Sunday, October 19, 2008

The GBU: Queen's football versus Waterloo

Yes, more happened in sports yesterday than just the continued resurrection of the Boston Red Sox [Marcel Mutoni, Deadspin]. For example, there's the Gaels' football win [Neate Sager, Out of Left Field] over the Waterloo Warriors [this blog], which gave them a perfect regular-season record of 8-0...

The score: Queen's 38, Waterloo 22 (CIS box score is here)

How I saw heard it: On the CFRC radio broadcast.

The Good:

-Danny Brannagan: Our Queen's Journal Athlete of the Week from last week turned in another solid performance, completing 23 of his 39 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns without being picked off. The early injury to Mike Giffin (see below, also here) meant that the Gaels had to take to the air more frequently than normal. As Neate noted, that's a season-high in pass attempts for Brannagan. He was up to the challenge, though. The zero picks is particularly impressive given his number of attempts (although it sounded like he threw a couple of almost-interceptions early on): that's good game management from Brannagan (although it might not help him on DJ Gallo's Gunslinger Index. Brannagan continued his march into the record books, tying Tommy Denison's mark of 24 touchdown passes in one year (set in 2003, but no one else has ever come close to it: Denison's 22-TD 2002 season is the next closest mark, and the third-best until now was Brannagan's 15-TD 2007 campaign). Brannagan overtook Denison's school-record career yardage numbers (7,592 passing yards) last week, but further extended his lead to 8, 133 yards. However, he also has 931 career attempts to Denison's 823. Brannagan finishes second among CIS quarterbacks this season with 2407 passing yards (well short of Denison's record of 3,001, but behind only Western's Michael Faulds this year). He averaged an excellent 9.44 yards per attempt (16.7 yards per completion) over the season as well. Brannagan distributed the ball well Saturday: five different receivers had at least three catches, and only Scott Valberg had over four. That segues nicely into our next item...

-Scott Valberg: Valberg had yet another tremendous game, reeling in 9 catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns. His longest gain was only 22 yards, so most of those were for 15 yards or more. Valberg finishes1 the year with 1,013 receiving yards, the third-highest mark in Queen's history (behind only Jock Climie's 1,091 in 1988 and James Maclean's 1,031 in 2001: he passed Maclean's 993 from 1999 and Craig Spear's 1,000 from 2003 in this game). However, Valberg's average of 22.5 yards per catch, while not good enough to crack Queen's top-ten all-time, is miles better than the averages Climie and Maclean put up in those years: Maclean had 52 catches in 2001 for an average of 19.8 yards per catch, while Climie had 58 catches in that 1998 season, giving him a still-amazing average of 18.8 yards per catch). Valberg only caught 45 passes this year, showing the depth of Queen's receiving corps. He finishes as the CIS leader in receiving yards (almost 150 ahead of the second-place finisher, Joshua Svec of Waterloo, who only picked up 37 yards Saturday), average receiving yards per game (126.63, ten ahead of McGill's Charles-Antoine Sinotte, and receiving touchdowns (11, five ahead of the three receivers tied for second).

-Osie Ukwuoma: Ukwuoma had another outstanding game at defensive end for Queen's, finishing with two sacks, four solo tackles and one assisted tackle. He finishes as the CIS leader in sacks with 9.5: teammate Dee Sterling is tied for second with 7.5. A hell of a season for both of them.

-Marty Gordon: Just two days after I interviewed him, Gordon stepped up for the Gaels in a big way, rushing 10 times for 103 yards. His most impressive carry was a 51-yard touchdown run. That, combined with Jimmy Therrien's 74 yards on six carries, showed that the Gaels didn't miss Giffin too much in this one. It's good to see some depth at running back.

-Jimmy Therrien: In addition to his rushing prowess, Therrien had a great day on special teams, returning two kickoffs for 117 yards and seven punts for another 68 yards.

-The offence: With the 38 points they put up Saturday, Queen's offence finshed with the most points in one season in school history [Mike Grobe, Queen's Athletics] with 374 points, eclipsing the previous record of 361 set in 2003. The Gaels averaged 47 points per game.

The Bad:
-The penalties: Queen's committed nine penalties for a loss of 100 yards, while the Warriors only took seven penalties for a loss of 70 yards. It didn't make a difference here, but discipline may be more important in the playoffs.

-The slow start: Waterloo scored first, which has been extremely rare for the Gaels this season. They seemed to have trouble adapting to the loss of Giffin at first, and the first few drives ended in failure. Eventually, they solved the problem, but it took a little while to get going.

The Ugly:
-Giffin's injury: Yes, his removal was apparently precautionary, but having your star get hurt on the game's first play from scrimmage is never a good thing, and reports of him limping around and wearing ice packs don't make it sound any better. He's supposed to be checked out by team doctors this week, so we'll see how that goes. Fortunately, the Gaels have a bye this coming week, so that will give him a while to recover.

The Implications and Predictions:
Queen's locked up the OUA first seed last week, but this week saw the rest of the playoff picture get filled in. Next week will see games between #3 Laurier and #6 McMaster, as well as #4 Ottawa and #5 Guelph. That should be a pair of interesting contests. Neate has some more on the second match in his nine-story weekend breakdown at The CIS Blog. The predictions in this corner are for Laurier and Guelph victories: Laurier's been coming on strong for the last while, while Ottawa's just imploding at the moment. Queen's gets the lowest-remaining seed, so that would see a Queen's-Guelph rematch at Richardson Stadium in two weeks.

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