Monday, September 29, 2008

Welcome back, Greg!

Just a quick note that Greg Layson of the Guelph Mercury has resumed writing his Big Man On Campus blog. It's great to see Greg back in the blogging game: his site's a must-read for anyone following the Gryphons, and he has a lot of good league-wide coverage in football and basketball as well. Definitely worth a look.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The GBU: Queen's football versus Western

Breaking down Queen's win over Western [myself, Queen's Journal]...

The score: Queen's 46, Western 13.

How I saw it: In person.

The Good:

-Queen's defensive line: The Gaels put tremendous amounts of pressure on Western quarterback Michael Faulds all day long, sacking him four times and forcing him to throw the ball away several other times. Dee Sterling and Osie Ukwuoma were particularly effective, recording one sack each and seven solo tackles between the two of them. I particularly liked Neate's take, evoking memories of Grantland Rice: You could almost write of the Queen's D line, "In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Osie Ukwuoma, Kyle MacDonald, Dee Sterling, and Neil Puffer and they formed the crest of the Kingston cyclone."

-The turnover ratio: Queen's forced 11 Western turnovers (four interceptions, three fumble recoveries and four more turnovers on downs, I believe) during the game while refusing to concede a single one. Always good to see that kind of a turnover ratio.

-The fake field goals: The Gaels twice employed a fake field goal to brilliant effect, first picking up an early first down off a Jimmy Therrien bootleg and then getting another crucial first down in response to Western's threat in the fourth quarter. The second one was particularly impressive, given that they were already leading by nine points: many coaches would have just gone for the long field goal attempt, but Jimmy Allin faked a hold and made a tremendous run outside to get 20 yards or so, which eventually led to an important touchdown.

-Alex DaPrato: DaPrato had a tremendous game on several fronts. He was effective in coverage all day, recording five solo tackles and several breakups. More impressive still was his crucial pick in the second quarter near the Gaels' end zone, which he then returned 96 yards to set up Mike Giffin for an easy touchdown plunge on the next offensive series. His play was the difference between a narrow 9-8 lead and a dominating 17-1 margin, huge in terms of momentum.

-The linebacking corps: Thaine Carter, Chris Smith and T.J. Leeper were a dominant unit all day, holding Western running back John Leckie to just 44 yards on 12 carries and getting through to put several big hits on Faulds.

The Bad:

-Western's offence: The Mustangs put up some very impressive offensive numbers Saturday despite the loss, picking up 33 first downs and 510 total yards of offence. They were ineffective in the red zone, but some of their close-in fumbles and turnovers were just gifts. They also spent 46 minutes with the ball, which is far too much for comfort from a Queen's perspective. The Gaels did a good job of restricting their big plays and shutting them down near the end zone, but there's still room for improvement.

-Queen's running game: Western did a tremendous job of shutting down Giffin for most of the game. In fact, if not for a 29-yard touchdown run in the last couple minutes, Giffin would have been held to just 40 yards on the day. His streak of 14 straight 100-plus rushing yard games came to an end. It's not all Giffin's fault: Western was clearly keying on him most of the day and stacking linebackers inside to stop the run, and the horribly muddy field certainly didn't help. I think Giffin is a bit misrepresented as a power back: he's got some good power, but his real strength comes from his ability to read the play and make quick lateral cuts, which is obviously more difficult on a slippery field. He still was effective on shorter runs and punched in three touchdowns, but this game showed that he can be contained with the proper defence and weather, which may be a concern going forward.

The Ugly:

-The on-field vandalism: Some RMC students apparently broke into Richardson Stadium Friday night and burned their school's initials into the centre of the field. Classy move, cadets. It was an eyesore and a half, but the bigger problem was this meant even more mud around midfield, which wasn't good for the game.

-Devan Sheahan's drops: This wasn't entirely Devan, as the rest of the receivers dropped some reasonably easy catches as well, but he was the most prominent suspect. Again, he showed plenty of promise on running routes and getting open, but he didn't seem to be able to reel much of anything in, only making three catches for 19 yards.

-Queen's offensive numbers: The Gaels didn't put on an offensive clinic, finishing with just 295 net yards of offence and 18 first downs. As mentioned, Western shut down the run early, but Queen's was only able to achieve marginal success on the pass. Quarterback Dan Brannagan completed 16 of 36 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers could have been better if his receivers had pulled in some catches, but there were still plenty of times when he overthrew or underthrew them. On the plus side, he was composed in the pocket and didn't try to force too many throws, avoiding interceptions in the process. That's good to see, even if the completions and yards numbers weren't as high as normal.

-Western's long-snapping: Initial Western long-snapper Conor Elliott botched his first two snaps, sending them both a mile over the head of Western kicker Daryl Wheeler. The first led to a safety, the second to a forced fumble and a Queen's touchdown, giving the Gaels a 9-0 lead. Elliott was relieved of his snapping duties after the second mistake.

The Reaction:

Alex DaPrato, Queen's defensive back:

-On what it was like to get revenge on Western: "It's unbelievable. These guys have been consistently the biggest rival we've had."

-On the impact of his interception: "Everyone got pretty pumped up afterwards."

-On the amount of time the defence had to spend on the field, and if they were getting fatigued: "There were a few of us who were getting pretty tired."

Jimmy Allin, Queen's defensive back:

-On if he was concerned with the early offensive struggles: "No, our offence is just way too good to be held down forever."

-On if he was nervous or excited to get the chance on the second fake field goal attempt: "I think everyone on the team wants the ball in their hands."

Dan Brannagan, Queen's quarterback:

-On the impact of the field conditions: "Everyone would like ideal conditions all the time, but it doesn't happen. ... It's not really an issue."

-On if the passing game was harder to get going than normal due to the running game being shut down: "This is a team game, and if one aspect of the team doesn't play as well as you expect, you have to adjust."

-On if he was disappointed with the offence's play: "Our defence was awesome, our special teams were awesome. As long as we're getting the wins, it doesn't matter where we're getting the wins from, [but] as an offence, it's a little unsettling. You don't want to be loafing."

Pat Sheahan, Queen's head coach:

-On Queen's defensive play: "Unbelievable defence today. ... It was more slow 'em down, bend but don't break."

-On Queen's offence: "We didn't move the ball well on offence all day."

-On Faulds and Western's offence: "They've got a very prolific offence. ... He's a very good quarterback, and their kids caught the ball."

-On what Queen's had to do to stop Western: "This week was a huge challenge for the defence. To their credit, they were fired up. ... They fought them for every inch."
-On the impact of DaPrato's pick: "The DaPrato interception there where it's 9-1, in my mind, that's the TSN Turning Point."

-On the importance of the turnovers: "All those turnovers we got today had a major impact. Almost every one had ramifications."

-On how the rain affected the defensive line, particularly in the second half: "We're very athletic on the defensive front, and one of the concerns about the mud out there is we lose some of our mobility."

-On the importance of the fake field goals to the team's motivation: "They were timely, they were explosion plays. They shook everyone up and they elevated the psyche."

-On why they chose to go for the second fake field goal after their offence stalled, and why Western wasn't expecting it: "We needed something. Oftentimes, when you see a fake kick in a ball game, you never see another one."

Greg Marshall, Western head coach

-On the problems they had early on: "We kind of dug ourselves a pretty big hole in the first half. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong."

-On how it was disappointing to see Michael Faulds, who had been so effective on third and short situations, stopped by Queen's defence on third down with less than a yard to go early in the fourth quarter, setting up a decisive drive for the Gaels: "That's disheartening a bit that we were on third and one with a chance to win the football game and we couldn't get it done."

On how his defence should have read the second fake field goal attempt: "There was no way they were going for a field goal. A field goal didn't give them anything." (A good point: a field goal there would have merely made it a two-TD game instead of a two-possession game, whereas the touchdown made it a three-possession game).

On the importance of the trench war: "Most games are won and lost on the offensive/defensive line."

On the impact of Dee Sterling (98) and Osie Ukwuoma (91): "98 and 91 there didn't surprise us. I knew what they could do. ... We worked on blocking Dee Sterling all week, but seeing him live is different than watching him on tape."

On how his team never gave in: "The one thing I thought our guys were doing was they were battling, they were fighting. When you put that kind of effort in and you try and you still lose, that's disappointing."

On why he went for it on third and long so much in the final half: "I don't care if we lose by 100 points. I never do. ... We're not going to win the game by punting the football away. ... All I want our guys to always think about is keeping trying to win."
[Note: I thoroughly approve of this strategy. Too many coaches are overly concerned with keeping the scores close these days rather than throwing caution to the wind in an attempt to earn the W. ESPN's Gregg Easterbrook had a great column on this a little while ago, and I think he'd love Marshall's strategy.]

On what he liked from the game: "If there was a bright spot in today's game, it was the play of our defence."
[Note: An interesting statement for a team that gave up 46 points, but most of those were off atrocious field position picked up off of turnovers. If you look at yardage and first downs, Western's defence did amazingly well against a powerful Queen's offence.]

On how there's still plenty of hope for the Mustangs: "We still have an opportunity to get first place or second place. We still have an opportunity to win the Yates Cup."

On what they'd do differently against the Gaels next time on the offensive line: "We'd better get our pass protection schemes where there's a little more simplicity, a little less complexity and focus on their big guys. ... Instead of trying to double [team] one guy, we'd double a couple guys."

On what they'd do differently in the running game: "We have to use different guys, bite the bullet and say maybe we need to run the ball better [instead of switching to a pass-first offence like they did Saturday]."

