Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Benoit Groulx is an absolute magician

(Apologies to Sean Keeley for the blatant title theft...)

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Saturday's Vanier Cup game was the play of Laval quarterback Benoit Groulx. I came in expecting him to be good, but not great. Yes, he put up some tremendous passing numbers, especially in completions, but that's in a conference where Matt Connell can become the all-time leading passer in CIS history. Laval's West Coast-style offence, filled with quick, short passes, also certainly played a part. It's also difficult to compare players across different conferences solely on a stats basis when they play different opposition and in different offensive systems, and I didn't get to see Laval this year, so it was tough to learn much about how they played.

I wasn't even entirely convinced that Groulx had a big advantage over Western quarterback Michael Faulds (who I still think is rather underrated; he led the league in passing yards with impressive rate stats as well but couldn't crack the All-Canadian lineup, falling behind Groulx and Dan Brannagan). Thus, I figured Groulx was good, but I wasn't sure if he could live up to his Hec Creighton selection.

He proved me wrong, though. Yes, the system helps, and the outstanding array of receivers helps, but Groulx is an incredible quarterback. He's got a hell of an arm, too; the key evidence for that was the 40-yardish bullet pass he threw that hit Julian Feoli-Gudino right on the hands in full stride and resulted in an 82-yard touchdown, the second-longest in Vanier history. For my live-blog description of the play, go here and scroll down to 2:33 left in the second quarter. That's one of the best throws I have ever seen at any level of football; he threw it with the cannon arm of a Michael Bishop, but the placement of a Tom Brady, and his receiver didn't have to adjust at all to make the catch.

Even more impresive than the long throw was Groulx's decision-making. I don't think I noticed a bad read on his part all day. He hung on to the ball instead of throwing it into a situation where it was likely to get picked, which is why he took four sacks, but I'd much rather see that than interceptions, and Laval was usually able to make up the lost ground on the next down. He also spread the ball out; receivers Feoli-Gudino and Mathieu Bouvette both finished with over 100 yards (on only four and two catches respectively), while Mathieu Picard picked up 72 yards and five other players caught passes. Groulx and Laval's play-calling staff did a great job of alternating between all kinds of routes; there were screen passes to running back Sebastien Levesque, crossing routes over the middle and deep runs down the sideline, so Western never knew what was coming.

Groulx's final numbers (17 for 27, 383 yards and two TDs) are impressive, but nowhere near as high as they could be. In the third quarter, Laval went away from the pass and started running on almost every play, perhaps to try and keep the score respectable. Most of those passing numbers are thus from the first half. If they had kept airing it out, they likely would have broken several more records, and Groulx's magical abilities would have been even more evident. He's fourth-year, so there's a good chance he'll be back with the Rouge et Or next season. The rest of Canada should watch out.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Grey Cup numbers not so gloomy

Two stories on the Globe and Mail's website only hours apart give rather different takes on this year's Grey Cup viewership. The headline for the story from The Canadian Press is "Cup audience increases five per cent", while the headline for William Houston's column is "Small audience tunes in to Grey Cup Game" (game really shouldn't be capitalized, but so be it). The ledes are also rather different, as shown below:

CP: "An average of 3.65 million people tuned in to watch the first-ever Grey Cup broadcast on TSN and RDS on Sunday, according to numbers released by the network. The total audience for Calgary's win over Montreal in the 96th Grey Cup represented a five per cent increase over the viewership for last year's game, which Saskatchewan won over Winnipeg. That game was aired on CBC."

Houston: "TSN's first Grey Cup telecast drew one of the lowest television audiences in the history of the CFL championship game. The 2.439 million people who watched the Calgary Stampeders' win over the Montreal Alouettes is the Cup's second-worst TV audience since 1989. It was down 27 per cent from the CBC's 3.337 million a year ago for Winnipeg Blue Bombers-Saskatchewan Roughriders. The only audience worse was the CBC's 1.628 million for a Blue Bomber rout of the Edmonton Eskimos in 1990."

Why the discrepancy? Houston is only looking at the TSN numbers here. Later on in the column, he mentions the 1.215 million who watched on RDS, and as he begrudgingly admits, "Taken together, the TSN-RDS audience, the total Canadian viewership, was 3.615 million, slightly more than the combined CBC-RDS audience of 3.539 million in 2007. Last year, RDS drew only 200,000 for Bombers-Roughriders."

