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Gaels fail to take advantage of opportunities in 43-12 loss to Western

September 14, 2014

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

From the misfortune of the Queen’s Golden Gaels Saturday afternoon, the Western Mustangs extracted good fortune for themselves.

From the misfortune of the Mustangs, the Gaels managed to extract nothing but more misery.

With a performance that was as dreary as the weather, Queen’s fell to 0-3 Saturday afternoon, as a rain-soaked crowd watched the hated Mustangs defeat the home team 43-12 in an Ontario University Athletics football game.

“We were not equal to the task today,” Queen’s coach Pat Sheahan said, describing a performance that was, if not monumentally bad, at least alarmingly inopportune.

Consider that:

  • Western fumbled a punt early in the ball game; the Gaels recovered on the Mustangs’ 14-yard line, yet even with the benefit of two first downs via penalty could do no better from first-and-goal at the one than a field goal;
  • In the third quarter, trailing 26-12, on consecutive possessions the Mustangs turned the ball over, first on a poor snap to the punter, then on an interception, only to have the Gaels go two-and-out on the first, and fail on third-and-goal from the one on the second.

In other words, from three turnovers, two of which landed them on the opponent’s one-yard line, Queen’s managed a measly three points.

That doesn’t count two other episodes in the first half, when Western went offside on third-and-one from the Gaels’ 22, tried a field goal and missed it (Queen’s was two and out after that one); or the time Western fumbled at the Queen’s one-yard line after a 93-yard drive (yes, you guessed it, a small gain, a fumble and a safety later, the Gaels’ offence meekly left the field).

Now look at what Western did with Queen’s largesse:

  • Midway through the second quarter, Doug Corby fumbled a punt at his own 11-yard line; Western scored on the very next play with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Will Finch to Garret Sanvido;
  • Corby fumbled another punt in the sixth minute of the third quarter and this time Matt Uren rubbed his nose in it, with an 18-yard touchdown run on the very next play;
  • After the Gaels failed on third-and-goal from the one, Finch took the Mustangs 109 yards in six plays for a touchdown that clinched the victory early in the fourth quarter.

For those not keeping score at home, that’s 21 Western points from three Queen’s turnovers which is, well, the better part of the 31-point margin of defeat.

“We knew we had it in us,” Mustangs quarterback Will Finch said after his splendid performance (21-for-32 passing, 319 yards, 112 yards rushing). He said he was not deterred by the fact it took 22 minutes for his offence to score, nor by the fact that a downpour and winds gusting to 37 km/hr in the second quarter made things interesting.

“You have to understand that the weather is going to be a factor,” he said, “but you have to go out there and play football like you usually do.

“It’s not a matter of what was going to work; we were shooting ourselves in the foot. Everything should have worked. It was just a fiasco sometimes but we knew that and we came together.”

The win was Western’s first in Kingston since 2007, four visits ago, and those four games were not insignificant—one was the Yates Cup game of 2009, another was on the final day of the 2011 regular season, when undefeated Western was ranked No. 1 in the land, and in 2008 a loss to Queen’s was the only blemish in a Yates Cup season until the Mustangs ran into Laval in the Vanier Cup.

“All the guys were excited,” Finch said. “It’s not often you come into Queen’s. It’s a big rivalry game. It’s been a long, long time since we left this place with a win.”

Mustangs coach Greg Marshall characterized the victory as “ugly.”

“It was good for our team because we struggled last year to overcome weather. We shot ourselves in the foot early but the defence kept us in the game. We got through it, got a better feel for the ball as the game went on.

“It’s Canada. You’re going to have to play in bad weather. You’ve got to get used to it.”

Marshall said the game was won at the line of scrimmage, where his defensive line had almost every advantage you could name, most notably size and experience.

“Our defensive line overpowered them,” he said. “That offensive line is younger, obviously, and our defensive line is as dominant as there’s going to be, certainly in our conference.”

Sheahan agreed.

“I thought this would be a tremendous litmus test for our offensive line. This is the best group they’ve lined up against,” he said. “They always have a big, beasty team but they look like they have particularly good size (this year). Where it came into evidence was early in the football game; we didn’t get much push inside.

“Not being able to have a go-to run (hurt us). We tried to get a double-team push in there, then we tried to trap them. They’re pretty formidable. They’ve got defensive ends who are 260 and 290 (pounds). On most other teams that’s interior personnel. Their interior is bigger than that. We were a little bit outmatched today.”

Both coaches praised the work of the Queen’s defence, which may seem patronizing on a day when the opponent scores 43 points, but in context it’s a valid reflection of what went on.

Think of it this way. Queen’s had seven yards of offence in the first quarter—while playing with the wind— and, save for those gained via Western penalties, didn’t generate a first down until the game’s 26th minute; the Gaels rushed for 67 yards all game and they had only one gain from scrimmage longer than 20 yards; their 243 yards of net offence is the lowest since they mustered just 203 on a rain-soaked Friday night in Toronto in September, 2011.

Still, despite such ineptitude, late in the third quarter Queen’s was in position, had Aaron Dowd scored from the one-yard line, to make it a seven-point ball game.

In what might pass as a severe indictment from the normally diplomatic Sheahan, he said he was disappointed in the team’s offensive production.

“I thought we could be better,” he said. “What you need to do against this team is go out there and score 35 or 40 points to be in it, and we knew that. Had we cashed in on some of our chances early we would have made more of a game of it.

“Right off the bat they jumped us on a play-action opportunity, a great way to start the game, and (instead) we started off with a 10-yard loss. I don’t want to say it was an omen for the rest of the game but it wasn’t a great day.

“The interception and bad punt snap gave us a couple of opportunities there to go in and score but they were good enough to hold on, or we weren’t good enough to take advantage of the situation. We played really sharp on offence the first two games of the season, not quite as sharp today. Good teams can make it look like you’re not playing that sharp.”

Notebook—Playing in place of injured Jesse Andrews, Jonah Pataki carried the football 14 times for Queen’s but he took a terrible beating and eventually left the game. Of those carries, three went for no gain and on three other plays he was hit behind the line of scrimmage. … Garret Sanvido had two touchdowns for Western, the other coming on a 1-yard run on third-and-goal late in the second quarter. Beside’s Uren—who had two TDs against Queen’s in the Yates Cup game last year—Western got touchdowns from Tommy Marshall, on a four-yard run, and Finch, on a 19-yard run. Zach Medeiros kicked a 39-yard field goal in the dying moments of the game. Brian Marshall and Justin Sanvido each had 100-yard days receiving for the Mustangs. … Alex Carroll scored the Queen’s touchdown, on a two-yard pass from Billy McPhee on third-and-goal from the two, 11 minutes into the third quarter. It made the score 26-14. … Carroll had the best offensive day for Queen’s, with six catches for 88 yards. … Next for the Gaels are two games on the road against teams that could put them out of the playoff hunt before the month is over. This Saturday they will play Guelph, 2-1 and a 42-7 winner Saturday over Ottawa—the team that beat Queen’s last week. The following weekend Queen’s will be in Hamilton, where the McMaster Marauders are leading the league at 3-0 following a 37-17 win Saturday over Carleton.

 

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