On how they'd need to give their defence better field position: "We've got to hold the ball better. We can't have our long-snapper fire the ball over our punter's head a couple of times. ... We put our defence in bad situations."

On how the real test will come if they face Queen's again in the playoffs: "They have Round One, but Round Two is worth all the marbles."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The best laid plans of mice and bloggers...

Apologies for the lack of a live blog: I wound up outside the main press box in the stands due to a space shortage, and the pouring rain kept me from even taking out the computer until now. Fortunately, Neate is watching from home and has plenty of live-blogging coverage: check it out at Out of Left Field. Halftime score here is Queen's 23, Western 0. The Gaels are winning this one in the trenches: the offensive line is giving quarterback Dan Brannagan tons of time and opening holes for running back Mike Giffin, while the defensive line and linebackers have been bringing tons of pressure on Western quarterback Michael Faulds and his running backs all day, resulting in a couple of sacks, a number of thrown away balls and little offensive yardage on the ground. The other significant thing thus far has been the play of Western long-snapper Conor Elliot: his first two snaps flew way over the head of punter Daryl Wheeler, resulting in a safety and fumble, which was recovered and shortly led to a touchdown. If you take those nine points off the board, this one's far closer, and maybe the momentum changes completely. Anyways, the rain's coming back, so it's sayonara from Kingston, but I'll check in after the game with a GBU breakdown.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Breaking news: Hoops Gaels lose Firmi

I learned just this afternoon that Teddi Firmi, the star point guard for the Queen's women's basketball team and last year's OUA East Defensive Player of the Year ["Women's teams exit early," myself, Queen's Journal, February 29, 2008], has decided to quit basketball and join the women's rugby team. She'll be playing her first match with them tomorrow on the road against the McMaster Marauders.

This is a big loss for the basketball team. Firmi was their starting point guard last year, and demonstrated a tremendous ability to control the flow of the game and find the open player. She could score as well, but her greatest talent was on defence, where she was an almost-unparalled stopper. The team has a lot of promising young players, though, so it will be interesting to see if any of them can step up and fill her shoes. It's going to be a very different women's hoops squad this year, as they've lost their best defensive player in Firmi and their best offensive player in Sarah Barnes, who's actually still doing graduate studies at Queen's but has used up all of her eligibility.

Basketball's loss could be a big gain for the rugby team, though. Firmi has quite a reputation as a rugby player, and played internationally for Canada at the U19 level [Alex Goff, Goff on Rugby,, July 1, 2004]. If she's still got those skills, she might be a tremendous addition to the 2-1 rugby Gaels. It's a short season, though, so there's no room for a learning curve: after Saturday's tilt, Queen's only plays one more regular-season game at Guelph on October 4 before the playoffs.

According to my source, Firmi decided to switch sports because of the shorter season: she's in her fourth year, and apparently wants to spend more time on volunteer projects. Rugby wraps up by the end of October, whereas basketball goes until at least February and possibly March if you make the nationals.

Firmi isn't the only Gael to switch sports this year: Karlye Wong, who played libero for the women's volleyball team last season, has also transferred to the rugby team and has been doing well thus far.

I'll hopefully have more details on this in next Friday's Journal.

Campus Corner: Plans for tomorrow's live-blog...

A big shout-out to Dan Pawliw for throwing to this blog in his terrific weekly Queen's Football Club Newsletter. Just to let everyone interested know: I will be doing my best to live-blog tomorrow's Queen's - Western game (kick-off: 1 p.m. ET), but a lot depends on the weather. Due to the media crush covering the match, there's a good chance I'll be in the regular bleachers instead of the press box itself, which may lead to difficulties in case of rain. There's also a possibility I'll be in the press box serving as a spotter for announcer Tim Cunningham, which would help with the weather but probably keep me from trying to do every play the way I did last week: if this happens, I'll check in periodically here with big plays, updates and analytical thoughts on the game. Either way, there will almost certainly be some form of live-blogging going on here, but it's unclear at this point exactly what form that will take. I'll also be checking in with a full preview later tonight. Until then, some pieces to get you set for this game:

- Neate's excellent preview, focusing on how the weather might affect things [Out of Left Field]

- The Kingston Whig-Standard has plenty of coverage from Gaels' beat reporter Clint Walper, including this piece on the Gaels' receiving depth, this interview with Scott Valberg and this piece on the television coverage, which includes the interesting tidbit that Jason Sands, The Score's supervising producer, expects this game to break their regular-season audience record of 68,000.

- The Score's Andy Baechler has a good preview piece focusing on Dan Brannagan.

- Tyler King has the audio transcript of yesterday's press conference with head coach Pat Sheahan [CFRC Sports]. He has also promised 45 minutes of football coverage on today's show (4 p.m.,

- I also have a piece in today's Journal arguing that this is the most important Homecoming game in a long, long while, complete with a by-the-numbers breakdown and details of the past five Homecoming contests.

- Update, 8:39 P.M. Neate is also planning to live-blog the game over at Out of Left Field, which will definitely be worth a look.

The King (Byng?) controversy...

(Note: You may not get the headline unless you're a history nut like me...)

A few thoughts on my post earlier this week about Tyler King's comments on my work. First, I went too far with it: it was intended as a defence of my work, but I spent too much of it attacking his. In response to his attacks, which I took as personal, I also made some somewhat personal attacks of my own that I shouldn't have, including calling him "two-faced" for insulting me on the radio and then being friendly to me in person. I shouldn't have attempted to judge his motives, and from talking to him, I've come to a better understanding of why he's chosen to do things the way he does. I don't necessarily agree with him, but there's plenty of room for opinion in the world: as I wrote earlier, sports are full of grey areas, not black and white issues. In any case, I believe I've worked things out with him and neither of us wants to get into a drawn-out personal war. I reserve the right to disagree with his opinions, write about my disagreements and defend my own work if and when it comes under attack, but I will endeavour to do my best to prevent personal attacks from entering the picture from here forward.

- Andrew

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Vent Day, Part II: On Giffin and CIS stats

“Once blood is shed in a national quarrel, reason and right are swept aside by the rage of angry men."

- David Lloyd George

"It's true, I'm a Rageaholic.....I just can't live without Rageahol!"
- Homer Simpson

[Satirical letter: please don't think this is real!]

Dear Mike Giffin,

I'm sorry to inform you that the single-game rushing record [myself, "The GBU: Queen's football versus Toronto", Sporting Madness] you set Saturday [myself, "Football: U of T - Queen's live blog", Sporting Madness] has been retroactively removed by the CIS bean-counting machine.

In our infinite wisdom, we've decided that the initial game stats were wrong, and you actually only earned 212 net yards rushing, instead of 215.
Now, we could have informed you earlier, maybe even during the game so that head coach Pat Sheahan could have left you in for another play or two to clinch the record. After all, he did say [myself, "Campus Corner: Preview of Queen's - U of T football game", Sporting Madness] that the reason he pulled Rob Bagg last year before he could break the record was because he didn't know how many yards Bagg had.

We also could have informed the media of the accurate stats right after the game, but we decided it would be more fun to let such outlets as The Canadian Press [via The Globe and Mail], the Kingston Whig-Standard and Out of Left Field let you think that you'd actually broken the record and keep the issue muddy until Monday night, over 48 hours after the game and long after everyone's deadlines.

Better luck next time,

[signed] The Evil CIS Stats Machine [/signed]

[/satirical letter]

Yes, it's three yards, and the above may be overstating the case a little: this is a vent, after all. The problem is that those three yards make the difference between a record-breaking effort and a good game. I don't claim to know better than the official statisticians, and the total of 212 is probably right. I have no problem writing articles with the 212 total either, as I don't have any vested interest in Giffin breaking a record on not.

The issue is the delay until the stats were clarified. In the NFL or the NCAA, the current stats are available instantly, so coaches, reporters and everyone else knows exactly how far someone has to go for a record. Not so much at the CIS level, which is understandable given the resources available. That's fine, and I get that: I'm not expecting professional quality.

The problem is when there are conflicting sources giving different statistical information, which happens far too often at the CIS level in a variety of sports. Those of us who cover the games are usually working on tight deadlines: I filed my Out of Left Field report the instant the game ended, even though I didn't have the full statistics yet. The CP story was filed later that day, the Whig game report Monday and my story came out Tuesday (but the paper was already at the presses when I found out the stat line had changed, so I couldn't alter it). That's three reliable sources that all had the wrong information due to a delay in clarification, and there are now massive omelettes all over all of our faces.

The other problem is that this wasn't avoidable. Each of our media outlets had to go with the best information we had at the time. I made the call that the 215 yards was better supported based on the sources I had it from, and I don't regret that: as shown above, I was in decent company. At the time we went to press, the CIS box score was the sole site giving 212: all the press releases, news articles and game recaps I saw had 215, and I figured it was safer to go with that than what could have been just a missed keystroke in the box score (and what my sources told me until last night was just an error on the CIS end). Also, I'd rather accidentally give a record than take one away, so 215 made more sense from that point of view as well.

Writing the article without Giffin's stats was unthinkable. Writing "Giffin had a good game" without supporting data is not only incredibly vague and useless, but also blatant editorializing. He was the key offensive player of that game, and he certainly deserved to be mentioned. It's awfully fraking* difficult to write about a running back in any meaningful way without including his stats.

*For those of you who don't watch Battlestar Galactica, check out this great AP article by Chris Talbott [via Yahoo! News] on the genesis and the genius of the word "frak" and its related forms.

