Saturday, September 13, 2008

The GBU: Queen's football vs. Laurier

Breaking down Queen's win over Laurier this afternoon (which you may have missed while pondering that the U of T Varsity Blues are now 2-1 [Varsity Blues Sports Information]...)

The score: 41-7, Queen's.

The recap: Here [My recap, Out of Left Field].

How I saw it: In person.

The Good:

- Dee Sterling: Defensive tackle Sterling had a monster game for the Gaels, recording five solo sacks (a Queen's record) and adding a shared sack with Osie Ukwuoma. He also led Queen's with six solo tackles, four assisted tackles and six tackles for a loss (which added to a total loss of 37 yards). As a result, Sterling was named the Boston Pizza Player of the Game.*

*I don't normally use corporate names for awards, but I make an exception in this case because I worked at Boston Pizza for two years (as a delivery driver) and loved it. Very, very good pizza. Also, they gave plenty of pizza to the press box at halftime, which was awesome.

- Queen's defensive line as a whole: Sterling had the best game, but defensive ends Ukwuoma and Neil Puffer also turned in tremendous performances, as did defensive tackle Kyle MacDonald. Together, they accounted for eight of Queen's nine quarterback sacks and held Laurier to just two yards rushing on 17 attempts (a 0.1 yards-per-carry average).

- Scott Valberg: Valberg had a career-high 193 yards on six catches, and also picked up two touchdowns. His longest play came off a 64-yard catch, and he was impressive all day.

- Mike Giffin: It wasn't a dominating performance from Giffin, but he rushed 25 times for a net gain of 115 yards, which is still a decent average of 4.6 yards-per-carry. He also picked up his 13th-straight game with over 100 rushing yards.

- The linebacking corps: T.J. Leeper (who went down with an injury partway through), Thaine Carter and Chris Smith all played vital roles today as well in pressuring Laurier quarterbacks Ian Noble and Luke Thompson and stopping Laurier running back Ryan Lynch, who ran for over 1,000 yards last year. They played a big part in holding Laurier to 123 net yards of offence and just six first downs.

The Bad:

- First-half Dan Brannagan: Brannagan doesn't fully deserve to be in this column, as he was only two yards away from a career-high passing yards mark, which he would have gotten if he hadn't been rested by head coach Pat Sheahan with five minutes to go. Still, he threw four interceptions on the day, including three in the first half. In the first half, he completed 14 of 25 passes for 234 yards, but had no touchdowns and the three picks. In the second, he was much better, and he finished the day 22 for 38 for 438 yards, with three touchdowns as well as the four picks. He also ran for 62 net yards over the course of the game, and delivered one very impressive 48-yard rush to set up the Gaels' first touchdown.

- The crowd: The official attendance was 4,127, which is good but not great for an opponent of this calibre (for comparison, last year's crowd at the Laurier game was 5,582). Part of the problem is some of the alumni stands are still roped off for repairs. On the bright side, there were about 250 students there, and few if any left at halftime, unlike the first week's game. I'd love to see more students come out to watch these games, but at least we got some committed fans this time around.

The Ugly:

- Laurier's rushing game: How is it possible to gain two net yards rushing on 17attempts over the course of a game, especially when you have a 1,000-yard rusher in your backfield? I'm thinking running back Ryan Lynch may either be injured or have lost a step, as so far this season he's picked up 50, 56 and 31 net rushing yards. The other explanation is a weaker offensive line, and they were certainly getting pushed around by Queen's four-man front.

- Revisionist history: Laurier's press package included some interesting stuff, such as "The Hawks have only played Queen's once in the past three years defeating them 45-0 in week one of the 2005 season." Well, if they want to forget last year's 23-4 shellacking [Mike Woods, Queen's Journal] that ruined the Gaels' undefeated season, that's fine with me. However, the package also included this doozy: "Last week Laurier defeated Western in front of 6,432 fans at University Stadium". Um, Western won that game 31-20 [Andy Watson,

(As an aside, this is not meant as an indictment of Laurier's communications manager, Ari Grossman (who I met today, by the way): the overall package was extremely helpful and included a lot of good information, and he's been doing a lot of good work on their website, including today's recap (which did use "Queen's Gales", though). I know sports information types have to do these packages and recaps quickly, and mistakes are inevitably made: I make them too, both here and in the Journal. The problem is that those mistakes can get picked up as gospel truth by people who don't know better, and that leads to a whole wave of inaccurate reporting, which is never good.)

Post-game reaction:

Queen's quarterback Dan Brannagan:

- On the importance of the win: "It was big for momentum."

- When I asked about the first-half offensive struggles: "We're still moving the ball in the first half, we're just not putting the points on the board." [Ed: A fair comment, by the way].

- On getting pulled before he could break his passing-yards record: "Records are a great thing, but wins are bigger." [Ed: He didn't seem too upset about it, and it makes some sense: he'd probably want to remember a record-breaking game without four interceptions. There's still a good chance he passes that 440 mark this year.]

Queen's head coach Pat Sheahan:

- On the interceptions: "I don't know how much longer I'm going to last in this business with games like this." [Ed: he jokingly mimed a heart attack while he said this].

- On if they can keep up the intensity for Toronto, given the Blues' poor history over the last several years: "The only history that matters is what they did last week."

- On if the team will get overconfident against the Blues: "They got a victory today. Everyone's happy about that, everyone understands that there's still more work to do."

Laurier head coach Gary Jeffries:

- On his team's play: "I think that our defence played an outstanding game today, regardless of the points on the board. [Ed: Also a valid point. See my argument about time of possession on Out of Left Field.]

- On the Hawks' offensive struggles: "We had no offence today whatsoever."

- On the Gaels' play: "Full credit to Queen's defence, they were outstanding."

- On his offensive line: "Our kids up front just got flat-out beaten."

- On his team's two losses in a row, the first time that's ever happened in his six years running the program (according to Laurier's press kit): "It's new ground for us. ... We're going to see the kind of character we're made of."

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff.

    Laurier would have had consecutive losses when Jeffries was interim coach in 2002, but that year shouldn't count (there was a staff strike that meant the Hawks had no full-time coaches or training staff, Ryan Pyear went down early in the season, and it was an all-around rough year).

    And yes, Boston Pizza makes a quality pizza, but you gotta be living in a gater community to actually be able to afford ordering it!