By CLAUDE SCILLEY
It was wet, it was chilly and it was windy at Richardson Stadium Saturday afternoon, the kind of stuff to make even the most obedient frosh stay away from a game that is usually one of the best attended of the season.
Stay away they did, and the way his team was playing in the early part of the game had Gaels coach Pat Sheahan entertaining thoughts of joining them.
When his team squandered a drive that began at the Waterloo Warriors’ 28-yard line and ended three plays later with a botched field-goal attempt, the Gaels were at the nadir of what was shaping up to be a pretty disappointing performance.
“I felt like going home at that point,” Sheahan said.
Failing to get anything from such a glorious opportunity against a team that had given up 135 points its first two games, incredibly left the match scoreless. Fourteen minutes into a contest against a youthful Waterloo side that had given up a touchdown roughly every six minutes in its first two games, the Gaels not only hadn’t had a sniff of the end zone, they were in the process of allowing he Warriors to gain more yards in the first half than they’d gained in their first two games, combined.
“I was just a little bit frustrated at that point, but at the same time, nobody’s perfect,” Sheahan said, “so I just sort of bit my lip.”
As it turned out, Sheahan stuck around and eventually the Gaels figured things out, leaving the field 47-24 winners, a respectable outcome jaded slightly by the fact that Waterloo lost its two previous games, 78-7 and 57-0. For a lot of the game, Waterloo was a plucky opponent and, certainly, few among the 1,272 spectators who braved the elements expected the Warriors to rally from giving up a touchdown with 23 seconds to go in the second quarter with a score of their own on the final play of the first half, cutting the home team's lead to a very manageable seven points.
The way things had gone for Queen’s in the opening 30 minutes, though, it was somehow fitting.
“When you get scored on in the last minute of any game, just before the half, it’s never a good thing,” Sheahan said. “It’s like getting punched in the stomach and you can’t hit anybody back. Everybody feels foolish when it happens, no one more than the athletes, (but) what shouldn’t have been a close game was now a close game at the half.
“We talked about it very deliberately. (At that point) the only thing we can do is to go play offence, go score, make first downs, keep the defence on the sideline. We had a number of dropped passes, we had a number of big runs called back by penalties. Fortunately our quarterback and our offence responded in the third quarter. We had a couple of big stops by the defence, and built up a bit of a cushion.
“I was pleased about that.”
Indeed, at the start of the third quarter, the Gaels played the way people expected them to play from the start. They scored on their first two possessions, touchdowns less than two minutes apart in the first five minutes of the second half, on drives of 31 and 39 yards that took just six plays, combined. Suddenly, Queen's led the game 35-14.
In a quarter where Queen’s quarterback Nate Hobbs, 0-for-5 to start the game, completed seven of nine passes, the Gaels gained 174 yards, held Waterloo to just 17, and scored 25 points.
“We knew we’re a better team,” tailback Jesse Andrews said. “We struggled with a couple of explosion plays in the first half … we just had to come out and play like we could.”
Defensive lineman Luke Ball said the Gaels were guilty of mental lapses in the early part of the ball game, “the kind of thing we could correct in the second half,” and evidently they did.
“We had to come out like it was a 0-0 ball game, change the pace, come out hot and not back down.”
Playing his first intercollegiate game, receiver Rudy Uhl personified the game for Queen’s. Wide open in the middle of the field in the first half, he dropped the first pass thrown his way. He later scored the Gaels’ third touchdown of the third quarter, setting it up nicely by finding open space near the sideline with Hobbs under duress, and then catching a pass for his touchdown on third-and-three from the Waterloo 25-yard line.
“(We had) a couple of missed opportunities (early in the game) and we turned it around in the second half,” Uhl said. “Assignment-wise, everyone was playing well and we got on a roll.”
Statistically, the game was a much closer affair that the score would suggest. The Gaels’ slim advantage in total offence, 491 yards to Waterloo’s 460, was offset by Waterloo’s five-minute advantage in time of possession. “It was a pretty close game,” Sheahan said, “and I don’t really think it should (have been).
“During the first quarter, we did the unthinkable. We appeared to play to the level of our opponent, but I will say this: they came out and made five or six first downs in a row. I didn’t think they had the capacity to do that and they did.
“The good news is we didn’t really have any problem moving the football. In terms of blocking guys and advancing the ball, we were pretty good, but we had a couple of penalties, a couple of drops, and that kind of keeps (the other team) hanging around.”
Despite the problematic issues, Sheahan said his players will benefit from overcoming them to the point where they could win the ball game.
“There’s no question the kids needed this victory,” he said. “It was a great third quarter. In the third quarter you began to feel some of the awesome potential this team has. There were some great plays.
“We had some major busts today so we’ll have to get back to work on those. The good news is that we can get better.”
Notebook—Andrews finished the game with 192 yards, his third 100-yard rushing game of the year and the ninth of his career. “Had I known he was this close (to 200 yards) I might have left him in for one more carry,” Sheahan mused, as he scanned the game statistics, “but I’m not one of those guys who’s been lucky when you leave a guy in for one more carry.” … Andrews finished the game with three touchdowns, two on the ground and one on a 12-yard pass from Hobbs. Hobbs also threw TD passes to Uhl and to Curtis Carmichael, who made a superb catch in the end zone, winning a battle with a Waterloo defender in the air. Hobbs scored Queen’s other major, on a one-yard run late in the first half. … Sheahan despaired over some of his team’s penalties, but the Gaels also benefited from a couple of Waterloo fouls. One, an unnecessary roughness penalty far away from the play, brought back an apparent 78-yard Warrior touchdown on the game’s fourth play. Ultimately, Caleb Girard missed a 32-yard field goal attempt into the wind. Another penalty, an offside, gave Queen’s first down at the Waterloo one-yard after it appeared the Warriors had stopped the Gaels on third-and-goal from the two. Hobbs scored his touchdown on the next play. It was a 14-point swing that could have sent the Warriors into the second half with a 21-14 lead. … Fifth-year Waterloo linebacker Brendan Conway left the field on a backboard after he collided with Andrews early in the second quarter. The game was delayed for about 20 minutes while Conway was tended by medical staff. Still at hospital after the game, Conway “is better,” a member of the Waterloo staff reported. … Saturday’s victory was Queen’s sixth in a row over the Warriors, and the 14th in 16 meetings all-time in a series that dates to 1968. In those last six games, the Gaels haven’t scored fewer than 38 points. … The Gaels continue to battle the injury bug. Defensive lineman Allen Champagne (undisclosed), slotback Doug Corby (ribs) and safety Matt Pendergast (back) all missed Saturday’s game, as did guard Emilio Frometta, whose ankle injury in Week 1 may have ended his season. … From the Not Very Nice file: The Warriors issued a dress list Friday of 48 players, one over the maximum, with one man to be deleted prior to Saturday’s game. The player they picked not to dress was Frontenac Secondary School grad Jeff Kuipers. Really? A team going nowhere couldn’t throw the hometown boy a bone? Is the 47th man on an 0-3 team that much better? By the way, the Warriors also left the officials waiting for the pre-game coin toss, and they declined to participate in the traditional pre-game introductions. Add football etiquette to the list of things the Warriors need to acquire before they’re looked upon with any degree of respect.