yards in the final 1:40 to before hitting John Northcote on a corner route for the game-winning TD with 17 seconds left.

    It had the quality of ships passing the night ... Queen's went on to win seven straight and reach the Yates Cup. Ottawa's season ended with a playoff loss to York (ya, you had to be here) and it did not really contend again until 2005.
  2. Nov. 8, 1997, Dunsmore Cup: Ottawa 24, Queen's 7 -- The Gaels had managed to wrest away home-field advantage through to the Vanier Cup by winning the regular-season meeting in Ottawa. In the rematch, though, the Gee-Gees left nothing but bitterness behind in Kingston, shutting down Queen's offence and pulling away with a long TD catch by Chris Evraire on the second play of the second half.

    Ottawa ended up forfeiting the entire season and vacating its Dunsmore Cup and Churchill Bowl titles due to the use of an ineligible player, which one can only assume made it harder for the Queen's coaches and players to get closure.

    That was not the case for The Queen's Journal. Two weeks after the loss, sports ed. Keith Gerein exercised his droit du editor to travel up to Toronto for the Vanier Cup, which produced the immortal headline, "Ottawa got stomped -- and I loved it" after the Gee-Gees lost the title game to the UBC Thunderbirds.
  3. Oct. 29, 1988, O-QIFC semi-final: Queen's 16, Ottawa 13 (overtime) -- In the final minute, Ottawa was in range to punt the ball through the end zone for the single point and win. Instead, it tried the field goal, which it missed and Queen's ran it out of the end zone to preserve the tie.

    The story, as Daub relates via Mike Lewis, a one-time student manager who was there that day, is that before the overtime, the coach emeritus Frank Tindall was asked by an acquaintance, "Why in hell would they do such a dumb thing, Frank?" and Tindall, true to form, replied, "Because God goes to Queen's!"

    Jamie Galloway, who was a rookie kicker that season, won it in overtime with a field goal, touching off a huge celebration among the veterans, who had lost in the O-Q semi the three previous seasons. Queen's would go on to win the conference three of the next four seasons, capped off with the Vanier win in 1992.
  4. Nov. 8, 1980: Ottawa 13, Queen's 12, Dunsmore Cup -- The Gee-Gees, with Hec Crighton Trophy-winning quarterback Rick Zmich, were clearly the superior team and deserved to go the Vanier Cup that year.

    Nevertheless, a typical fall day in Ottawa helped save their beavertails in the Dunsmore Cup. On an icy field, Queen's failed to score three times from inside the Gee-Gees 25-yard line in the final seven minutes, as it lost to Ottawa by one point for the second time that season.

    As Daub notes in his book, that was an era of unbelievably tight Queen's-Ottawa games. From 1979-83, Queen's and Ottawa played 11 times. Nine of those games were decided by three points or less -- including five one-pointers and consecutive ties in 1983.

    Over that period, Queen's was 2-7-2 against Ottawa and 27-10 against the rest of the world.
  5. Nov. 1, 1975: Ottawa 57, Queen's 26 -- Notable for being Frank Tindall's final game on Queen's sideline after 29 seasons. The fabled '75 Gee-Gees, on their way to the Vanier Cup, ran up what was then highest point total ever recorded against a Queen's team. Oddly enough, that mark stood until 2000, the next time Ottawa won the national title (but it wasn't the Gee-Gees who did the deed, it was another school).

    "I would have liked to have gone out in a blaze of glory," Tindall remarked, "but it didn't do Joan of Arc any good!"


Fulcrum Sports Editor said...

Yeah, the Gee-Gees are really hurting right now. Almost all of their top receivers are out, as is their top running back. Kicking is also a weak spot, as you mentioned, though both Luigi De Lellis and Matt Falvo have been dependable, if not spectacular.

Anonymous said...

And Nicholson is hurt, so the Gee Gee receiver jinx now extends to former Gee Gees as well!!!

I wonder if we will see Elliot returning kicks/punts as well as playing corner. He did so in HS and at WWU. His speed makes him likely to do so eventually if not in this game.
He did return punts in the first quarter of the Bishops scrimmage and looked pretty decent. He also came up with an interception while playing corner. He then sat for the rest of the scrimmage.


Anonymous said...

The amazing thing is that with all the injuries to their skill players on Offence, Ottawa has 493yds per game, Queen's has 447.

Ottawa's defence has allowed 301 yds/g.Queen's 312.

Sure Ottawa has a lot of injuries , but if they would focus on turning those stats into wins they would still be in good shape.
They need a good dose of confidence now, more than anything else,

Anonymous said...

A dose of confidence and maybe a lick of common sense.
A lot of the turnovers Ottawa has incurred this season are because of interceptions and turning the ball over on downs.
The interception part of the equation is largely because Josh Sacobie has been doing the old Brett Farvre trick all year long: that is, forcing the ball deep into double and even triple coverage when there really was no need to.
When Ottawa employs the short pass, it generally works.
Problem is, Sacobie hasn't been patient enough.
He tends to want to get it all in one 50+ yard pass.
As far as turning the ball over on downs, the Gee Gees have been guilty of making some bonehead calls on third and a yard or less.
For example, with about a minute to play before halftime against Laurier, Ottawa held a 14-2 lead.
The Gee Gees were third and less than a yard around midfield when the opted to gamble.
Never mind the fact that gambling with a 12 point lead near halftime was a wise move in the first place, the actual third down call was worthy of Leo Cahill.
A QB keeper would have been a good call, but instead Sacobie handed the ball about 4-5 yards behind the line of scrimmage to a back who was standing still.
Needless to say, the play got stuffed and Laurier went on to score cutting the deficit to 14-9, a key moment in the game.
Those sequence of plays represents a microcosm of the Gee Gees season so far...winnable games thrown away by bad decision making.
At least, that's my take on it.