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Gaels gain first win of the season

October 11, 2014

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

Never mind that the opponent was a team that Queen’s habitually beats. Never mind the circumstance, that the game had no playoff implications for either side.

“It feels good to finally win,” Queen’s Golden Gaels linebacker Mike Moore said Saturday, after the Gaels defeated the Toronto Blues 48-27 in an Ontario University Athletics football game at Richardson Stadium.

It will be the first official victory of the season for Queen’s, which was 0-5 going into the game after a season-opening win at Windsor was forfeited.

“We’ve worked hard; we’ve battled,” Moore said. “You can’t say we haven’t been playing well. We just haven’t been playing full games. After four or five losses, it’s hard on a team.

“It’s still a big win. We were 0-5 on the season. It doesn’t matter who it is. We needed a win.”

It looked like Toronto was prepared to do its bit to facilitate that when it fumbled three times in the first seven minutes of the game. The Gaels turned the last two into a touchdown and a field goal, but before the first quarter was complete, the Blues had tied the game 10-10.

Queen’s led 17-10 at halftime and they were about to get the ball for the first time in the third quarter when Nick Dowd blocked the punt of his former teammate, Aaron Gazendam near the Toronto 30-yard line. Derek Wiggan, the Gaels veteran defensive lineman, picked it up and appeared headed for a touchdown when he was finally brought down at the Toronto three-yard line.

Two plays later fullback Justin Gleben carried into the Varsity end zone for a touchdown that gave the Gaels a 14-point lead.

Though Toronto would narrow that lead to six points before long, Queen’s coach Pat Sheahan said the blocked punt was the big play of the ball game.

“It changed the momentum of the game,” he said. “We went right in and scored and we had a 14-point buffer. It wasn’t over at that point but it gave our team a tremendous boost.”

If having a punt blocked didn’t discourage the Blues, certainly the Gaels’ next touchdown did. It happened with nine seconds left in the third quarter and gave Queen’s a 34-20 lead.

A 27-yard punt return by Doug Corby set the Gaels up at the Toronto 49-yard line. Following a penalty, a nice run by Jesse Andrews got Queen’s to the Varsity 29 but the Gaels faced third down and inches to go. Quarterback Billy McPhee found Alex Carroll at the Toronto three-yard line but as he fought to reach the end zone, Carroll fumbled the football.

In one of the all-time classic episodes of good fortune, fellow receiver Curtis Carmichael happened to be the first player to spot the loose ball. He picked it up, turned around and took two steps to the end zone for the score.

From that point, the Gaels were playing with the kind of confidence that hadn’t been seen since the Windsor game.

“We’re not trying to get too ahead of ourselves,” Moore said, “but when you get a few touchdowns ahead, you feel good.”

Sheahan said there was a sense of frustration on the sideline early in the game, “because our expectation was that we were going to come flying out of the blocks.”

“It was like the clutch was stuck a little bit but once we got a breakthrough in the second half … it was good. Kudos to Toronto. This team plays us tough. They played us tough the last time they were here and they played us even tougher the last time we were down there.

“Every team has that one team that plays you tough. We’ve had a lot of teams play us tough this year.”

There were a number of highlights for the Gaels, among them career-best receiving days by Carroll (149 yards) and Corby (146 yards) and a lifetime 406-yard passing day by McPhee.

“College football is all about working hard,” Sheahan said. “The payoff for the kids is the way you feel after you win.

“We’ve competed, we’ve been close, we’ve had some heartbreak. It’s good to see the kids win one and come off the field feeling good about themselves and feeling good about the future.

“It was good to get a win for the boys.”

In addition to the fumble recovery score, Carmichael scored Queen’s first touchdown when he and McPhee connected on a 42-yard pass on the very first play after Toronto’s second fumble.

Carroll, on a 23-yard pass from McPhee, Justin Gleben, on a three-yard run, Jesse Andrews, on a six-yard run, and Corby, on a 65-yard pass from backup quarterback Nate Hobbs with 76 seconds left in the game, scored the other Queen’s touchdowns.

Dillon Wamsley kicked field goals of 18 and 37 yards.

Boris Isakov, who never scored a touchdown at Richardson Stadium in his four years at Queen’s, scored Toronto’s first two majors, both on passes from quarterback Simon Nassar, one for seven yards late in the first quarter and another for 18 yards, where he made a fine play to fight off a defender at the back of the end zone, midway through the third.

Nassar passed to Llevi Noel for a 51-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter, briefly bringing the Blues to within 41-27 with less than two minutes to play.

The Gaels resume their schedule Saturday, when they will host the winless York Lions in the annual Homecoming game.

Notebook—The touchdown pass by freshman quarterback Nate Hobbs was his first of his intercollegiate career. … Fifth-year man Derek Wiggan appeared to be on his way to his first university touchdown when an inadvertent whistle killed a play at McMaster two weeks ago. Yesterday, he got stopped at the three-yard line. “I’m getting closer,” he said. … The win extended Queen’s mastery over the Varsity Blues. That’s 12 wins in a row since the Gaels rejoined the conference in 2001. Toronto hasn’t beaten Queen’s in a league or playoff contest since Oct. 4, 1975. … After years in the wilderness, the Blues appeared to be on track to rejoin the ranks of the contenders after a 4-4 season last year. Yesterday’s loss, however, leaves Toronto with a 1-6 record. … Last year, when he was playing for Queen’s, Aaron Gazendam, the Holy Cross grad, made a spectacular play on a kick for the game-winning touchdown in overtime against Laurier. He was the holder on a field-goal attempt that was blocked. The ball bounced into his arms, and he tried to punt it through the end zone but didn’t manage to do so. Alertly, he dashed into the end zone and fell on the loose ball. Perhaps his former teammates remembered his heroics that day after blocking his kick Saturday. “They apologized,” he said. … A meagre crowd of 1,018 attended. They didn’t bother to open the student side of bleachers and neither the band nor cheerleaders were there. It made Richardson feel like any number of other bleak football venues in the OUA. … Oh, and that canned Oil Thigh played after touchdowns in the absence of the real thing? Puh-lease. Queen’s faithful will do it spontaneously; playing a recording only serves to highlight the fact you don’t have the real thing.

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