By CLAUDE SCILLEY
TORONTO, Sept. 26—It was not, the Queen’s Golden Gaels seemed to conclude, what they wanted to see: a scoreboard that showed them just four points ahead of the Toronto Blues midway through the fourth quarter of their football game.
Two impressive Toronto drives had cut away most of what had been a 14-point lead to start the fourth quarter, and in between the Gaels had frittered away a glorious opportunity of their own, when the Blues shanked a punt and gave them the football at the Varsity 30-yard line. Desperately needing a momentum changer, they instead got nothing from a missed field goal try.
OK, the Gaels collectively seemed to say. Enough is enough.
Queen’s answered the last Toronto score with a touchdown just a minute and a half later. They added another on a fumble recovery less than a minute after that. Then came a single on the ensuing kickoff and all of a sudden a game that had been too close for comfort had turned into a 37-18 victory.
“That’s when you’ve got to dig deep,” said Gaels guard Daniel Hayes. “We felt it shouldn’t have been that close but when it’s a close game, you have to respond. You have to dig deep and find out what you’re made of.”
Anthony Iafrate’s field goal at 8:19 of the fourth quarter cut the Queen’s lead to 22-18 but it was actually a victory of sorts for the Gaels to stop Toronto on their seven-yard line. After the Blues got Dillon Wamsley’s missed field goal out of the end zone, and started at their own 20-yard line, they marched in just four plays to the Queen’s 10-yard line, where they had first down.
The Gaels defence stiffened, though, and a three-yard rush and an incomplete pass forced Toronto to kick the field goal.
At the end of that drive, the Gaels, who had given up 144 yards rushing in the third quarter—to a team that had just 69 total in its last game—seemed to get a renewed sense of urgency.
“You look at each other and say, all right, we’ve got to go down and we’ve got to score,” Hayes said, and that’s exactly what the Gaels did, marching 75 yards in five plays, two of them long passes from Nate Hobbs to Doug Corby (23 yards) and Matteo Del Brocco (34 yards) to start the drive.
Gaels cornerback Chris Mackey, whose interception at the six-yard line snuffed Toronto’s last real opportunity to get back in the game with less than three minutes left, said the closeness of the score also had an impact on the defence.
“We realized what the score was, and realized the type of team we are, and that we had to play to the level we knew we could play,” he said. “Our team can click on a dime and I think everyone realized that we can depend on each other and work as a team.
“We just had to get our heads out of our asses and get going. We looked at the score and knew we were a lot better than that.”
Mackey said it’s a matter of becoming a four-quarter team, not one that allows its opponent to get off the mat after shutting them out on 125 total yards in the first half.
“That’s the one thing we’re trying to work through,” he said. “It all comes down to being part of a team and knowing that everyone’s depending on you.
“It’s a mental thing for us. We have the skill; we definitely have the players to make the plays. It’s the mental aspect we have to improve on.”
Hayes said it was much the same from the offensive perspective.
“It’s just one of those things when you’re going at it: suddenly, you (have) one or two guys who don’t execute and that’s all it takes on a football field. Even if you get 11 guys doing their jobs, it just takes one guy to make a mistake, and Canadian football is not very forgiving.
Hayes spoke of the defensive revival, but also of how the urgency of the situation restored the focus of his teammates on the line.
“We got it going, he said, “and we got all five guys making five blocks. We’ve got an unreal running back. We think Jesse (Andrews) is the best in the league. We’ve just got to give him six inches and he’s going to make it happen, and Hobbs really came on in the fourth quarter, made some great, poised throws and a couple of great play-action passes.”
The game was scoreless after one quarter, and was just 1-0 for Queen’s when the Gaels closed an 80-yard drive 11 plays after it started on a six-yard pass from Hobbs to Peter Hannon. In the dying seconds of the first half, Queen’s scored again when they got the ball back at the Toronto 54-yard line, and Hobbs hit Corby for a touchdown on the very next play with just nine seconds to halftime.
In between, however, the Gaels missed a fabulous opportunity when they fumbled not once, but on successive plays from the Toronto one-yard line. The second time the ball bounced into the Blues end zone, where they recovered.
It was the second time in the first half that Queen’s fumbled away the football, but each time the Blues were two plays and out, a circumstance lamented by Varsity coach Greg Gary.
“We’ve got to get started earlier,” he said. “That’s the deal. We didn’t get off the mark early. We came back in the second half and we had some success, but, you know, that kind of stuff has to happen in the first quarter. If that happens in the first quarter, with the defence playing the way it was … it would have made a big difference in the game.”
The Blues ran the ball down Queen’s throats in the third quarter, gaining those 144 yards from 16 carries and, on a sunny, windless day, throwing just three passes in the entire period.
“I’ll be honest with you,” Gary said, “we just settled down. We’re capable of playing that kind of football in the first quarter. Queen’s is a good football team but it’s not like they changed a halftime; they came out with the same squad. We just started being more effective. Part of it was us just settling down and our O line taking care of their responsibilities … we started to get our confidence.
“It’s part of changing the culture of our program. It’s almost like, in the first quarter, we deal with the game as if we don’t know what’s going to happen. As soon as the game’s happened, and the game’s behind us, it’s almost like, ‘Now we’re ready to play,’ but it’s too late sometimes.
“We’re going to figure out how to play when the game actually matters. I’m not saying 15 points isn’t too much to be down (at halftime), but we had an opportunity in the first quarter to be up. They put us in a position where we could have had some success, so we’ve got to figure out how to do that.”
Notebook—Queen’s got its other touchdowns from Justin Gleben, one a three-yard run in the third quareter, Hobbs, on a one-yard run, and defensive lineman Natu Myers, who dribbled a Toronto fumble near the Blues’ 20-yard line toward the Varsity end zone and finally picked it up at the two to carry it in. The TDs by Hobbs and Myers were the two scores 48 seconds apart that clinched the victory late in the fourth quarter. … The Gaels’ 15th straight victory over Toronto lifted the Queen’s record to 3-2 and put the Gaels in a pretty good position to make the Ontario University Athletics playoffs, prospects that were enhanced even more when lowly Windsor gained its first victory of the year, a 22-18 decision at the expense of the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks. The defeat leaves Laurier one of five teams in the league with one or no wins, with just four weeks left in the season to catch McMaster, 3-1, Queen’s or Carleton, both 3-2, or Ottawa, 2-2. … Gary praised his defence, to a point. Preventing a touchdown for the first 27 minutes of a game is noteworthy, he said. “We played outstanding (on defence) and they did great stuff, but we’ve got to stop those two big plays at the end of the first half,” he said. “It nullifies all of that (good work) if you give up two big plays at the end.” … Hobbs had a difficult start to his day, completing just one of his first seven passes for nine yards. He then went on a run of 11 straight completions through the beginning of the third quarter. … It was a big day for the Hobbs family of Mississauga. Not only did Nate score a touchdown, so did his big brother, Marcus, a backup quarterback for the Blues who comes into games in short-yardage situations at the goal line. His was also a one-yard run. … After going 3-for-3 to start the season, Wamsley is now 0-for-the last three games, having missed five straight field goals, all from inside the 40-yard line. … Andrews had his fifth-straight 100-yard rushing game for the Gaels, 155 yards, a total that keeps him on pace to break the team’s single-season rushing record. … Despite being sacked five times, Hobbs had a career-best 401-yard passing game, completing 22 of 33 attempts. He was interception-free for the third time in five games. From 154 attempts, he’s been picked off just twice in his rookie season. … Corby, returning after missing three games with a rib injury, had five catches for 143 yards while Curtis Carmichael caught seven balls for 106 yards, his second straight 100-yard game.