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Gaels succumb to fourth-quarter rally

September 7, 2014

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

It happened once, and the Queen’s Golden Gaels responded magnificently. It happened again, and the Gaels had no answer at all.

A 14-point first-quarter blitz by the Ottawa Gee-Gees was overcome with 30 points in the middle two quarters of the Gaels’ Ontario University Athletics football game Saturday. Then, in the final 10 minutes of the game, the Gaels fell apart. They allowed the Gee-Gees to score on three consecutive possessions and this time, there was no comeback.

With those 21 points the visitors snatched a 37-30 victory, their second of the young season without defeat.

An eight-play, 47-yard drive after a Queen’s fumble near midfield in the final two minutes of the game gave Ottawa the win. Mack Tommy’s two-yard run with 16 seconds left to play provided the decisive touchdown.

The Gaels, who will host the defending Yates Cup champion Western Mustangs next Saturday, fell to 1-1, as they committed three turnovers that eventually wound up in their end zone.

On an overcast, sometimes rainy afternoon at Richardson Stadium—where those present wondered out loud where were the frosh, as only a handful of the first-year students who typically fill the east bleachers at the home opener were among the 2,237 attendees—two games were played within one Saturday.

In one, as played in the first and last quarters, the Gee-Gees were almost unstoppable, mixing pass and run with precision, in a fashion that appeared to have the Gaels’ young defence befuddled. In between, the Queen’s offence was in command, moving the ball not quite at will, but well enough to score three touchdowns in a span of about 18 minutes.

While the Gaels rebounded smartly from the early deficit, they couldn’t stop the snowball from rolling down the mountain once the Gee-Gees got it started in the fourth quarter.

“When they were making plays in the first quarter, we started making plays of our own (in the second quarter),” said Gaels safety Frederic Kinkead, “and that kind of got us going in the right direction.

“We weren’t able to make that big play in the fourth quarter to turn it around.”

One of the major contrasts in the game was the way the two teams handled their turnovers. Kinkead made two interceptions in the third quarter. One in the middle part of the period gave Queen’s the ball at the Ottawa 30-yard line; the other, later in the quarter, snuffed an Ottawa drive deep in the Gaels’ end of the field.

In each case, the Queen’s offence was two plays and out on the subsequent possession.

The contrast became striking in the fourth quarter, as first Billy McPhee was intercepted and then Curtis Carmichael fumbled. Those two plays led to the tying and game-winning touchdowns, exactly eight minutes apart.

“They (were) very untimely turnovers,” Queen’s coach Pat Sheahan said. “Just when I thought we were ready to take the ball game over.”

The last was particularly painful. The Gee-Gees had just scored to move within seven points of the lead with a little less than three minutes to play. The Gaels made one first down and then Curtis Carmichael, in the midst of a career 134-yard game, caught a pass near midfield about three yards short of another first down.

Twisting and turning, he eluded two tacklers and gained the requisite yards, but when the third man hit him, he fumbled, and Ottawa recovered the ball.

“I felt bad for Curtis,” Sheahan said. “He had a whale of a ball game. He’s stretching for a first down at a time when he knew he was close to one.

“Most people would like to think that we were moving in for the kill at that point and the only thing that we can do (to prevent that) is have the trap door pulled on us—and it happened. Not only did they get a chance to come in and score the winning touchdown, but they gobbled up the rest of the time.”

The Gaels had time for two plays after the ensuing kickoff. McPhee and Carmichael connected again but the Gee-Gees prevented Carmichael from going out of bounds after the 17-yard gain to the Queen’s 45-yard line. With time for just one more play, McPhee heaved it down the field but the ball fell incomplete.

“We had our chances to win the ball game,” Sheahan said. “There were some missed opportunities and when you leave the door open for quality opponents one of the things that can happen is they can take full advantage of them, and they did today.”

