Saturday, October 18, 2008

Campus Corner: Football moves to 8-0

It wasn't in spectacular style, but the Gaels got it done Saturday afternoon, winning 38-22 over the Waterloo Warriors to complete their perfect regular season. Questions remain, though, especially around the absence of star running back Mike Giffin, who was removed from the game after the first play. According to the CFRC radio broadcast, Queen's Athletics has announced that Giffin's removal was merely precautionary and not a sign of a serious injury: he did seem to be in some pretty severe discomfort though from the radio call, and he was being worked on by the training staff and had an ice pack on. It sounds like he'll be back for the playoff match in two weeks, but you can bet what most of the talk in those weeks is going to centre around.

As before, Queen's proved that they can succeed without Giffin. It's a very pass-happy offence without him in the backfield, though, and it may be more of a struggle to pull that off against a better team than the 2-6 Warriors. A large part of the Gaels' success this year has come from the balance they've struck between the run and the pass. As I've mentioned before, Marty Gordon and Jimmy Therrien are quite capable as replacements, but they aren't Giffin and teams aren't going to focus on defending the run as much if he's not the featured back. I'm sure there are masses of Gaels fans hoping the Giffinator is back at 100 per cent form in two weeks.

The box score isn't posted yet, so I can't make too many detailed observations, but from the radio broadcast, it certainly sounded like Devan Sheahan was continuing his recent tradition of strong play. As I remarked after the Toronto game, Sheahan's always shown a tremendous amount of promise with his route-running abilities and solid speed. Recently, he's started making more catches, which is terrific to see. This year's receiving corps isn't perhaps as star-studded as the days of Brad Smith and Rob Bagg (although Scott Valberg isn't far behind those two), but it has more depth than ever thanks to guys like Sheahan and Blaise Morrison. Almost every receiver's had a 100-yard game, and many of them have reached that lofty plateau on more than one occasion. That makes it tough for defences to focus on who to cover, and it opens up plenty of passing opportunities for Brannagan, which will be even more important if the run game isn't going.

This game was one of Queen's slower starts this year, though, which is at least partly due to Giffin's absence. A couple of early turnovers might have spelled trouble against a better team. The Gaels eventually adjusted and figured out how to move the ball without Giffin's running, but it took a while. They'll need to get off to a better start when they come up against stronger teams: give Western or Laurier that kind of foothold, and they'll take full advantage.

In a strange way, this might actually be good for Queen's to face some adversity in the final game. Most of their games so far this year haven't been too close, with the notable exception of the Western game until midway through the third quarter (and that one turned into a 46-13 blowout). No one expected Waterloo to put up a fight, and they did, at least for the first part of the game. That should give the Gaels a bit of a reality check heading into the playoffs, and perhaps keep them hungry and grounded. They're not invincible: perhaps this game will remind them of that.

I'll have a GBU post later once the stats are put up.

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