By CLAUDE SCILLEY
In one sense, it’s a football game no one expects the Queen’s Golden Gaels to lose. It's also going to be one that's difficult for them to win, in the sense that even if they prevail, it may be difficult for them to emerge with the euphoria that typically accompanies winning.
Facing the woeful Waterloo Warriors Saturday afternoon, the Gaels will be hosting an opponent that has been outscored 135-7 in losing the first two games of its Ontario University Athletics season. For perspective, the Warriors were thrashed 57-0 last weekend by Carleton, a team Queen’s beat by 10 points on Opening Day.
On the face of it, this should be a glorified scrimmage for the Gaels, 1-1 at the quarter pole of the season, but think about that. They could win this game by 60 points and people would barely raise an eyebrow—any team that fancies itself a contender is supposed to beat a young, struggling team by 60 points—but whenever that happens people can’t help but ponder exactly what benefit either team derives from such a mismatch.
That is especially the case for a team like Queen’s, one that was roundly disappointing in losing last Sunday at Ottawa, and one that desperately seeks a rebound performance to justify its legitimacy. Even a one-sided victory, however, will leave the folks wondering: How much of that was Queen’s playing well, or the opponent being weak?
The Gaels could well win—decisively, even—yet not be able to feel particularly good about it.
The coach minces no words about his team’s play in a 41-17 loss to the Ottawa Gee-Gees last Sunday, a game that unraveled for the Gaels in a 34-point Ottawa second quarter. At a news conference Thursday Pat Sheahan started by describing it as “not our best outing” but before long he was more succinct, calling it “a full pandemic.”
“I don’t think that we can boast about any level of superior play in any facet of the game,” he said. “We’re hoping to be much better this week. Regardless of who the opponent is … we’re looking for a much stronger showing.”
To that end, Sheahan said not as much time has been spent looking ahead at Waterloo as it has been spent looking in the mirror. “We made this week about us,” he said.
“We’ve all been where they are, rebuilding their program,” he continued, “(but) this is about us, our season, so we are going to make this game about us. It’s important that we go out and play to the level that we set for ourselves and see what happens.
“Going into the game with any other point of view, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. If you win and the game’s 14-13, that’s kind of a hollow victory. For us, it’s just about going out to play, and letting the score, the chips, fall where they may.”
Specifically, he said, the Gaels have to do a better job of protecting the quarterback, a better job with their running game—the 100-yard game of Jesse Andrews notwithstanding—and put more sustained pressure on the opposing quarterback. After what he characterized as a tough week of practice, Sheahan said he expects those things to happen.
“A tough week was required,” he said. “You can’t go out and perform substandard and then (practise lightly). It wasn’t punitive, because when kids lose a game the way we lost at Ottawa, the last thing you want to do is start lashing them and make them feel worse, but certainly the challenge was put out there … we need to get mentally tougher. There were times in the ball game where we had some mental lapses and those points needed to be reinforced.
“Sometimes a tough loss early in the season can be good medicine. I think after the big win in the home opener, we may have been a little bit overly enamored with ourselves, and that’s not a good state of mind to be in for a football team.”
Of the Warriors, a team that has won just six games in the four seasons since its self-imposed hiatus in 2010 for drug use among its players, Sheahan was kind.
“The unenviable position they’re in is they’re young along the line of scrimmage,” Sheahan said of a team that has generated just 366 yards of total offence, less in two games than 10 teams in Canada have mustered in just one.
“They’re playing a fairly standard offence and defence. They look like they’re approaching the season quite patiently, bringing their kids along … but their kids are game, they’re scrappy, they’ll tackle you. We’ll just have to see when they show up at the ballpark what they bring.”
Game time Saturday afternoon at Richardson Stadium is 1 o’clock.
Notebook — This is Hall of Fame weekend for the Gaels, with 18 new members and three championship teams being inducted into the university’s Football Hall of Fame. As well, five men, already in the Hall as players, will be inducted for their post-graduation contributions to the program as builders. Sheahan called it a time to focus on tradition. “I believe it’s every institution’s responsibility to bring pride and honour upon itself,” he said. “These athletes, these teams, these builders have distinguished themselves by their contributions to Queen’s football over the years, and it’s really part of the mosaic that makes up Queen’s football.” It will be a bittersweet occasion, however, as one of the inductees, Kent Plumley, died last week. Already in the Hall as a player, he was being honoured for his activity as a builder. The players being inducted are Rob Ball—father of current Gaels defensive lineman Luke Ball—Tom Denison, Matt Kirk, Jon Landon, James MacLean, Tony McDowell, Guy Potvin and Corey Trudeau, who is being inducted posthumously. The new builders are Vicki Hand and Paul Hand (co-chairs of the ongoing fundraising campaign for the new stadium), long-time equipment manager Tom Hopkins, Bob McFarlane, Alex Melvin, Joe Pal, Dan Pawliw, Sandra Plumley, current athletic therapist Dave Ross and the Queen’s Bands. Added in the builder category are Hall of Fame players Don Bayne—championship quarterback but now the defence attorney in the Mike Duffy trial—Merv Daub, Skip Eaman, Stu Lang and Kent Plumley. The three teams were all coached by Doug Hargreaves: the national championship teams of 1978 and 1992, as well as the Vanier Cup finalist of 1983.