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Gaels defence shows signs of promise in season finale

October 26, 2014

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

They may not have balanced the ledger, but the Queen’s Golden Gaels defence made enough positive entries in it Saturday as they defeated the Carleton Ravens 37-15 to make the books look promising for next year.

The Gaels have struggled mightily this year to defend. They gave up 256 points, second most in a season ever only to the 312 surrendered in the 1-7 season of 2000. Six times this year, Queen’s allowed an opponent to gain more than 500 yards in a game. The Gaels allowed that to happen only seven times in the previous 10 years.

So when a group of young, beleaguered defenders with nothing tangible to play for except learning and pride comes out against a team playing at home for its playoff life, and dominates it the way the Gaels did the Carleton Ravens Saturday, it’s significant.

Queen’s allowed the Ravens 372 yards, which is not spectacular but it is 200 yards better than what the Gaels had permitted in an average game in the first six weeks of the season.

The Gaels sacked the quarterback three times, forced three fumbles, intercepted a pass in the end zone, twice stopped Carleton on third down—the defence even generated Queen’s first touchdown, when the veteran Derek Wiggan recovered a fumble to create some breathing room in a game the Gaels led just 8-3 at the time.

The group was decidedly young—Queen’s doesn’t get many students who have had five years of high school—and inexperienced. At one point, due to injuries among the handful of experienced defenders they did have, the Gaels started five freshmen and five other players who were starting this year for the first time.

People have been predicting good things of this group, but the numbers sometimes made the words ring hollow. Wiggan, however, is one man who believed it all along, and Saturday, after his final intercollegiate game, he was taking some satisfaction in seeing the prophecy start to come true.

“We’ve grown so much from the beginning of the year to now,” he said. “With young teams, it’s going to take time; there are going to be a lot of young mistakes. It’s natural, but we really matured down the stretch.”

In particular he spoke of how the Gaels, who won their last three games in a row, hemmed Carleton in its own end of the field for most of the first half, not allowing the home team past its own 35-yard line for more than 28 minutes when the game was still close.

“We’ve been struggling early in the year with getting off the field when it’s second-and-long, letting teams drive on us when we have them pinned,” Wiggins said. “We did a really great job of, once we had them second-and-long, of keeping them at second-and-long.

“It’s just a matter of guys gaining confidence that they can play at this level,” he continued. “Guys are more confident doing their jobs now. They’re not guessing; they know. I went through it in my first year. We had a similar team. We went 3-5, so it’s just a matter of, once you gain confidence in what you’re doing, then you stop thinking and start playing.”

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