In my mind, immediately available and accurate stats are the biggest barrier to expanded CIS media coverage. Sportswriting (and broadcasting) has to include a quantitative element as well as a qualitative one these days, and football stats in particular are incredibly important: look at how the popularity of fantasy football has stimulated interest in the NFL.

I've written about the problems with the league's stats before, as have plenty of others with more credibility, including Greg Layson of the Guelph Mercury, Rob Pettapiece of The CIS Blog and James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail.

CIS sports have a lot going for them, as I wrote about here in a news story and here in a column. The problem is that they're underexposed. In order to gain exposure, they need to be more professional with stats, interviews, highlight packages and the rest. I doubt you'd see stats screwups like the ones mentioned above in the NCAA, and I think that's part of the reason it gets more coverage: there's a professional feel, and you know that your stats are going to be reliable.

I'm not trying to bash the SIDs or the athletic departments here: most of them are underpaid and overworked, and many of them have managed to improve the professionalism around CIS sports considerably. The Toronto host crew last week did a terrific job, and I don't blame them for possibly forgetting to include a three-yard loss in Giffin's stats, if that's how it happened.

What should have happened, though, was an instant clarification to all involved SIDs as soon as the stats were changed. The SIDs could have then passed that on to the reporters, and at worst, we maybe get one or two articles that have to be corrected, instead of every article about the game. Instead, we wound up with a muddled situation where no one knew what was really going on until late Monday night, over 48 hours after the game. That needs to improve. I'm fine with making a change in the interests of accuracy, but CIS needs to make sure that everyone involved knows of the change, everyone knows it was intentional and knows the reasoning for it and everyone gets the information as soon as possible. I don't think that happened in this case.

(Note: Vent Day, Part III is postponed until tomorrow later today... the first two took longer than I thought to write. Feel free to vent about my poor scheduling in the comments!)

Vent Day, Part I: A Response to Mr. King

"Strike me down with all your hatred, and your journey to the dark side will become complete!" - Emperor Palpatine

“Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers.” - Jimmy Breslin

Unfortunately, I'm not too much like Breslin, and most of my pieces aren't written out of rage. That doesn't mean I don't have it bottled up, though. Ever since I became the assistant sports editor of the Journal last spring, I've endured almost-weekly slings, arrows, mocking and outright character assassination from one Tyler King, a former Journal writer who used to co-host a sports show on the campus radio station, CFRC.

King was promoted over the summer, so he's now CFRC's sports co-ordinator, which means that he's now affecting their entire coverage as well as his own show (where he now is the sole host, thanks to Brendan McNamara moving back to Toronto: an unfortunate development, as McNamara was a good guy and an insightful commentator who often kept King from flying off the deep end). To this point, I've shrugged off his attacks and haven't bothered to respond: that may have been a poor decision, especially considering how well appeasement's worked in the past.

I don't want to get into a long battle with King, which is why I've ignored his attacks to this point. Still, sometimes you can only be pushed around for so long before you stand up for yourself. Maybe publishing this will only heighten his attacks on me, but maybe it will show him I'm not the easy target he's grown to expect.

Now, I've heard plenty of King's attacks and rants over the air (whenever I can bear to sit through his hour of drivel and uninformed rants, there usually seems to be something inflammatory about either myself personally or the Journal as a whole). I have less of a problem with those, though: it's his show, he's entitled to his opinions, and if he wants to waste air time complaining about me instead of actually covering sports, he can go right ahead.

I've also read his numerous attacks on me and my co-workers, both on his own "blog" (if you can give something he updates about once a month, usually with just a blatant promotion for his latest show, the lofty title of "blog") and in comment threads at Out of Left Field , where he's a co-writer with myself (though his incredibly infrequent contributions seem to primarily consist of plugging his radio show or posting ridiculous pictures).

What really bothers me, though, are the venomous letters to the editor he writes to our own paper. I can't usually respond to them, so his one-sided diatribes are published with no context and impugn my credibility. Here's some excerpts, with a deconstruction following each:

Letter 1:
"The Journal’s editorial assertion that the comments of Gary Sheffield with regard to race in sport have “some degree of truth in them” is both shockingly ignorant and uninformed, and should be withdrawn. ... Racism is surely a major issue in sport, but the Journal approaches it in the most boneheaded way possible by practically endorsing the clearly offensive views of one of the least respectable players in baseball. ... Furthermore, as much as I personally dislike the New York Yankees, the Journal conveniently omits the fact that famed African-American slugger Darryl Strawberry contradicted Sheffield’s remarks about Yankee manager Joe Torre, and that the overall consensus in baseball is that the comments about Torre, a widely respected veteran of the game and known admirer of hall-of-famer Bob Gibson, are entirely without merit. The support of Kenny Lofton, who played only a single below-average year for Torre, does not make Sheffield’s wild allegations true. Essentially, the Journal’s “exposé” on racism in sport smacks of sensationalism, poor research and overall shabby journalism that does nothing but harm to the profile of this legitimate sports issue. Here, however, it’s appropriate that these columns are titled “sideline commentary,” because these insults to intelligent sports fans deserve to be permanently relegated there."
[September 25, 2007, in response to this column].

Read my column for yourself and then tell me if it "smacks of sensationalism, poor research and overall shabby journalism." For one thing, it's ridiculous that a man whose show is a whole hour of over-the-top sensationalist drivel with little research and even less of an effort at journalism is calling me out. For another, I put a hell of a lot of effort and research into that column, and it bothers me to have the wider implications of racism in sports written off just because King doesn't happen to agree with one of the sources I used. I agree that Gary Sheffield isn't perhaps the most reliable source, but that doesn't mean his complaints should be dismissed out of hand, especially when they're backed by a more reliable player like Kenny Lofton. The point wasn't to convict or acquit Joe Torre, in any case: it was to point out that there's still at least a perception of racism in professional sports, and that we should be taking a look at it.

Letter 2: "Contrary to what was reported in the Journal, the second Queen’s touchdown in their game against Western was scored by Mike Giffin, not Marty Gordon. ... Official box scores for OUA football games are regularly available on the internet, and the aforementioned errors were not present in other sources like the Kingston Whig-Standard. If students can’t rely on their campus newspaper to accurately report the details of the school’s most popular team, it will be an unfortunate season for football fans. [September 11, 2007].

Deconstruction: He's got a point with this one, as we did make a mistake. However, the error came from an official game recap on the same OUA website he mentions, which mentioned Marty Gordon as scoring the second touchdown (more on CIS stats later today). I noticed the contradiction between the recap and the box score when writing the article, but decided to go with the recap, as I figured that someone who took the time to write a game story probably would be more likely to have it right, as it's just a single key stroke that can change a stat in a box score. In any case, it was a minor error and we corrected it. Pointing out mistakes is fair game, but a small mistake like that one shouldn't become an excuse to carry out an all-out attack on a media outlet, especially when it's a case of the pot calling the kettle black. I never bothered to write anything about the numerous errors on his radio show, which show up on almost every one of the rare occasions when he dares to discuss a Queen's sport other than football or men's hockey as I prefer to add to the wealth of information out there instead of nitpicking over small mistakes in other people's work.

Letter 3:
"Why is it that those who lament the lack of student attendance at football games are always those who understand it the least?
Football has never drawn successfully in recent years and the drop in attendance from last year’s match-up against Laurier can be attributed to a good portion of the alumni side of the stadium being unsold due to repairs.
It’s almost shockingly ignorant to praise the addition of concessions and the “VIP Zone” (hardly “countless”) as draws for student attendance when students can’t access those amenities. Alcohol is still banned on the student side; when it wasn’t, attendance was far higher.
Furthermore, every student, prior to entering, has to be frisked by a self-important student constable who obviously adds nothing to the game experience. This is not a requirement of fans on the other side of the stadium.
Did anyone think that perhaps students would be more likely to come to games if they weren’t treated like second-class citizens?"
Finally, as much as the idealistic enthusiasts who cover football might want to believe the bands and cheerleaders are “well-choreographed,” no student heads all the way over to West Campus to hear the Bands’ 14th consecutive rendition of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” nor to hear the cheerleaders bellow their “Gaels, get tough, let’s go!” chant that no fan either knows or follows."
[September 23, 2008, responding to this column].

Deconstruction: This letter in today's paper is the straw that broke the camel's back and convinced me to finally write this post, especially given the venom he wrote it with. I get it: he doesn't like being frisked, contrary to what Mike Hogan says (fast-forward to the end of the clip). I don't think it's fair to say that's the main factor in low student attendance at games, though: it certainly doesn't seem to discourage students from going to the Ale House. Moreover, does he really need to call me "shockingly ignorant", an "idealistic enthusiast" and one who "understand[s] [football] the least" to get your point across? There is such a thing as disagreeing without being disagreeable, but I guess they don't teach that in shock-jock school, where radio shows seem to be handed out based on how much controversy you can stir up and how venomous you can be.

What also bothers me is how two-faced King is. One day, he'll roast you over the coals on his radio show or call you an idiot in a letter to the editor: the next, he'll greet you with a friendly hi and a wave when you bump into him in history class or at a football game. I'm quite able to get along with those I disagree with, but the difference is that most of them don't attack me personally. To me, it seems hypocritical to spend your day bashing me in various public forums and then act like everything's just fine whenever you see me.

