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More of Gaels' running game likely to see light of day against McMaster
Posted: August 31st, 2013 @ 4:35pm
By CLAUDE SCILLEY
Suffice to say the York Lions didn't see the full brunt of the Queen's Golden Gaels running game last week.
As a result, when they watched the film of that game this week, neither did the McMaster Marauders.
You can expect them to see more of it Monday, when they visit Richardson Stadium for the first pivotal game of the Ontario University Athletics football season.
Against York the Gaels used six different running backs and five of them - all save the fullback, Aaron Dowd - carried the football. Sharing the ball like that is not a formula that traditionally brings success along the ground but on a day when the Gaels came up with a handful of explosion plays, it didn't really matter.
It will matter Monday. The McMaster secondary is unlikely to be as relaxed in its coverage as were the Lions and even if the Marauders are missing the top two people off their force unit - as the Lions were, with linebacker Hussein Hazime and defensive end Michael Livingston absent - it's unlikely Gaels quarterback Billy McPhee will be as comfortable in the pocket as he was against York, which did not come close to registering a sack.
So it falls to the Gaels to establish their running game better than they did against York - when they gained 110 yards, 26 of it on an end-around for touchdown by receiver Giovanni Aprile - and it appears that's just what coach Pat Sheahan intends to do.
"In any football game if you get the running game going you bring something to the table that is intimidating," he said. "(The Marauders) do have a fairly sophisticated coverage scheme but when you have to abandon your coverage responsibility and come downhill and tackle a gifted ball carrier, it brings a new variable to the game.
"Being able to run the football in any game is a positive and for sure we're going to give it a go on (Monday)."
Sheahan said his team used six backs against York to give them all work. With the heir apparent, Ryan Granberg, coming off a season-ending injury, two transfers from U.S. college programs returning to the Canadian game for the first time in a while and a freshmen, Jonah Pataki, turning heads in practice, it was the prudent thing to do.
"You can only evaluate so far in practice activity," Sheahan said. "You have to get them out there live and see what happens and we got a chance to do that."
"I don't think we ran the ball particularly well (against York), which is somewhat characteristic of games early in the season. The offensive line doesn't cover people up as well as you might want. There's a step (missing) here, a step there and York did a pretty good job of getting an extra body (to the point of attack). We seemed to be about one block away on 10 different plays. It bodes well for you, provided we're talking next game on half of those plays you manage to get a body on a body.
"There are still some things coming together on the (offensive) line. I expect a better effort this week, even though we're playing against a superior opponent."
To a degree, McMaster also experimented with its running game in its season opener, a 51-24 win over the Ottawa Gee-Gees, when Jimmy Hill led the way with 104 rushing yards on 12 carries.
A fourth-year senior, Hill is not a completely unfamiliar face. He rushed for an average of just under 90 yards per game last year but a freak injury limited him to four games. He didn't play against Queen's and he didn't play in the playoffs.
"He's been banged up, weird knick-knack stuff, versus long-term stuff," Marauders coach Stefan Ptaszek said. "He almost split a kidney in half in a football game last year and had to be hospitalized and immobile for a month.
"He's had a broken hand, kind of odd things for a football player (but) Jimmy's come back from everything. Pound for pound I'd say he's the toughest kid on our team."
Ptaszek said Hill is a complete football player who blocks well and can catch the ball out of the backfield.
"He's a well kept secret," Ptaszek said. "He is a great kid and a hard worker and a leader on our football team. Hamilton kid, to boot, so we hold him in high regard."
Notebook - McMaster, which had a two-year-old, 23-game winning streak end in last year's Vanier Cup game against Laval, still has a 20-game winning streak intact against OUA competition since a 34-28 loss to Western in the 2010 conference semifinals. - All-time, Queen's holds a 14-12 advantage in the series with McMaster. It's been a tale of streaks: The Gaels won the first nine games through 1975; when they rejoined the Ontario conference in 2001 McMaster won the next seven; Queen's won the next five, through their Yates Cup championship season of 2009, and McMaster has won the last five since then. - There are four Kingston boys on the Marauders, all Frontenac Secondary School grads: Quarterbacks Marshall Ferguson and Tyler Filson and receiving brothers Ben and Mitch O'Connor. On the Gaels, quarterback Billy McPhee, receiver Doug Corby and linebacker Luke McQuilkin (Burlington) and offensive lineman Marco Ciallella (Ancaster) are from the immediate Hamilton area.
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