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Gaels suffer all-time worst defeat at Guelph; fall to 0-4
Posted: September 20th, 2014 @ 9:55pm
By CLAUDE SCILLEY
GUELPH - It's hard to believe that on a campus where they still house dairy cattle, there was something here Saturday that smelled worse than the back of the barn.
It was the Queen's Golden Gaels, playing a game that was, by at least one parameter, the biggest stinker in school history. In being slaughtered 66-0 by the Guelph Gryphons, the Gaels succumbed by the biggest margin of defeat in a program that dates to 1882.
"I'm a little bit numb, really," Gaels coach Pat Sheahan said after the game. "You don't want to feel bad because it's not one that we let slip away. We were never really in it.
"When the execution is that bad, you can't sit and whine about it. This group needs to develop and get better. We've got to be better."
The largest previous defeat was by 60 points, in a 67-7 whipping at the hands of Laurier in 2000. (Before that came a 49-2 shellacking by McGill in 1913.) The 66 points allowed was the second-most in the history of the team, only to the 67 surrendered in that game 14 years ago.
This one was worse than the debacle in Waterloo, in that the Laurier pasting came on the last day of a season that had already been lost. This one happened at a point in the year when the Gaels were trying to get back in the playoff hunt.
At 0-4, only an unflinching optimist could use 'Queen's' and 'playoffs' in the same sentence today with a straight face.
Where does one begin to dissect the Gaels' first shutout since the season opener of 2005?
It certainly wasn't a good omen when Queen's marched 59 yards to the Guelph 16-yard line early in the first quarter, only to botch a field goal attempt when Dillon Wamsley misstepped, or Alex Carroll didn't pin the ball properly, or something. The score was 3-0 at the time; Guelph subsequently went 95 yards in nine plays for its first touchdown.
When Peter Hannon dropped a pass in open field as the Gaels were going for first down on third-and-two, it only took five plays for the Gryphons to go 60 yards for their second TD.
If the game turned on a single play, it might have been after Queen's quarterback Billy McPhee completed a pass to Alex Zulys for a 21-yard gain to the Gaels' 45-yard line early in the second quarter. Then came a quarterback sack, forcing the Gaels to punt, which was followed by a three-play, 72-yard touchdown march by Guelph that gave the Gryphons a 24-0 lead. Back-to-back runs of 25 and 20 yards by Rob Farquharson appeared to sap the Gaels of some their resolve.
One more Guelph touchdown in the first half, on a drive when the Gryphons gambled successfully on third-and-one and later got first down at the six when the Gaels roughed the passer, sent the home team into the dressing room with a 32-0 lead.
Guelph scored again four plays after Queen's fumbled on its first possession of the second half. Another touchdown the next time the Gryphons had the football made it 46-0 and the only thing that remained in question was whether the defeat would reach record proportions.
I mean, if you're going to be that bad, you might as well be all-time bad, right?
The misadventure continued for the Gaels at that point. Queen's had six total yards in the third quarter, as McPhee was sacked six times. On three consecutive series in the fourth quarter, McPhee completed a pass only to have the receiver fumble the ball away.
You prefer it by the numbers?
Queen's had just 86 yards of rushing; the Gaels lost six fumbles; Queen's quarterbacks were sacked 10 times; Guelph had 679 yards of total offence; Guelph rushed for more yards (336) than Queen's gained altogether (264), and the Gaels have now scored just one touchdown in their last 145 minutes of football.
Or how about this: On a day when Windsor would beat Waterloo by 59 points and York would play McMaster, Queen's still managed to suffer the most lopsided defeat in the land.
It was enough to make the cows wonder where that bad smell was coming from.
Mind you, the Gaels started six rookies on defence, which in no small part contributed to Guelph quarterback Jazz Lindsey having, by all accounts, his career-best game.
"We do have a good group here," Sheahan said, "(but) it's a young group, and once we started to have a few guys go down, as young as we were, we got younger.
"Literally, at the end of the day, on special teams we were searching for bodies."
Two years after that crushing defeat at Laurier, the Gaels were in the Yates Cup final at McMaster. Sheahan was asked if a young team like his needs to endure a staggering defeat as part of its growth process.
"I hate to say it, and I don't wish it on anybody, but you do," he said. "Those are tough lessons to learn. Unfortunately, the ones that hit you right between the eyes are the ones that you remember."
Calling it "a strange one," Sheahan struggled to collect his thoughts.