Why does King dislike me so much? Perhaps he wanted the jobs I've held at the Journal, but I think there might be more to it than that. In my mind, the bigger reason is I'm at least partially representative of the "jockocracy" he's often ranted and raved about on his show, the former athletes who are now involved in the media. I partly agree with him, though: not all athletes make great writers or broadcasters (see Smith, Emmitt), and playing credentials alone should not be enough to get you a job in the sports media.

That doesn't mean that all athletes are dumb jocks, though. Some of my favourite analysts are former players like Jock Climie and Duane Forde, two very intellectual guys who combine deep insight with a superb knowledge of Canadian football and the unique experiences that come with playing at a high level.

Even sports experience in general can be extremely helpful. Katie McKenna, Queen's star women's soccer goalie, is one of the best writers I've had the privilege of working with over the last couple of years at the Journal. I think her experience playing soccer allows her to understand other athletes and know what's going through their minds, which leads in turn to better questions and better articles. She has a lot of pure writing talent as well and undoubtedly would still be great even if she didn't play sports at all, but that experience gives her an extra edge over the rest of us in my mind. That insight of what it's like to be on the other side is tremendously valuable.

I'm not saying you have to have playing experience of any sort to be a writer, radio host or TV commentator, or that the work you produce is somehow inferior if you don't have that playing experience. There are many writing and broadcasting legends who never stepped onto the field themselves, and there are plenty more who had that high-level experience. My point is merely that athletic qualifications alone may not make a great writer or broadcaster, but they shouldn't break one either. Experience isn't an necessary asset, but it can be a great one if utilized properly. All jocks should not be tarred with the same brush.

I'm also not saying that King has to agree with me. There's plenty of room for dissenting views about sports, which after all, are often a rather grey area. Any two people will not see a single sporting event in the same way, and that's why there are a variety of sportswriters, radio hosts, TV analysts, bloggers and the rest, each bringing their own perspectives to the table. That diversity of views is a great thing, and should be encouraged whenever possible.

The problem is that King seems to see sports in black and white. There's his opinion, which is invariably right, and then there's what everyone else thinks, which is invariably stupid. It's not like he's providing constructive criticism or is interested in an actual discussion or debate: he's got his views carved in stone, and you can either fall in line with him or bear the brunt of his heavy-handed personal attacks. He spends far more time on criticism than constructive comments or creating his own work.

Another part of the problem is the medium involved. King works in sports talk radio, which has evolved into more of a shouting match than ever in recent times. Many of the big names in the industry, like Jim Rome, Bob McCown, Dave Pratt and Dan Patrick,get much of their fame and prestige from taking controversial stances and stirring the pot whenever possible. That's not saying all talk radio hosts are like that, as there are many who have a greater taste for subtlety, like Dan Russell, Blake Price and Stephen Brunt (though Brunt started out as a print guy, he's pretty darn good on the radio too). Still, when viewed as a whole, sports talk radio is probably more over-the-top than any other medium covering sports, so King may be a product of his environment. Controversy gets listeners/viewers/readers, which is unfortunate, but a fact of life in our day and age.

In any case, I hope the above is not read as a personal attack. I intend it to be a defence of my own work, perhaps intermingled with some criticisms of King's style and decisions, but nothing on a personal level. I also don't think that we have to be enemies. I get along just fine with most of my competitors, and [the] King and I aren't really even competitors, given the different natures of our media outlets. There's no reason for us to fight, and I'm happy to leave things here and move forward if he is.

Vent Day!

[Image from The Guardian].

"Obi-Wan has taught you well. You have controlled your fear. Now, release your anger! Only your hatred can destroy me!"
- Darth Vader

“Yes, honey...Just squeeze your rage up into a bitter little ball and release it at an appropriate time, like that day I hit the referee with the whiskey bottle.” - Homer Simpson

Seems to me I've probably been taking Homer's advice a bit too seriously for too long. There are several things that have been bugging me for quite a while that I've never really written about, usually preferring to keep this site in the realms of sober, rational analysis and outside the area of raw emotion. Well, that rule's being voided for one day: I'm not having a good week, so I unilaterally declare this to be the first official Vent Day. Of course, my remaining discretion will still limit the venom levels of my writing and I'll try to keep some rational analysis in these posts as well, but I figured it's probably a better idea to actually write about what's gnawing at me than keep it bottled up: after all, we all know about the potential consequences of that. In any case, if you don't like rants and complaining (though, given the audience numbers that sports talk radio pulls in, there's probably a minority of sports fans in that camp), I'll be back with the regular stuff tomorrow. For any of those interested, stay tuned: I'm planning three posts today. As always, comments and responses are welcome, either here or at andrew_bucholtz (at)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The GBU: Queen's football vs. Toronto

Breaking down Queen’s win over the University of Toronto Varsity Blues Saturday [myself, Out of Left Field] (which you may have missed while pondering UBC’s stunning loss to Regina [Neate Sager, Out of Left Field] ... UBC now stands for Unbelievably Bad Clock management in my mind)...

The score: Queen’s 58, U of T 14

How I saw it: In person (live blog can be found here): yes, I went to Toronto just to see this one

The Good:

- Running back and all-around superstar Mike “The Giffinator” Giffin:
Giffin ran for a career-high 215 yards 212 yards [see this post for explanation] on 16 carries despite being pulled after the third quarter. He got 4 or so yards on almost every run, which is respectable, and pulled away for some huge ones as well. He also picked up two rushing touchdowns and his 15th-straight game of 100-plus rushing yards. 189 of his rushing yards came in the first half, as he only got three carries in the third quarter. Giffin leads all CIS players with 687 rushing yards. Bishop’s star Jamall Leeis in second with 584 yards, but he has played one less game, so he could still catch up.

-Quarterback Dan Brannagan: It wasn’t an exceptional day for Brannagan, but a good one nonetheless. He completed 13 of 22 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns, despite being picked off twice. Most impressive, though, were his efforts of the scramble: there were several times where either Toronto linemen broke through and forced him to take off and run or the Blues’ defensive coverage meant he had no receivers to throw to, and he looked more mobile than I’ve ever seen him be, picking up 29 yards and two rushing touchdowns on five carries. Brannagan leads all CIS quarterbacks with 1404 passing yards.

-Wide receiver Blaise Morrison: It seems like a different receiver’s been stepping up into the spotlight every week for the Gaels, and Satuday was no exception. Morrison led the team with 6 catches for 121 yards, some of them extremely difficult. There was one ball in particular where he made an impressive catch on a dive right at the sideline. Morrison said afterwards that there was more space for him because the defence was focusing on shutting down Scott Valberg, which is probably the case after Valberg’s 192-yard game last week. Four different receivers (Morrison, Valberg Scott Stinson and Chris Ioannides) have had games with at least 100 receiving yards, which is a good sign. That will make it difficult for defences to shut the passing attack down entirely: if they focus on one guy, someone else will step up.

-Defensive tackle Dee Sterling: Despite Toronto’s line being focused on containing him after he racked up a Queen’s-record five solo sacks last week, Sterling added another sack and brought pressure on Toronto quarterbacks David Hamilton and Mark Stinson all day. He now leads all CIS players with six solo sacks and one assisted sack. The attention he drew also opened holes for fellow line members like Neil Puffer and Osie Ukwuoma, who also threatened all day.

-Defensive back David Rooney: Rooney doesn’t play a lot normally, but he had a great day Saturday, leading the team with seven solo tackles and adding a pass breakup and a sack. Good to see him step up.

-Backup quarterback Jansen Shrubb: Shrubb came into the game late and did very well, completing six of eight passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. It’s always a good thing when your backups look capable: he’s no Brannagan, but he can run this offence quite well.

The Bad:

-Mark Stinson: The Blues’ standout did everything for them, spending time at (at least) fullback, wide receiver, quarterback and punter. He was one of their most effective players all day, running nine times for 37 yards and going one-for-three through the air for a 12-yard pickup. He also should have had credit for a long touchdown pass (see next entry).

-The Blues’ trick plays: Toronto ran several trick plays quite effectively. The most impressive was an early halfback pass, where Hamilton handed the ball to Stinson, who did a good job of faking an outside run. Queen’s secondary was completely fooled and they stepped up, leaving Drew Meerveld wide open for a bomb pass. Meerveld caught Stinson’s pass easily and strolled into the end zone, but the play came back on a holding call (quite unnecessary, as Stinson would have had plenty of time without it). The Gaels’ defence might need to work on trying to pick up these kinds of plays better.

The Ugly:

-Devan Sheahan’s drops: First of all, any nepotism charges (Sheahan is the son of Queen’s head coach Pat Sheahan) are completely unfounded. Devan is a talented receiver, and he’s showcased a lot of speed and an ability to get open that makes him deserving of a continued starting role. Still, his continued drops are getting ridiculous. He wound up with three catches for 31 yards, quite respectable, but he should have had five or six. He created plenty of space against the Blues’ secondary, but just didn’t seem to be able to reel the ball in consistently even when he was completely open, which has unfortunately been a feature of his play this year. Perhaps he’s thinking too much about what to do with the ball and not focusing enough on merely making the catch. He’s got a lot of potential and he could be very good, but he just needs to get more consistent: otherwise, he’ll get less and less chances to make plays if he can’t be relied upon.

-The pronunciations: Toronto’s game-day announcer is quite good overall, and his calls are usually quite accurate and very clear. However, there were a couple of instances where he absolutely butchered some Queen’s players’ names, including Osie Ukwuoma (who he called O-see Osicwoma). It’s a tough job to do and I’d probably be worse, but that wasn’t even close to even a phonetic attempt.