I don't see how Houston can argue that the RDS results shouldn't be included and that this was one of the worst-watched games in history. With Montreal involved, there were obviously a large amount of people who would watch the RDS feed. RDS is under the same CTVglobemedia corporate umbrella as TSN, they use the same (ESPN-style) interface for their SportsCentre shows, and they're pretty much just French-language TSN. The CFL deal is with TSN and RDS, so good ratings on RDS help quite a lot. CFL commissioner Mark Cohon and TSN president Phil King both talked about the two as a single entity for purposes of audience ratings in the CP story, and both were quite positive. As King told Houston, "It doesn't really matter from TSN's point of view what the mix is." Houston doesn't seem to agree, but I don't get his arguement: do the RDS viewers not count just because they happen to speak French?

Houston's arguments as to why TSN got lower numbers mostly fall flat. Part of his rationale is the same over-the-air versus cable drum he's been beating for a while now (see this doom-and-gloom column on the playoff matches), which doesn't make a lot of sense any more. Yes, the CBC theoretically has a distribution of 12 million to TSN's 9 million. However, most of the people who still don't have TSN are hardly ardent sports fans or ardent CFL fans, especially considering that TSN was airing every CFL game this year. My own family back in B.C., usually well behind the trend in television, made the jump to TSN this year largely based on their CFL coverage, and I'd venture that most CFL fans did the same. TSN is in most basic cable packages, and there are not all that many people who still rely on over-the-air TV; I'd guess that a large part of that seemingly-imposing 3 million gap is households who rarely watch TV and probably wouldn't be tuning in regardless.

I also don't buy his argument that the playoff hit was due to those games being on Saturday instead of Sunday. There are a lot of people in this country, especially younger demographics, who are fans of both the CFL and the NFL, and those numbers are likely increasing with the Bills-Toronto situation. It doesn't seem logical to suggest that a CFL game would automatically do better if you put it head-to-head with the full slate of Sunday afternoon NFL telecasts. There's much less competition Saturday, with the CFL only really up against Canadian and American college football (both of which draw considerably less viewers than the NFL).

Moreover, obviously there are going to be less English-language viewers for a Montreal-Calgary game than a Saskatchewan-Winnipeg game. Whatever the Grey Cup matchup, you'll always get a good deal of your audience from both local markets (and their provinces), with a smaller portion being the diehard fans like myself who will watch the game regardless of who's in it. All that's really happened here is that one of the local markets is French-speaking instead of English-speaking, so they tuned in to the RDS feed instead of the TSN one. TSN is not a weaker channel; in fact, on the sports landscape, it's much more impressive than CBC at the moment (although CBC SportsPlus might change that around eventually).

Overall, I'd argue that these ratings are good news for both the league and TSN/RDS. It doesn't matter how many watched the game in English and how many watched it in French. This certainly isn't the "second-worst TV audience since 1989", and there are plenty of francophone viewers who will back me on that one. Houston should broaden his horizons; it's the game that matters, not the language.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Grey Cup preview

My Grey Cup preview is up over at Out of Left Field. It should be a great game. I'll hopefully have some post-game thoughts up there as well later on.

Was Montreal pushed?

Ben Knight has dug up a really interesting press release from the Montreal Impact on Montreal dropping its MLS bid, which I covered over at Out of Left Field a couple of days ago. Here's the release:


Following MLS Commissioner Don Garber's statements regarding Montreal's bid, the Montreal partnership group would like to bring one important rectification:

Montreal did not withdrew its bid from Major League Soccer but was informed that the league did not retain its bid. Out of respect for the Grey Cup festivities, the partnership group will not make any additional statements over the weekend. However, the President of the Montreal Impact [and] Saputo Stadium, Mr. Joey Saputo, who is spearheading Montreal's MLS bid, will meet the media: Monday, November 24, 2008, 10:30 am, Saputo Stadium, 4750 Sherbrooke Street, Montreal."

That's fascinating. According to this release, it wasn't that Montreal backed out; MLS decided not to consider their application. It's hard to imagine why at first, especially considering that most observers thought Montreal had the strongest bid of any city and was pretty much a lock. However, there could be concerns with the financial health of George Gillett's sporting empire, especially considering Liverpool's troubles [Ian Herbert and Andrew Warshaw, The Independent]. Joey Saputo, the owner of the Impact and Gillett's partner in the MLS bid, has also brought up the notion of staying in the USL, so perhaps Garber was concerned about Montreal's commitment to MLS.

We have conflicting statements, though. From the AP story with Garber's comments:

"Garber said that Montreal's delegation — led by Joey Saputo and George Gillett, who owns Liverpool FC in England's Premier League and the NHL's Montreal Canadiens — had informed him within the past week of possible trouble.

'Montreal has had to evaluate what kinds of private capital they needed to refinance their stadium to fund the expansion fee, and what kind of public support would be available,' Garber said. 'I'm not sure they were able to come to terms in this economic environment.'"