The Gee-Gees, who had 591 yards of offence a week ago against York, showed that was no fluke, gaining 631 against the Gaels. Ottawa quarterback Derek Wendel, a former Kingston Grenadier from Shannonville, threw for more than 400 yards, completing 67 per cent of his passes, including 10 of 14 in the fourth quarter.

“We had an issue in the third quarter. We just had to pick up our intensity and we worked hard in the fourth, got the right calls in and made the right plays,” Wendel said. “We executed and we pulled it out.

“Everything started to open up as soon as we started getting the ball down the field a bit. The run game opens up the passing game, pass game opens up the run game, and we did really well (balancing it).”

Of the hot-cold-hot nature of the game, Wendel said he wasn’t comfortable in the pocket in the middle two quarters.

“I should have just stayed in there,” he said, “but a couple of times I couldn’t see through the line so I tried to get out and make a couple of plays like that. In the first and fourth when I scrambled, we had the receivers open, but in the middle part of the game the receivers were covered most of the time.”

Wendel, who played for the Grenadiers four years ago, went to Ottawa, took a year off school to work and returned to the Gee-Gees last fall, regretted the way his team suddenly went flat.

“I know I didn’t come out in the third as sharp as I could have been,” he said. “I’ve got to pick that up for coming games because we won’t win games the way we did today every week.”

His coach, Jamie Barresi, agreed.

“The same thing happened a little bit last week, and I’ve got to get to the bottom of it,” he said. “They fall asleep a little bit. Give Queen’s credit, they played good defence and took us out of a few things but we can’t fall asleep like that.

“I got pretty upset with them to be honest with you. I was very disappointed in the short-yardage play, I was very disappointed with some of the throws we made; some of the execution by the wide receivers was terrible.”

“I reminded them of the standard that we set. It doesn’t take me long to get that point across.”

He got it across to Tommy after he dropped a screen pass in the fourth quarter. “I got on him on the sideline,” Barresi said. “I told him, ‘We’re going to call it again,’ and we did and he scored on it.”

It was a 25-yard play that produced the game-tying touchdown.

Queen’s running back Jonah Pataki, who had 157 yards rushing and two touchdowns, said he could feel the dropoff in his team’s play in the fourth quarter.

“I felt like we could come back but we (sat) on the lead a bit,” he said. “We needed to score some more points and put the game away.”

Carmichael said his team was as responsible for the defeat as the Gee-Gees. “All the looks, we’ve seen before,” he said. “It was just mental errors on our part.”

Kinkead said there was no excuse for what happened, and he was at a loss to explain it.

“We didn’t come out as we wanted to, digging ourselves a 14-point hole to start with. Afterwards we started to realize we can play with theses guys. It was just a matter of doing our assignments, making good stuff happen. We forced four turnovers.

“The fourth quarter, I don’t know, we weren’t executing. We made mental errors and gave them points. I missed assignments, wasn’t running the right plays, made a couple of costly errors and they took advantage of them.”

Despite the outcome, Sheahan characterized it as a good football game.

“We moved the ball well today … we had a 30-first-down day and almost 500 yards of offence. Most days, that’s going to be enough to win ball games. Unfortunately, they had more.

“It boiled down to mistakes,” he said. “They made a few and we made a few. The turnovers that we got, unfortunately we didn’t much get much production from them.

“I could not have predicted the fourth quarter going that way. We played a great third quarter on defence (but) whatever happened, there was a switch. It was just one of those days when we just didn’t finish it and on young teams I’m afraid you have to learn there’s a finishing aspect to winning football games. We’ve got to get better at that.”

Besides Pataki’s two touchdowns, one on a short run and the other on an 11-yard pass from McPhee, Carmichael caught a 25-yard TD pass from McPhee and the Gaels got field goals of 29, 36 and 30 yards from Dillon Wamsley.

Tommy, who had a 100-yard day rushing, scored three touchdowns for the Gee-Gees, while Vincent Campbell and Ian Stewart caught TD passes from Wendel of 37 and 10 yards, respectively.

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