The Reactions:

Wide receiver Blaise Morrison:

Stat line: Six catches for a game-high 121 yards, longest catch for 37 yards

On maintaining focus for this game, despite Western coming up next week:
“The coaches prepared us really well this week, making sure all our focus was on this week’s game.”

On slow starts: “That’s just the way it’s been going this season.”

On Valberg creating room for the rest of the receivers: “After the game Scott Valberg had last week, obviously they’re going to pay a bit more attention to him, so it opens up all the other guys.”

On Western: “We’ve got a week to prepare now, and we’re really excited about this game.”

Defensive lineman Neil Puffer:

Stat line: One sack, two solo tackles

On the expectations placed on the team: “There was a fair bit of pressure on us. Everyone expected us to win, everyone expected us to be perfect.”

On improvement: “We`re not terribly excited about our game today because it didn`t meet our standards for this sort of game. ... We`ve just got to tighten up the loose ends.”

On key things to work on: “We had a couple fumbles, and the trick plays that they were running on us, they got a lot of mileage from. We need to have our heads wrapped around those and know when they`re coming. That`s pretty much it, but we just need to stick to fundamental football.”

On if Dee Sterling`s performance last week opened holes for him:
“He certainly attracted a lot of attention, and if guys are double- and triple-teaming him, it frees me up for a one on one.”

On Western: “It couldn’t get much better than this, a rematch of how things ended last year in the playoffs, and on Homecoming on national TV, and in this case, it’s a battle of the undefeated. ... It’s going to be a good football game, and I’m really excited for it.”

On what they’ll have to do differently from last year’s playoff loss: “We were a step behind all last year’s game. ... They just beat us. They came out, outschemed us, out played us, played with more heart. We’re just going to have to be perfect.”

Halfback/kick returner Jimmy Allin:

Stat line:
One solo tackle, one breakup, five punt returns for 90 yards and two kick returns for 27 yards.

On how far U of T has come: “U of T’s obviously a much-improved team. They’ve got some great athletes.”

On what to improve: “Everything. We need to work on everything, we need to get better. We’ve got a big game coming up this week, and we’ll need to play well if we want to win.”

On facing Western: “We need to focus on what we do best. We’re all confident, we’ll all prepare like we always do, and hopefully it comes out for us.”

On if he thinks there will be a good crowd: “We hope so. Homecoming, we always look forward to it because the stadium’s always packed and we’ll hopefully put on a good show.”

On if he thinks his reputation as a returner is causing teams to kick away from him the way Toronto did most of the day: “I hope not. You always like to get a chance, but it’s like last game, they kicked to Jimmy (Therrien) a lot and he did an amazing job, so you can’t really take away our returns. We have two good returners, and guys are doing a great job of blocking for them.”

Quarterback Dan Brannagan:

Stat line: 13 for 22 for 241 yards, three passing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns, two interceptions.

On if the team met their goals against U of T: “I think overall there’s a lot of room for improvement, but the ultimate goal, the goal every week is to get a win, and we did that.”

On what’s causing the slow starts: “I’m not too sure. I guess it takes us a while to get going, but it’s something we can work on in the second half of the season.”

On if Giffin’s stellar performance on the ground opened up passing lanes in the second half:
“Definitely. All year long, I think that’s been the case. It definitely helps to have him in the backfield, and teams have to respect that and bring guys up. When you have to gang-tackle a big running back like that, it means less guys in double coverage.”

On his own scrambling performance: “Going into the game, I wouldn’t have predicted that, but it just gets to the point where you have to take what the defence is giving you if they’re going to drop a lot of guys into coverage. I think it’s something they weren’t expecting, so I think I kind of caught them off guard a little.”

On what to improve: “It’s just a matter of execution. We have great players and great plays, it’s just a matter of going out there and being confident, making sure that we’re going out there and fully executing every play.”

On if there’s a desire for revenge against Western after last year’s playoff loss: “It’s not really on my mind. You’re always trying to look forward and not look backwards. It’s a different team and a new season.”

Head coach Pat Sheahan:

On the game overall: “I’m pleased with the win, but I think that we’re still not a hundred per cent polished. We still have a few areas that we can improve on, and my hope is with each passing week, we’re going to gain a measure of consistency and improve our execution. ... Maybe I’m becoming too hard to please, I don’t know. It was a good win, and we want to be better, that’s all.”

On the slow starts: “I think standard practice in football is to do some things early in the game. You unveil your plan, you set your formation, see how they play you. You’d like things to go a little better than perhaps they did today in the early going. ... Being a slow-starting team doesn’t worry me, as we’re a big finishing team. I think we’ve outscored our opponents in the second half of most games, if not all of them.”

On Morrison: “I thought the contribution of Blaise Morrison today was very good. Each week, we kind of have a new hero stepping up. ... The new face that seemed to rise to the occasion was Blaise Morrison.”

On Mike Giffin breaking his career-high mark of 214 rushing yards (Giffin finished with 215 212 [see this post for explanation] yards, and was pulled after the third quarter): “For the number of carries he got, I thought his numbers were good today. ... At times, they shut him up pretty good. I’m afraid with him today, it was kind of feast or famine: he either made a great play or they did a pretty good job on him. With a great runner, when they come in with the plan that they’re going to stack up on the running game, sometimes it works. He just kept at it, he was very determined, he was fired up about having a big game today and he did.”

On other strong performances: “ Valberg was solid today, I thought he made a couple of great big plays. I thought Danny (Brannagan) was pretty good.”

On the injuries to linebacker T.J. Leeper and Kyle MacDonald: “I don’t think it’s anything serious. MacDonald, I think he went down just to give the defence a breather. T.J. Leeper, it’s an ongoing thing, but he could have come back and played today if he had to.”

On Western next week: “There’s a lot of preparation work that needs to be done. I think we have to look at them a whole lot closer. We didn’t look at them this week, we didn’t talk about them, we didn’t even mention them, which was a challenge in itself for our team, knowing that this one was looming large. Anyway, this is a game to get excited about, and it should be a good one.”

What’s on tap:
Next week should be the regular-season game of the year. It’s Queen’s versus Western, a heated rivalry even when the teams aren’t competitive. Throw in that both teams are 4-0 and ranked in the Top 5, that Queen’s lost to Western last year in the playoffs and that the game’s being televised nationally on The Score’s University Rush, and this gets even bigger. Oh, and the little ritual known as Queen’s Homecoming is involved too. Should be a hell of a match, and I’ll be there and hopefully live-blogging away! Look for a full preview of the game here Friday and in Friday’s Journal as well.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Football: U of T - Queen's live blog

Well, I'm settled in in the press box at U of T and have Internet access, so the live blog should be a go. The trip in on the Dance Pak's fan bus was pretty good, if sparsely attended: there were only about 10 people not affiliated with the dance team. A good amount of Gaels' supporters in the crowd, though, as there's a lot of Toronto alumni who have made it out here. About 15 minutes until kickoff.

T-10: A nice tribute and moment of silence for former Queen's coach Hal McCarney, who passed away Tuesday ["Goodbye, Moose", myself, Queen's Journal]. Interestingly, the only people in the stadium I heard talking during it were the CFRC types who were just starting their broadcast: a bit disappointing from a Queen's perspective.

T-5: One of the Shriners carries out the pre-game kickoff, and does much better than the majority of the types who try to do so at Queen's. Note for those who complain about music at Gaels' games: it's here too. We just had the intro of "Welcome to the Jungle" clashing with one of the Queen's Bands Scottish pieces.

First quarter:

- Toronto is kicking off. The kickoff is booted to the Gaels' 15, where Jimmy Allin makes the catch and returns it 14 yards. Queen's will start on their own 29.

- Queen's quarterback Dan Brannagan starts with a 5-yard pass attempt to Scott Valberg, who can't make the catch.

- On second down, Brannagan throws a bomb down the middle for Blaise Morrison, who's in single coverage, but the ball is too far. Dan Village comes into punt.

- Village hits it 41 yards, but the Blues bring it back seven. First down Toronto on their 49.

- Two Queen's linemen break through and hurry QB David Hamilton. He gets the handoff off and Toronto picks up five yards.

- Toronto runs a trick play, handing to running back/receiver Mark Stinson, an ex-quarterback, who fires a deep bomb to a wide open Drew Meerveld. Meerveld runs in for the TD, but the play's called back due to a penalty.

- Good pressure from Queen's forces an incomplete pass. Stinson punts for Toronto, and his punt sails out at Queen's 34.

- Mike Giffin rumbles up the middle on his first carry of the game and beats everyone for a 74-yard run. He's brought down by a last-ditch tackle at the 2.

- The Gaels run, but get nowhere. Second and goal.

- Giffin tries an off-tackle run to the outside, breaks one tackle but is dragged down at the 1 by two defenders. Third and goal.

- Brannagan sneaks through the middle for the TD. I like that call. Some conservative coaches would have hit the FG after being stopped twice on short runs, but Pat Sheahan elects to go for the seven points, and it pays off in a big way. It wasn't that much of a risk, as they were pretty darn close to the goal line in the first place, but still, a good move. Village hits the EP to make it 7-0 Queen's.

- Village kicks off, and the Blues let the ball bounce. Peter Boshyk swoops in and grabs it for Queen's, giving them a first down on Toronto's 27. Horrible play on special teams by the Blues: that could come back to haunt them.

- Brannagan fumbles the snap, and is sacked for a 16-yard loss. 2nd and 26 from the Toronto 43.