"Obviously we were not able to compete with them," he said. "I felt bad for the guys. We have a young team on defence. Guelph got on a roll and we just couldn't stop them. Fortunately, our kids never gave up. They scrapped right to the end, which is what I asked of them.
"It was a disappointing game."
It would be easy to blame all those quarterback sacks on the inexperience of Queen's offensive line but that doesn't completely wash. Defensive lineman Charlie Taggart was involved in four of them, and he's a freshman.
"We game-planned really well," Taggart said. "Our coaches called the right plays to make the quarterback take an extra second (to throw the ball) and that gave me and the rest of the defensive line time to get to him."
Mark Brown, Taggart's high school coach at Hamilton Westdale, is a Gryphons alumnus and he spoke to the players before the game.
"That really motivated me, gave me the courage to play how I did today," Taggart said. "This is the first game I've ever had an OUA sack so getting four of them in one game felt pretty special."
Lindsey, who completed 23 of 35 passes for 345 yards and three touchdowns-with no interceptions-played his best game against Queen's and, he said, the best game of his intercollegiate career.
"It seems to be coming together," he said. "It feels like it's coming together in my head and my body is starting to follow a bit more, where in previous years, maybe one was ahead of the other.
"It's a good feeling. The chemistry is there with all the receivers and running backs, and my knowledge of what I'm doing is a lot better, so I'm more sure (of myself). It's the kind of feeling that, after the game, we said we never want to forget."
Lindsey spoke of the rivalry that has evolved with Queen's, one that includes the teams taking turns ousting the other from the playoffs the last two seasons.
"Any win's a great feeling," he said, "but everyone has their own little game where they really want to beat (the other team), and there's a lot of guys on this team who were taking this game real, real personal."
Among them was coach Stu Lang, the Queen's alumnus who got a few dollars' worth of satisfaction back from the $10 million he pledged in the spring to build the new Richardson Stadium.
"Most of the people around Guelph like to beat Western. I'm one of the few who likes to beat Queen's," he said. "My wife and I loved going there, some of our best friends are alumni, but I guess it's about bragging rights for the off-season.
"They have a great history so any time you can beat one of the elite teams, it's a good day."
Lang said the game was won along the line of scrimmage, as his team exploited the Gaels' young offensive line more than it did the young defensive secondary.
"The DBs, I thought, played well," Lang said. "We won the battle of the line play today. A couple of times we had huge holes for our running backs. We used a formation called cannon with two tight ends and I think they struggled a bit with that."
Notebook-The victory delighted most of a 50th anniversary Homecoming crowd of 7,855. - Lang agreed with the assessment that Lindsey enjoyed the game of his life. "He threw the ball real well, threw the long ball, and he's not typically known as a long-ball thrower; and he made some great decisions as to when to run and when not to run himself. It just had a sense of commitment. You could see it. He was really focused today." - Lindsey and No. 2 running back Johnny Augustine each had two of the five touchdowns Guelph scored along the ground. Rob Farquharson, he of the 167-yard rushing day, had the other. Lindsey completed passes to Alex Charette, A'dre Fraser and Lucas Spagnuolo for the other Guelph majors. - The score would have been more outrageous had the Gryphons not missed two field goals inside the 35-yard line, and had Gaels linebacker Mitch Spataro not knocked the ball out of the hands of James Ingram in the end zone, after he appeared to catch a ball behind coverage for a touchdown. The Gryphons settled for a single point on that drive. - Statistical anomaly: Though the Gaels weren't long in contention, McPhee actually had his best day passing, percentage wise, this year (.710); the problem was he had so little time, even when he wasn't being sacked, he wasn't able to complete a throw for more than 21 yards. - Statistical anomaly II: Queen's had 24 first downs, which nine days out of 10 is enough to win a game, except those where you allow the other team to get 41 first downs. - The Gaels were determined to get Jesse Andrews going in his first game back after missing two with an injury. The third-year running back was given the ball on first down 12 times in the first half. Though he gained eight, nine and seven yards on three of them, he gained 2, 3, 1, 2, minus-3, 1, minus-2, 1 and 2 yards on the other nine. After he gained two yards on the first carry of the second half, the Gaels shut him down. Unfortunately for McPhee, that just led the Gryphons to pin back their ears and get after the quarterback. - Guelph enjoyed splendid field position all day, thanks in part to Ryan Nieuwesteeg's punt returns. He averaged 25 yards on eight returns. - Queen's resumes play Saturday in Hamilton, where the McMaster Marauders have started the season 4-0.
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