Queen’s College colours we are wearing once again,
Soiled as they are by the battle and the rain,
Yet another victory will wash away the stain,
So, Gaels, go in and win!
For those who wonder what is being sung in the stands after Queen’s scores a touchdown at home, those are the English lyrics to ‘The Oil Thigh’ (In The Huddle will spare you the Gaelic chorus). With that in mind, the Gaels undoubtedly had some pretty badly-stained uniforms early this season.
They started 0-2 with heart-breaking losses to Carleton and Ottawa. After that, they lost decisively to a pair of OUA powerhouses, Laurier and Western. At the mid-way point of the season, the Gaels were 0-4 and in need of a minor miracle to turn the corner and make an unlikely run to the postseason.
They’d start the second half by taking out some of their frustrations on Windsor, winning 54-10. Next was a surprising win over Waterloo, not because they got the ‘W’, but because they dismantled the Warriors 68-17. This past weekend, they followed it up with a 52-34 Homecoming Game win over York, with the final score flattering the visitors.
So what has changed? Was the first half of the schedule much tougher than the second half? Absolutely! And Pat Sheahan’s crew has taken advantage of that heading down the stretch.
There are two statistics that may best illustrate where this team has turned things around.
In their first three games, the Gaels allowed a remarkable 26 sacks. In the four subsequent contests, the total is just seven, with five of those coming last week against York.
There has also been an increase in production at running back. In the first three games before he was injured, Jonah Pataki rushed for an uncharacteristically low average of just 68 yards per game. Since taking over for Pataki, however, Jake Puskas has averaged 145 per outing. Again, the quality of the opponent has to be taken into consideration, but Puskas did post a 111-yard game against Western as well.
Queen’s also looks much crisper offensively. The play selection in the last few games has been nearly flawless, as Gaels receivers have found themselves wide open with alarming regularity. The biggest individual turnaround has been in the game of the dangerous Chris Osei-Kusi. He totaled just 12 catches for 120 yards in the first four games and has exploded for 25 grabs for 424 yards in the last three.
Perhaps there was the natural tendency to look at the 0-4 record and write the team off as simply not being very good. That said, if Queen’s was able to close out the first two games, something they were more than capable of doing, the record now would be 5-2 and the conversation would be much different about the Gaels heading into the playoffs.
The Tricolour will make it to the postseason with a win over the U of T on Saturday and a little help from Guelph in their game with Carleton. Should they make it though, the Gaels are a team that have to be taken seriously; something that was tough to do a month ago.
The Gaels were dominant in their win over York, jumping out to a 40-5 lead in the second quarter and cruising to a 52-34 win. The game was played in front of a Homecoming crowd of 7,542; impressive for some, but low by Queen’s standards. Nate Hobbs threw for 364 yards and four TDs, while Matteo Del Brocco piled up 102 receiving yards and a couple of touchdowns. Jake Puskas rushed for 160 yards and two majors. Colton Hunchak hauled in three TD passes in his second game back from injury, while Kayden Johnson had 124 yards on the ground. Matthew Skoko had three sacks for the Lions.
In perhaps the biggest upset of the season, Guelph showed they are ready for the playoffs with a 24-14 win over Laurier. The Gryphs all but shut down the high-flying Hawks offence. Michael Knevel passed for just 116 yards, with none of the Laurier receivers hitting the 50-yard mark. Levondre Gordon carried the ball 21 times for just 71 yards, his longest carry being just seven yards. Offensively it was the Johnny Augustine show. He had his best game of the season by far, rushing for 176 yards on 31 carries, 85 yards more than any other game this year. Theo Landers threw for 111 yards and added another 86 on the ground. Luke Korol had 13 tackles for the Gryphs, while Nick Parisotto added 11. Laurier was shut out in the first half.
The most entertaining game of the week was Ottawa’s 40-30 win over Waterloo. Each team had a chance to clinch a playoff spot with a victory, and it wasn’t until Jackson Bennett broke a 30-30 tie by returning an interception 36 yards for a TD that the Gee-Gees took the lead for good. There wasn’t a ton of great D, as the teams combined for almost 1,100 total yards. uOttawa’s Alex Lavric is playing great ball, passing for 337 yards and three TDs against the Warriors. Bryce Vieira went off for 111 yards on the ground and added 88 more on five catches. Tre Ford looked almost unstoppable at times for the Warriors, rushing for 164 yards on just 14 carries, while Tyler Ternowski had a nice day with eight catches for 121 yards.
Carleton held U of T to just 70 yards of offence in a 43-0 win. Michael Arruda passed for 272 yards and a couple of TDs, while Nathan Carter rushed for 183 yards – 81 of them coming on a second quarter TD run. Kene Onyeka had three sacks for the Ravens and now has eight on the season – good for second in the country.
McMaster beat Windsor 29-13 and is now in second place in the conference. The Marauders formula for success is simple; play solid defence and do not turn the ball over. The Marauders had zero turnovers on the day. Jackson White had a tidy 200-yard passing day, while Tyson Middlemost cracked the 100-yard receiving mark for the first time, hauling in 11 catches for 109 yards and two TDs. Jordan Lyons rushed for 130 yards for the winners, while Marvin Gaynor countered with 102 yards on the ground for Windsor; the fourth time he’s hit the 100-yard mark in a game this year.