- Brannagan steps up to throw and is hit. The ball goes into the turf. Third down, and Queen's will punt. They wasted that chance.

- Good punt from Village to Toronto's 2-yard line, where it's caught by Matthew Morris. He gets next to nowhere on the return, though. First and 10 Toronto on their own five.

- Toronto picks up two on a run up the gut. 2 and 8.

- Queen's linebacker T.J. Leeper is hurt and coming off.

- Stinson runs up the middle for a short gain. He's stopped by last week's OUA male athlete of the week, Queen's defensive tackle Dee Sterling. Toronto punts to the 55, where Allin catches it. He tries to go back and around, but is caught for a loss. 1 and 10 Queen's on their own 50, but a flag on the play.

- The call is against Queen's, and the Gaels are starting on their own 40. Check that: an objectional conduct was tacked on, so it's 1 and 10 on the 35.

- Giffin runs up the middle for about six. 2 and 4.

- Toronto lineman Lincoln Bryan breaks through and flushes Brannagan, but he gets outside and runs for a first down. Nice job by Brannagan: he went straight into the contact there to pick up the first.

- Brannagan passes to Morrison for another first down, and then scrambles for nine. 2 and 1 Queen's on Toronto's 35.

- Giffin goes straight up the gut, finds a hole, cuts to the outside and runs down the sideline. He's hit at the five and starts to fall, but manages to stretch out and get the TD. Village hits the EP, making it Gaels 14, Blues 0.

- 5:37 left in the first. Toronto was penalized on the conversion, so Village is kicking from the 45.

- Village launches a sideline punt to the Blues 35, which is caught by Earl Johnson. He falls backwards out of bounds. 1 and 10 Toronto on their own 34.

- Short pass for 12. 1 and 10 U of T on their 47.

- Hamilton's flushed from the pocket and throws it away, but he's almost picked by Josh Sultana, starting at corner for the injured Jay Oduwole.

- Hamilton finds Cory Kennedy wide open over the middle on a ten-yard pass, and Kennedy makes some good moves to pick up yards after the catch. He's forced out at Queen's 35. 1 and 10 Blues, and they call a time out.

- Stinson runs up the middle, breaks one tackle, but is hit going outside. He picks up three. Flags on the play, but they're picked up. 2 and 7.

- Stinson takes the snap and throws to Kennedy for 12 and a first down. The Blues keep switching Stinson and Hamilton, and it seems to be confusing Queen's.

- Stinson fakes a handoff and runs up the middle for 7. 2 and 3 Toronto on Queen's 13. Stinson's really doing everything now.

- Stinson picks up four on a run. First and goal Blues from the nine.

- Stinson fakes a pass, scrambles outside and might have had a TD, but Alex Daprato makes a great play to stop him at the four. Second and goal Blues. Time out, Queen's.

- Stinson fakes a pass again and Queen's defence bites. He switches directions and runs up the middle for a TD. Andrew Lomasney hits the EP, even though he's almost blocked by Sultana, and it's now Queen's 14, Toronto 7 with 2:03 left in the first quarter. If that first Toronto touchdown hadn't been called back, we could be tied right now.

- Kickoff is caught by Allin inside the five, and he returns it to the Gaels' 13. First and 10 Queen's.

- Giffin runs to the outside and gains four. 2 and 6.

- Brannagan is flushed, tries to scramble up the middle, but gets nowhere. 3 and 6. Will Queen's punt or take the safety?

- They elect to punt. Village makes a nice move: his kick would have been blocked, so he fakes it, steps outside and gets the punt away. Good downfield coverage means the Blues' returner is stopped close to where the ball landed, on the Queen's 47.

- Hamilton is back and throwing, but his pass is knocked down and almost picked by defensive end Osie Ukwuoma.

- Defensive lineman Neil Puffer breaks through and sacks Hamilton for a loss of about six. A bit surprising Toronto went back to Hamilton after Stinson's success on the last drive. End of the first quarter.

Second quarter:

- Stinson is in to punt, and he boots it out of bounds at Queen's 38. Looks like they might be trying to avoid Allin and the Gaels' return game.

- Sideline pass to Morrison, who makes a great catch. He's knocked out at the Blues' 48 for a gain of 24.

- Giffin up the gut, gains about four yards. Second and 6 from Toronto's 45.

- Brannagan is hurried and his pass over the middle is nowhere close to anyone. Third down, and Queen's will punt.

- Scratch that, they tried a really long field goal. Village sends it low and wide. It's caught in the end zone and Toronto gets the ball on their 20. No single on the play.

- Toronto runs for a gain of five. Second and 5.

- Hamilton is still in there, and he's no Stinson when it comes to scrambling. He's flushed and hit by Carter for a loss of two.

- Sorry, some technical difficulties conked me out for a minute. Toronto punted, and Queen's ran a couple plays. 1 and 10 on the Toronto 35.

- A nice sideline pass to Morrison for another first down. 1 and 10 on Toronto's 18.

- Incomplete pass Brannagan. 2 and 10.

- Brannagan drops back to pass, no one's open and he's flushed, but he scrambles to the sidelines and dives in for a TD with an 18-yard run. Apparently, Stinson's not the only QB who can run the ball. Village hits the EP, so it's Gaels 21, Blues 7. 9:13 left in the half.

- Village launches a kickoff, and it's returned to the Blues 22. 1 and 10 Toronto.

- Hamilton's still under centre, with Stinson acting as a wide receiver. Hamilton's pass is incomplete, but the Gaels jumped offside. 1 and 5 Blues on their own 27.

- Short pass to Johnson for 8 and a first down.

- Incomplete pass from Hamilton. 2 and 10.

- Hamilton is flattened by Stephen Laporte, a rarely-used linebacker, but he completes a pss up the middle as he's being hit. 3rd and 2 or so.

- Stinson runs up the gut, gets the first down but flags on the play. The penalties are against Queen's for illegal substitution. 1 and 10 Toronto on their own 54.

- Hamilton's out now and Stinson's throwing, but his first pass is knocked down. 2 and 10.

- Poor snap to Stinson, but he reels it in. He's forced to scramble and gets a pass off, but it's incomplete. 3 and 10.

- Stinson looks like he's going to fake a punt, runs up close to the line of scrimmage and then punts anyway. The ball doesn't get too far (21 yards), and the Gals get the ball on their 36.

- Giffin runs up the gut for about 4 yards. 2nd and 6.

- Brannagan is forced to scramble and is sacked for a loss of one or two yards by Toronto's Adam Fehler.

- Village booms a punt to Toronto's 25. It's returned to Toronto's 36, but there are flags on the play and it's coming back. 1 and 10 Toronto on their own 19.

- Hamilton completes a sideline pass to Johnson for a first down. 1 and 10 Toronto on their 30.

- Zak Kolkowski runs up the middle for five, where he's stopped by Ukwuoma (who the PA guy calls O-see Osicwoma).

- Short pass gives Toronto a first down on their 43.

- Sterling rampages through the middle and sacks Hamilton for a loss of 10. 2 and 20 Toronto on their own 33.

- Puffer breaks through and drills Hamilton, who still gets the pass off, but it falls harmlessly to the turf. 3rd and 20 Toronto, and Stinson's in to punt.

- Stinson punts it out of bounds at the Queen's 50. It only goes 27 yards. Don't they have anyone who can kick it a bit farther? Queen's is getting great field position off of these short punts.

- Queen's picks up a first down on a ten-yard run.

- Giffin runs for seven. 2 and 3 Queen's on Toronto's 43.

- Giffin plows up the middle, breaks a tackle, turns outside and gets down to the 1 before he's hauled down. First and goal Queen's.

- Giffin goes straight up the gut for the TD.

- Village adds the EP, and it's now Queen's 28, Toronto 7. 1:35 left in the half.

- Village boots it into the end zone, Morris has to go back for it, runs around a bit and gets it out to the four. Toronto now has awful field position.

- Hamilton bombs one to Kennedy, who looks like he made the catch, but must not have come down with it. Nice play by Jimmy Therrien to break it up.

- Another pass to Kennedy that would have been a first down, but he drops it after a crushing hit from Allin. Incomplete, third down and 10 in the Blues' end zone. Stinson runs around with it to kill the clock, then concedes the safety. Queen's 30, Toronto 7. 1:05 left in the half.

- Queen's takes the ball on their own 35.

- 15-yard sideline pass from Brannagan to Morrison for 20 yards. 1 and 10 Queen's at midfield.

- Giffin up the gut, hit by three tacklers, gains about two yards. 2 and 8 from the Toronto 53.

- Sideline bomb to a wide-open Scott Valberg, who runs it in for the touchdown. Valberg showed great speed there to beat his man. I think that might be his first catch of the day.

- Village kicks the convert, and it's Queen's 37, Toronto 7. 37.8 seconds to go until the half.

- Village squibs the kick and it only goes 15 yards to the Toronto 50, where Scott Smith falls on it. 1 and 10 Toronto.

- Sideline pass to Kennedy, who breaks a tackle and picks up 9. 2 and 1 Blues on Queen's 51.

- Hamilton to Johnson, who steps out of bounds for another 8 or so. 1 and 10 Toronto on the Gaels' 42. A Queen's player is down: it's defensive tackle Kyle MacDonald. The defence is getting banged up pretty well here.

- Queen's jumps offside. 1st down and 5 Toronto on Queen's 37 with 22 seconds left in the half. Not a great time to take a penalty, but the game is well in hand.

