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Home > Articles > Football > Silver linings for Queen's in the clouds that hung over Western victory

Silver linings for Queen's in the clouds that hung over Western victory

Posted: September 19th, 2015 @ 7:15pm


LONDON, Sept. 19—It was perhaps a measure of the relative maturity of the two teams.

Queen’s Golden Gaels, a team that remains among the youngest in Canadian university football, committed two turnovers early in their football game here Saturday, and the Western Mustangs promptly turned them into a pair of touchdowns.

When the Mustangs coughed up the football, as they did four times—three times inside the Queen’s 20-yard line—the Gaels were unable to be as productive. Against the No. 3-ranked team in the land, a team that dressed 18 seniors for the rain-soaked match, the Gaels managed just two points.

Though reversing that points-off-turnovers statistic might have stood Queen’s in better stead, it likely wouldn’t have changed the outcome, a 48-25 Western victory, the Mustangs’ fourth in Ontario University Athletics play without defeat this year.

Though Queen’s had several firsts against Western this year—first time Western trailed in a game, first time Western was shutout in a quarter, most yards (493) gained in a game against the Western defence—the Mustangs were in control for most of the contest, amassing 701 yards of offence and 41 first downs.

A game that began with promise for the Gaels turned on a pair of miscues before the first quarter was done. After Western back Alex Taylor fumbled on the Mustangs’ first possession, the Gaels marched to the Western 19-yard line but a sack led them to try a 30-yard field goal, one that Dillon Wamsley missed.

The Mustangs scored their first touchdown three plays after Connor Weir fumbled a punt, and they got their second on a 63-yard return of an intercepted pass. In between, a nice punt by Wamsley reversed field position and the Queen’s defence forced Western to concede a safety, but before the Gaels could score again the Mustangs built the lead to 24-3 and the visitors were unable to get the deficit to less than 14 points after that.

Not that they didn’t have their opportunities.

Trailing 31-10 at halftime, Queen’s played a spirited third quarter. Twice Western fumbled the ball going into the end zone and the Gaels recovered each time. Jake Furlotte also intercepted a Will Finch pass.

From the three turnovers the Gaels moved the football, but they couldn’t score. An 89-yard drive from their own one-yard line ended in another missed field goal, this one from 32 yards. The Gaels did nothing with the interception at midfield, and when the Mustangs fumbled the ball into the Queen’s end zone, the Gaels marched 69 yards to the Western 19, only to have Wamsley, a London native, miss another 32-yard field goal.

Had the Gaels managed just those two field goals, the touchdown Curtis Carmichael scored early in the fourth quarter would have cut the Western lead to 31-23, but the Mustangs scored on their next two possessions to end any faint hope of a Queen’s comeback.

Gaels linebacker Mike Moore said he didn’t think the difference in the two teams’ ability to benefit from the other’s turnovers was necessarily a function of the relative experience of the two sides, but he allowed that it was an important part of the game.

“We have to do a better job of that,” he said. “We knew that they would capitalize on our mistakes; we knew we had to win at that. As for us, we have to do a better job of capitalizing on (the other team's) mistakes.”

The Gaels defence, with eight second-year starters and just one senior, rallies in support of the offence when it makes a mistake, receiver Curtis Carmichael said, but there’s no substitute for experience in moments of sudden change.

“When you have an older defence they’re able to rally, even if they don’t have that momentum,” he said.

Carmichael, with eight catches—many of them spectacular—for 124 yards and two touchdowns, said the best thing the Gaels can take from the game is the way they moved the football.

“We battled,” he said. “We had drives where we drove the field and no team has done that against them yet, and you could see them getting a bit frustrated.

“It’s like we planned, to be honest. Going into the game we’re said if we drive this field, it’s going to be a game. Seeing that happen, firsthand, it was very inspiring, but then we kind of shot ourselves in the foot—we’d get a penalty or someone would miss a block.”

Though the Gaels weren’t able to score off the turnovers, Western coach Greg Marshall tipped his hat to Queen’s quarterback Nate Hobbs for his ability to move the football after the turnovers.  

“He did a good job,” Marshall said. “He was under pressure the whole game, he took a lot of hits, but he did a job of escaping the pocket and looking downfield and making some plays.”

Marshall said the difference in the game was his team’s experienced offensive line, one that includes two first-team all-Canadians in tackle Eddie Meredith and guard Sean Jamieson, and a second-team OUA all-star in centre Matt Van Praet.

“Not that our O line played great,” Marshall said, “but they’re pretty good. Probably (gave the quarterback) a little bit more time, controlled the run a little bit more, controlled the ball a little bit more.”

Though it was a credible performance in some respects, the Gaels have work to do to get ready for their game next week against the Varsity Blues in Toronto.

“We played a great team so there’s going to be a lot of great teaching points coming away from this game,” Moore said. “We’re going to go in and watch some film and take away everything that we can.”

Notebook—Depsite being 4-0, opponents have possessed the ball longer than the Mustangs in every game this year. The Gaels’ advantage in time of possession was more than nine minutes, 34:42 to 25:18, most by any opponent. … In a game where the teams collectively rushed for 465 yards, the longest run of the day was a 48-yard scamper by Hobbs in the third quarter. … Another way to look at the missed opportunities: Had Western not fumbled twice at the goal line, and missed a 27-yard field goal of its own, the score would have been 65-25. … Kingston’s Brendan Ginn, who is essentially a rookie, played virtually the entire game at centre in place of John Menagh. … With his rib injury slotback Doug Corby missed his third game for the Gaels. … Jesse Andrews had his fourth 100-yard game of the year, despite getting his nose smashed in the first half. He ended with 102 yards, and the praise of Marshall. “Jesse Andrews is as good a running back as there is,” the Western coach said. “You give him one crease and he’s fast and he can make you miss. Trying to stop him for a loss is hard. You think you’ve stopped him and he’s got six yards and you (wonder), ‘How did that happen?’ He’s special. He takes a lot of hits but he’s a warrior.” … Weir scored the other Queen’s touchdown, on a five-yard pass from Hobbs in the fourth quarter, capping a 79-yard drive that Weir extended with a 19-yard reception on third-and-10 from the Western 24-yard line. … In their four games the Gaels have now been the victim of three of the top six passing performances in the OUA this season, by Finch, who threw for 454 yards Saturday, by Lucas McConnell of Waterloo (423 yards) and by Ottawa’s Derek Wendel (384 yards). … Western's Alex Taylor, who scored two touchdowns Saturday, is tied for the league lead with seven. To date, 18 different Mustangs have scored a touchdown this year.

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