By CLAUDE SCILLEY
MONTREAL, Aug. 23—They really didn’t look like two rookie quarterbacks.
Not quite a rookie—he took a handful of snaps last year, mopping up in a few games as a freshman—Nate Hobbs of the Queen’s Golden Gaels looked terrific in his first intercollegiate start, completing nine of 14 passes, one of them for a touchdown, as he staked his team to a seven-point at halftime.
The other, Trenton Miller of the Concordia Stingers, was playing his first game of Canadian university football. The Buffalo, N.Y., native, a transfer from the University of South Florida, drove his team for two fourth-quarter scores, including a touchdown with less than three minutes to play that gave his team a 21-18 exhibition victory over the Gaels.
Though the outcome might not have been what he’d have preferred in a game his team led from early in the second quarter, Gaels coach Pat Sheahan said overall the performance “was not bad.”
“We made some plays but the timing was a little bit off,” he said. “I kind of expected to see some of that, but hoped that we wouldn’t get as much (as there was). We kept the play calling fairly vanilla. It wasn’t too imaginative. We wanted to send guys out there and run base plays; to see if they could block and see if they could tackle.
“There are lots of opportunities to learn from what happened in the ball game.”
Though it’s the question on almost everyone’s mind going into the season, Sheahan, perhaps by design, hasn’t said much about the situation at quarterback, where the team is replacing a fifth-year senior, Billy McPhee. Doubtless, he believes neither Hobbs, nor Matt Duffy, a redshirt freshman transfer from Carleton, need anyone else re-iterating the obvious significance of the role one of them must play this year.
After the game, however, Sheahan didn’t mince words.
“He looked very poised, he was very confident,” he said of Hobbs, who was 9-for-14 in the first half—6-for-9 in the second quarter, for 98 yards. “He was not nervous; he was competing.
“He did pretty well,” Sheahan continued. “I’m looking forward to seeing his film.”
Hobbs is not about to get ahead of himself.
“It’s still exhibition and there’s still lots of kinks to work out,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do and we know that. That’s what we’re ready to get done this week.”
Hobbs, a second-year arts student from Mississauga, played the first half and the play calling seemed designed to ease him into the game. The Gaels ran the ball 18 times, they threw 14 passes, and on one other play when he was forced out of the pocket, Hobbs took off for a 12-yard gain of his own.
By the time the Stingers figured out how to stop the Gaels’ inside running game, Hobbs appeared to have gained the requisite comfort to run the passing attack.
“As the game went on, in the second quarter, I felt a lot more comfortable,” he said. “(I was) seeing it, following it, going through my progression. Early on in the game I’d kind of look at one thing and I’d be, like, ‘Oh crap,’ but later in the game I realized I had a lot of time. The boys were doing really well for me, so I was a lot more comfortable as the game went on. A lot of it was just jitters, really. I’m just glad to get that out of the way.”
Hobbs credited the offensive line for giving him time to function, and even dismissed the times he was sacked as his own fault.
“They did really well, and the receivers made a couple of good catches for me,” he said. “That one by (Matteo) Del Brocco in the end zone saved my butt. It really should have been incomplete but he made a spectacular catch.
“I don’t know how he did it. I can’t wait to see it on film.”
The only touchdown the Gaels would score on a sunny, hot and slightly humid day came in the fourth minute of the second quarter. It was a 25-yard scoring play, one that completed a 76-yard, five-play drive during which Hobbs completed three straight passes.
If there was any doubt whether Hobbs would get the starting assignment when the regular season opens at home Sunday against Carleton, they were dispelled in the second half, when Duffy, by now playing with a heavily substituted line and receiving corps, couldn’t move the team. After gaining 236 yards of net offence under Hobbs, Queen’s moved the ball just 35 yards in the second half before Hobbs re-entered the game for the final two possessions.
Sheahan lamented that Queen’s never did regain the inside running attack that had been effective early in the ball game.
“We had a couple of gashing runs there early but in the second half we didn’t get much of a push inside. We had some mistakes. I want to see if it’s because we were shuffling people (into the game) … or was it a small mistake? Was it an execution error? I want to see that.”
Queen’s fumbled on its first play from scrimmage and Concordia turned it into a 42-yard Keegan Treloar field goal before the game was two minutes old. A safety touch five seconds into the second quarter gave the Stingers a 5-0 lead that was erased when Del Brocco scored his first intercollegiate touchdown a little more than three minutes later.
Before the first half ended, Zac Sauer of the Gaels sacked Quaid Johnson, the third of four quarterbacks Concordia used in the game, for another safety and Wamsley kicked a 41-yard field goal for a 12-5 lead at halftime.
A single on the second-half kickoff and a 46-yard field goal, both by Wamsley, gave Queen’s a 16-5 lead that was cut to 16-11 when Jahlani Gilbert-Knorren carried over from the one late in the third quarter. It was the fifth crack at the end zone the Stingers had from inside the 10-yard line, and it came after they made first down by the nose of the football on third-and-inches from the five.
A 30-yard field goal by Treloar cut the gap to 16-14 but then a splendid punt by Wamsley—which was fumbled but recovered by the Stingers at their own 14-yard line—led to Concordia conceding a safety that put the Gaels ahead by four.
Another superb punt by Wamsley—his three fourth-quarter punts were 48, 48 and 54 yards—sent Concordia deep into its own end but Miller, who came to Concordia to pursue graduate studies, moved the Stingers 85 yards in eight plays for the go-ahead score, an eight-yard pass to James Ohayon.
With Hobbs back in the game, the Gaels were unable to move the football, even though the Queen’s defence, boosted by a tackle for loss by second-year end James Pelley, sent the Stingers offence off the field after just two plays to give the offence a second possession in the final 90 seconds of the game.
Notebook—The Gaels dressed more than 80 players for the game—almost double the regular-season dress limit—and Sheahan said winning the game was less important than seeing how some of his new players would perform. “We really wanted to get everybody in, and I don’t think we did,” he said, “but you do your best. All the guys who needed to get time for evaluation got in but it would have been nice to get everybody on the field for a play or two. It’s not necessarily you’re No. 1 goal; but it’s always nice when it happens.” … Losing the game by three points made more disappointing Wamsley’s unsuccessful field-goal attempt early in the second half. His 38-yard kick hit the left upright, square on, halfway up. … In the absence of veteran running back Jesse Andrews, who dressed but did not play to protect a minor undisclosed injury, the Gaels used three backs: Jonah Pataki, who gained 38 yards on nine carries; Brad Innis, who gained 44 on seven runs, and Adam Black, who lost a yard in six carries. … Besides Andrews, receiver Curtis Carmichael didn’t dress, and neither did defensive linemen Allen Champagne and Phoenix Grouse. Sheahan described Andrews, Champagne and Grouse as “nicked,” and suggested they’d have played had it been an important game. He expects Andrews to be ready to go for the regular-season opener. “We’ll be a better football team because he’s 100 per cent healthy,” Sheahan said. … Trailing by three points in the final two minutes, and facing third-and-20 from his own four-yard line, Sheahan opted to let Wamsley punt the team’s way out of a jam, instead of conceding a safety. “He had hit two great punts prior to that and I thought, ‘Let’s see if he can kick us out of the hole,’” Sheahan said. “When you make your best punt of the day when your team really needs it, that’s the mark of an effective punter.”