- Looks like the Gaels' defence jumped again. Offside is called. 1st down Blues on the Queen's 32, and they still have 21.3 seconds. They might be able to get something here.

- Hamilton's rushed but completes a short pass to Kolkowski for three. 2 and 7.

- Hamilton tries a bomb to Johnson, but Sultana makes a good play to break it up.

- Nice call by the Blues to go for it all with 12 seconds left: a field goal isn't much help here. Kennedy almost reels a pass in, but Allin makes a nice hit, and he drops the ball. Queen's takes it, and Brannagan kneels twice, sending us into the half. Queen's 37, Toronto 7. We'll have some stats up before the second half gets going.


- One of the Toronto mascots (or fans, or something, but he's certainly dressed up in a furry suit) is carrying around a sign with "Golden" spelled out in the Queen's font to cheers from the Blues' fans.

- Halftime contest here in the stadium: name the Blues' player who recently was named the CIS offensive player of the week. Options are Greg DeLaval, David Hamilton and Peyton Manning.

- If you answered C to that, you're clearly not much of a sports fan. If you answered A, you're not much of a CIS fan (DeLaval's the Blues' head coach). The answer, of course, is Hamilton, who earned that honour after throwing for over 400 yards against York.

- A few key stats: Queen's is winning this game on the ground. Giffin has 189 yards and two TDs on 13 carries, and the team as a whole has 232 rushing yards to Toronto's 40. The passing stats are pretty similar: 117 net yards for Queen's, 91 for Toronto. Brannagan is 5 for 9 passing for 135 yards and 1 TD. The only two Gaels who have caught passes are Morrison (4) and Valberg (1).

Third quarter:

(note: I may not get every play described here, as I'm also working on my recap for Out of Left Field.)

- Queen's starts with the ball. Brannagan throws to Morrison for a first down, and then Giffin rumbles 15 yards up the gut for another one.

- Giffin runs up the gut again for 9.

- Trevor Potts carries up the middle for 2 and the first down. 1 and 10 Queen's on Toronto's 38.

- Giffin runs for about five, but it's coming back for holding. 1 and 20 Queen's on the Toronto 48.

- Brannagan bombs it over the middle to a wide-open Devan Sheahan, who should have had an easy TD but dropped the ball. 2 and 20.

- Brannagan fires another long one sideline to Morrison, who lays out to make a great diving catch. 1 and 10 Queen's on the 12.

- Brannagan hits Giffin with a short swing pass and he dives into the corner of the end zone, knocking off the pylon and getting the TD. Village adds the Ep. Queen's 44, Toronto 7, and this game is rapidly deteriorating into a farce. It was very close at the start, and you have to wonder what would have happened if that opening Toronto touchdown hadn't been called back. A little confidence might have done wonders for the Blues, who have proven that they're a pretty decent team, despite the score.

- Village kicks off and it's returned to Toronto's 22.

- Stinson takes the handoff, but is hit for a loss of five. 2 and 15.

- Hamilton throws sideline to Stinson, who's knocked out of bounds by Sultana with a big hit. 3 and 8 Toronto, and they decide to punt. Stinson punts it out of bounds at Toronto's 42. The Blues seem really scared of Queen's returners: they've barely kicked to them all day. Well, special teams are where a lack of depth often hurts you.

- Brannagan fires a short pass to Morrison, but they only get two yards.

- Brannagan is rushed and overthrows an open Valberg, but there's a flag on the play. It's a face mask against the Blues, giving Queen's a first down on Toronto's 25-yard line.

- Brannagan is flushed and his pass for Morrison is behind him. 2 and 10.

- Brannagan throws an eight-yard pass to Scott Stinson, who makes a nice dive to get the first down. That's his first catch of the day. 1 and 10 Queen's on the 14.

- Brannagan finds Valberg open over the middle with a short pass, and he runs in for the touchdown. Village hits the EP, and it's 51-7. This is getting lopsided, and there's still 8:20 left in the third quarter.

- I'm going to go to less detailed play summaries here, given the score. I'll have summaries of drives and important or interesting plays from here on in still, though.

- Queen's stops Toronto cold, forcing a punt, and gets the ball back on the U of T 50.

- Jimmy Therrien carries for 6, then Brannagan hits Potts for a big gain, but flags on the play. Queen's gets the first, but they're back to the U of T 42 with the penalties.

- Brannagan gets picked off by Toronto's Brandon Miller, normally a wide receiver but playing defence at the moment. Toronto gets the ball on Queen's 48, but they're held by the Gaels and forced to punt. No yards called on Toronto on the punt, giving Queen's the ball on their own 35.

- Brannagan gets sacked by Fehler. 3rd and 25 Queen's on their own 18: they'll be forced to punt. Toronto starts on the Queen's 45 after a good return.

- A pass to Johnson gets the Blues a first down after a chain measurement. 1 and 10 Toronto on Queen's 35.

- Short pass to Kennedy, but Daprato stops him for only a gain of 2. 2 and 8 Toronto.

- Hamilton is flushed from the pocket by Chris Smith, but he fakes Smith out, rolls right and finds Johnson open in the end zone for a touchdown. Lomasney hits the extra point and it's 51-14 Queen's. End of the third quarter.

Fourth quarter:

- Toronto gets the ball back off a turnover. On second down, Hamilton throws deep and can't complete a pass to Jeff LaForge, forcing a punt.

- They punt to the sidelines again, but Allin catches it in bounds and returns it about 38 yards. 1 and 10 Queen's at midfield.

- Brannagan hits Sheahan for a first down at the Toronto 39.

- Backup QB Jansen Shrubb is in for Queen's, and he hits Chris Ioannides for a 22-yard gain. First and goal.

- Marty Gordon rumbles to the 2. Second and goal.

- Shrubb fumbles the snap, and Toronto's Wilkerson DeSouza recovers. First down Blues, on their own 2.

- Hamilton throws at Kennedy, Allin breaks it up. Toronto's flagged for holding and the penalty's declined.

- We've got third quarter stats now, and Giffin's over 200 yards. He's credited with 215 yards on 16 carries through three quarters, which breaks his rushing record [see this post for explanation] of 214 yards (against Guelph).

- Allin comes up with a big punt return, and then Shrubb finds Ioannides for the TD. Village hits the EP and it's 58-14, Queen's. 8 minutes left.

- Blues drive to midfield off a pass from Hamilton to Kennedy.

- Hamilton is called for intentional grounding, killing the drive. 3rd and about 25 yards, so Toronto punts.

- Shrubb throws deep to Sheahan, who catches it but then fumbles. Morris recovers, and it's Toronto ball on their own three.

- Both teams exchange possession a couple times, but it doesn't amount to much. Sheahan drops another end-zone pass, though. Less than a minute left. Shrubb kneels to give Toronto the ball back in their own end, with only 25 seconds left.

- And that's all she wrote. Final score, Queen's 58, Toronto 14. I'll have more later this evening, both here and at Out of Left Field

Friday, September 19, 2008

The GBU: Queen's hockey vs. RMC

Breaking down the men's hockey team's shootout win over the Royal Military College Paladins in Friday night's Lou Jeffries memorial exhibition game... (abbreviated because I have to get up rather bloody early tomorrow today to journey to the Centre of the Universe and cover the football game against U of T, which will be live-blogged here as mentioned previously)...

The score: Queen's 3, RMC 3 (Queen's wins 3-2 in a shootout)

How I saw it: In person, which meant a bus trip out to Gananoque with the team and sitting around the arena for a couple hours beforehand. It was a great game, though, and worth the time invested.

The Good:

-Queen's physical play: You could tell right from the start that the Gaels weren't taking this one lightly, appropriate considering that it was against hated rivals RMC. Defencemen Francis Horvath and Marcus Halcro in particular established a physical presence from the opening puck drop with some big hits.

-Pat Doyle: The firebrand we knew and loved from last year is back, but with an expanded offensive role and greater discipline. A frequent criticism of Doyle last year was that he'd sometimes lose his cool and take bad penalties. In this game, he brought his usual physical edge and intimidated the hell out of plenty of cadets, but chipped in offensively with a huge late goal to tie the game with only one minute left and avoided taking bad penalties. He could be a key component for this year's Gaels.

-Blake Pronk: Pronk was effective all game, but his biggest contribution came in the shootout, where he beat RMC goaltender Matt Beirnes five-hole on the final shot to seal the Gaels' victory.

-Scott Kenway: I interviewed Kenway earlier this summer ["New recruits present new hope", myself, Queen's Journal], as head coach Brett Gibson selected him as one of his top recruits. He lived up to the hype against RMC, performing well all game and scoring Queen's first goal.

-Mike Bushby's diving slide: Bushby made a key defensive play in the third, diving across Queen's goal crease to block a shot that beat netminder Brady Morrison. Without that stop, this doesn't go to overtime.

-Alyn McCauley: The former NHL player looked right at home on the Queen's bench as an assistant coach, and both Doyle and Gibson said he's been a great addition to the team. He has a lot of experience and ideas to offer, and I think he'll be a good fit.

-Flashback Friday: The Gaels took to the ice in their white and red uniforms with the old Golden Gaels logo because the new ones just came in and weren't ready for game wear. However unintentional this was, it seemed like a decent way to let people who still have a connection to the "Golden" to see it again. I'm sure the new uniforms will be great, but retro uniforms have worked for the Blue Jays and Argos among others. An occasional return to the past might alleviate some of the concerns and anger about the name switch.

