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Billy McPhee plays ‘best game at Queen’s’

October 20, 2013


If there was a play that embodied the performance of Billy McPhee Saturday afternoon, it would not be any of the three touchdown passes he threw against the Guelph Gryphons.

It may not be the splendid sideline pass the Queen’s Golden Gaels quarterback completed to Doug Corby that ultimately led to a touchdown in the third quarter, or either of the two fine runs he made after scrambling out of trouble in the middle part of his team’s 37-23 victory.

Perhaps the play that epitomized McPhee’s day was actually one that ended with him on his back.

It came early in the fourth quarter. Queen’s was leading 27-16 and the Gaels were facing second down at the Guelph six-yard line. There was a botched assignment, McPhee was in trouble and he went down, ultimately for a 16-yard loss.

Dillon Wamsley came onto the field and kicked a field goal that made the Gaels’ lead an even two touchdowns.

Despite its outcome, that play typified McPhee’s calm outward demeanor throughout the game.

“There were times, perhaps, when he would have made an impetuous throw but he did the poised quarterback thing, which was (go down), take the three points and get out of there,” Queen’s coach Pat Sheahan said.

Some day people might look back at this as a watershed game for McPhee, so contrasted as it is to the Gaels’ playoff game last year at Guelph, where the Queen’s quarterback threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter as the Gryphons rallied from a 22-point deficit, eventually to win in overtime.

Indeed, the collective composure displayed by the Gaels in the face of strikingly similar circumstances Saturday — when a blocked punt and a recovered kickoff led to 14 points in a span of just three minutes — was doubtless the essence of the Queen’s victory.

At the centre of it was McPhee.

“Oh, boy, was he calm,” Sheahan said. “He was confident. He knew he would play well. When you go out there and you perform well you know it and he felt that he was in command.

“Billy was good. He was really good … the one constant throughout the game. I would go so far as to say that was Billy McPhee’s best game here at Queen’s.”

Execution-wise, McPhee was never better than on that sideline pass to Corby, a perfectly thrown football that the receiver caught one step in bounds in double coverage.

“The high player was coming over, there was a guy in chase mode. (The ball) had to be there,” Sheahan said. “It was well done.”

McPhee completed 24 of 35 passes yesterday, his second-straight terrific game. In the last three games, McPhee has completed 44 of his last 60 passes, dating to the fourth quarter of the Laurier game. That’s a .733 completion percentage.

It’s a statistic that has helped to right a year-to-date performance that had listed more than 100 points from a year ago, when only three other quarterbacks in the land had a better completion percentage than McPhee’s .625.

In his last three games, McPhee has thrown one interception. He finished the regular year with just four, less than half the number he threw a year ago and tied for the fewest in Canada this year among quarterbacks with more than 200 pass attempts.

“Good players make other players around you better and he did that today,” Sheahan said. “Good on Bill. He’s taken lots of criticism from a lot of corners over the years. Today’s the day to compliment him for the game he played for Queen’s, because I thought it was great.”

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