The Bad:

-Some of Brady Morrison's play: Morrison, who the Gaels will need to step up in net this year to make up for Ryan Gibb's absence, actually had a pretty decent game overall. However, there were two bad moments that saw him wind up here. His puck-handling was strong all game, except for one example where he fired the puck right at a RMC forward and almost gave up a goal. He also got beat short side from a bad angle on one goal, which really shouldn't happen. His other stellar saves redeemed his night's performance, but those two plays had to go here.

-Paul Bradley: Bradley was a force all game for RMC, and scored the crucial third goal that made it look like they might win.

The Ugly:

-The mispronunciation : If you believe the pre-game introductions, Queen's has a new Director of Athletics and Recreation. The announcer unintentionally introduced Leslie Dal Cin as Leslie Dal Chin, and didn't give her position either, preferring to talk about the local MP. Not the most professional job.

-The brawl: There were several scrums all night, with the most significant coming right at the end of the overtime period when several players got into a fight. I'm all for fighting in hockey, but given the overly severe penalties it usually results in at the CIS level, it's probably not worth the risk. A brawl right before the shootout is an especially bad idea: what if your best shooters get kicked out of the game? Perhaps not the best discipline.

The Reaction:

Brett Gibson, head coach:

-On the rivalry with RMC and how it made this more than your standard exhibition game:
"I said before the game I'd play them in a street hockey game and expect to win."

-On what still needs work: "A lot of things. The three mistakes we made led to goals."

-On his recruiting class: "My first-year players are very, very skilled players. It's my first year in my time at Queen's that I can say that."

-On the increased expectations last year's division title brings:
"We've got a target on our backs."

-On what McCauley brings to the program:
"It's the credentials. Al's known as a very, very intellectual guy. He thinks the game at a level most people don't and passes that on to the players."

Alyn McCauley, assistant coach:

-On the level of play in CIS hockey:

"I've been very impressed with the skill level and the speed. I've been pleasantly surprised: it's a very high level of hockey and I was unaware of that."

-On if it was tough to go from the NHL level to the CIS level:

"It hasn't been as big of an adjustment as I would have thought. I was just unaware of what level these guys were going to be at. ... If you'd asked me after my first practice, I would have said yes. If you'd asked me after my second practice, I would have said no. ... Of course, there's still going to be a learning curve and a comfort curve as the season goes on."

-On what it's like to be behind the bench, and back in the world of hockey:
"I'm [standing] a little bit farther back than I used to be [as a player], but I'm in my comfort zone just being there."

-On if he enjoyed being back in Gananoque:
"Very much so. Tonight, I had my family and friends, my son and daughter and my wife in the stands, along with all of my Gananoque connections."

Blake Pronk, forward:

-On the importance of the win:
"The first game, to come back from behind when half the team's new, that's important. ... It was a good way to start the season."

-On how the late equalizer wasn't unexpected:
"We were pressing the whole period."

-On Gibson's instructions before he took the crucial shot in the shootout:
"I went on the ice, and Gibby said, 'Be a hero, Pronk'." [Ed note: If coaching's that easy, I want to get into it! Apparently, Gibson knows who can be heroes, though.]

Pat Doyle:

-On how it was nice to get an early win over RMC:
"We don't play them until Christmas, so it was nice to send a message."

-On how the game changed in the third:
"In the third, we had a couple of power plays and got the momentum back."

-On what was going through his head when he scored the tying goal on a 20-foot wrist shot with exactly one minute left:
"David Chubb made a great pass, and that's what I dream about, having the puck on my stick in the slot."

-On Morrison:
"Morrison is one of the best goalies in the OUA. We lost the best goalie in the OUA in Ryan Gibb, and Brady will step up to fill his spot."

Campus Corner: Preview of Queen's-U of T football game

Today’s football game between the 3-0 Gaels and the 2-1* University of Toronto Varsity Blues, which will be live-blogged right here (kickoff at 1 p.m.), should be an interesting clash. It’s a great matchup for Toronto, as the vast majority expects them to be beaten to an unrecognizable pulp, so the weight of expectations on the Blues is reduced to a single feather.

*It still feels weird writing Varsity Blues with a number other than zero in front.

For Queen’s, the situation’s approaching Kobayashi Maru-like levels of difficulty, as there’s almost no way this game can improve their standings. Everyone expects a big win, so even a superlative performance will be shrugged off with a “aw, it was against Toronto.” A closer game would lead to intense questioning, while a loss would lead to calls for heads, perhaps displayed John the Baptist-style on a platter. Very little good can come from this game, and there’s the potential for a lot of negatives to arise.
Looking on the bright side of life, as we should always do, this still should be a relatively easy victory for the Gaels. U of T has improved drastically from last year, but so has Queen’s, and the Gaels were a far better team in the first place.

Moreover, the Gaels have depth on their side. U of T has a few stars like quarterback David Hamilton and wide receiver/running back/everything else Mark Stinson, but they’re relatively young and have a lot of players without a ton of CIS experience. If Queen’s shuts down their marquee players, it’s tough to imagine where the offence will come from.

On the other hand, Queen’s has a tremendous variety of star players in the likes of quarterback Dan Brannagan (second in the country with 1163 passing yards), running back Mike Giffin (leading CIS players with 472 rushing yards), wide receiver Scott Valberg (who has 405 receiving yards, second in the CIS), defensive tackle Dee Sterling (top of the league with five solo and one assisted sack) and halfback/punt returner Jimmy Allin (leading CIS players with 327 punt return yards, and he also has two interceptions).

What may be more significant, though, is the calibre of the rest of the team. If the offensive line decides to double-team Sterling, that opens up holes for the likes of Osie Ukwuoma and Kyle MacDonald. Valberg is nicely supported in the receiving corps by the likes of Scott Stinson and Chris Ioannides, while Giffin can be spelled off by the also-effective Marty Gordon. If Toronto decides to keep their punts away from Allin, backup returner Jimmy Therrien has picked up a measly 119 yards so far, second amongst OUA players and fifth-best in the country.

The danger for Queen’s is if their players start looking past this one to next weekend’s Homecoming game against Western. That probably would be pretty easy to do, given Toronto’s past performance and the magnitude of next week’s clash, and it could be dangerous. The Blues have shown plenty of talent so far, so if the Gaels’ minds start to wander, there’s the chance of a comeback and perhaps even an upset.

I spoke with head coach Pat Sheahan about that very possibility at the team’s media session on Thursday afternoon. His quotes on focus, and a few other matters of interest, are below.

On the Varsity Blues:

“Toronto’s a better football team than they have been in the last couple of years. ... Their quarterback looks like he’s playing the best football of his career.”

“Their depth could be an issue. ... They have their strengths. If they can get the ball to their key contributors, they’re going to have a good day.”

“They do some things on offence that make you have to conjure up some good answers.”

On if Toronto can make the playoffs this year
(an unthinkable question last year): “They’re in the hunt.”

On what he told the team this week in practice: “The challenge [to them] was to stay focused.”

On how the team will be looking to build confidence
with a strong performance against Toronto:

“That 10-letter word, confidence, is everything in football.”

On how one of their goals will be to reduce the number of turnovers they committed last week:
“We have to eliminate turnovers moving forward.”

On the play of the receiving corps so far:

“We have had a few drops, but on a positive note, the guys are getting open.”

On Queen’s defensive line:

“We also thought [at the start of the season] that our defensive line could be a dominant unit in the league, and they’re really stepping up and showing their mettle.”

On what happens if the Toronto offensive line double-teams Sterling:

“If you have a plan for one, you create some space for the others.”

On avoiding injuries:
“We can’t afford to lose too many of our key contributors.”

On the loss ["Goodbye, Moose," myself, Queen’s Journal] of legendary coach Hal “Moose” McCarney Tuesday night:
“He’s done more living in his 81 years than people have in centuries. ... One of his laments was that he was really upset about aging. His body had failed him but his mind was brilliant. I couldn’t imagine him living hooked up to machines or incapacitated in any way. ...I talked to his son this morning and his instructions were to give Toronto what for in his [McCarney’s] name.”

On the plans to honour McCarney next week:
“We certainly are planning a tribute for the Homecoming game where we will have a lot of our supporters.”

On how the loss of McCarney came in the same week
as that of former CFL star Ron Lancaster, who passed away early Thursday:
“Those are two names that are synonymous with Canadian football. They will be missed. ... It has not been a good week.”

On Lancaster:

“Anyone who’s a CFL fan knows not only the history of Ron Lancaster but the relevance. He was a football icon in this country.”

On Toronto director of football Bob Howes, a former Queen’s coach:
“To go in there and be able to impart his knowledge and philosophy on some of their guys has been extremely valuable. ... He’s done a great job there.”

On pulling receiver Rob Bagg last season before he could break the Queen’s and CIS single-game receiving record, which he later told Tyler King(for a Journal piece, shockingly enough: this was before he unleashed the full venom of his hatred for our media outlet) was because he didn’t want to see the record tainted. Here’s the original quote: “I felt that, with all due respect to Robert [Bagg], that for him to set a record against a team that is winless would have been tainted,”
And his quote Thursday:
“That’s what I said at the time because I didn’t know how many yards he had, to be honest.”
Sheahan said he’d consider leaving starters in to break records this time around, as long as it wasn’t too late in the game and the score wasn’t too lopsided.
“There’s breaking records and then there’s maintaining professional decorum and sportsmanship. ... I don’t think Rob’s losing any sleep over not getting another 15 yards.”