Garber doesn't directly say that Montreal withdrew their bid on their own, but that's certainly the logical inference, and it's the one the unnamed AP writer drew; his lede reads "Montreal withdrew its bid for a Major League Soccer expansion team, commissioner Don Garber said Friday in his state-of-the-league address."

Garber and Saputo (or whoever wrote the Impact's press release) could both telling the truth, though. Garber never said that Montreal abandoned their bid, even though he implied it. It's possible Saputo and Gillett wanted to keep the bid alive despite financial trouble, but Garber canned it after seeing the numbers.

Still, kicking Montreal of the bid process seems rather unusual, especially given the strength of their bid. Even if the league had already decided to go with a different franchises, retaining Montreal as an option would force the other markets to up the ante of their bids in an attempt to compete. If the press release is accurate, this decision doesn't seem to make business sense for MLS on the surface; less markets under consideration means less competition for the limited expansion slots, and more complaining about and reluctance to pay the sky-high expansion fees sure to be required. You have to wonder if there's more going on here. Monday's press conference will surely be fascinating.

(Cross-posted to Out of Left Field.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

And the Canucks may be screwed...

I figured that 12-6-2 start was too good to be true. According to Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun, Roberto Luongo has left the Canucks-Penguins game with "what appears to be a serious left groin injury." As Neate wrote, "I never saw an entire team get helped off the ice before!" Sean Zandberg doesn't think it's too bad, though, because of the on-air reports. The Canucks can go a few games without Luongo, but he really is what makes this team anything more than mediocre. If he's gone for a long period, they may have trouble even making the playoffs. We'll have to wait and see.

Vanier Cup live blog coming up

A quick note that I'll be live-blogging today's Vanier Cup game between Laval and Western over at The CIS Blog; I'll also have a preview of the game up there shortly once I get to the stadium. For those interested in the other kind of football (European, not American), check out my post on Montreal pulling out of the MLS expansion race and what this could mean for Vancouver, which is up at Out of Left Field.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Is Deadspin next on the Gawker chopping block?

To many sports fans in this Internet era, Deadspin is the great example of what blogs can do. Their staff of talented writers and editors, including Will Leitch, A.J. Daulerio and Drew Magary consistently churn out interesting takes on the sports news of the day while providing far more wit than you'll find in any newspaper sports section. Granted, the style isn't for the easily-offended (Buzz Bissinger, that means you), but there are plenty of us out there who enjoy reading Deadspin daily. Sadly, our days of enjoyment may be numbered.

When I first read Gawker Media (parent company of Deadspin> overlord Nick Denton's November 12 post on the upcoming apocalypse facing Internet media outlets, I thought it was an interesting take on how the current economic recession might affect Internet advertising. He figures that Internet companies should prepare for a 40 per cent decline in advertising revenue. From my contacts in the print world, I know that plenty of newspapers are getting killed by the current economic climate, as it's much easier to cut advertising expenditures than start cutting jobs. It's only logical to think that the same trend would hit Internet media to some extent; it may not be as severe as Denton predicts, but there certainly is a downturn coming.

Denton's solution is quick, massive expensive reductions along a six-point plan, which includes getting out of problematic categories, consolidating titles and renegotiating vendor contracts. The consolidation paragraph is particularly interesting. Here's what he writes:

"Time-pressed media buyers are drawn to scale. Most websites are still way too small to register with the audience-tracking services that agencies rely upon. Of 18 titles launched at Gawker Media, we've already spun off or shuttered six. Even now, 91% of advertising revenues come from the top six remaining titles. Every media group has a similarly lopsided distribution. It's time to choose which properties make it aboard the lifeboat. The era of the sprawling network—established franchises mixed in with experimental sites—is over."

On the same day, Denton backed up his words, closing down [Caroline McCarthy, Cnet.com] tech industry gossip site Valleywag and rolling editor Owen Thomas into a job writing columns for the main Gawker site. Thus, Gawker Media is now down to 11 titles, and Denton says six provide 91 per cent of the revenue. The Globe and Mail's Mathew Ingram concludes that means the other titles are at risk.

Now, as to how this relates to Deadspin. At first, I was sure it would be one of the top six titles. It's sports, right, and surely there must be a massive audience for sports? Moreover, Deadspin is clearly one of the leaders in the field (along with Sports By Brooks, The Big Lead, FanHouse and Yahoo! Sports Blogs). However, if you go from an audience standpoint, Deadspin is surprisingly far down the chain, according to the title-by-title numbers Gawker provides. Here's the list. All descriptions are summaries of Gawker's information about each site: I don't read most of these regularly, so they might not be exactly true to what each site is like.

Gizmodo (gadgets, gizmos, electronics): 6.1 million unique visitors monthly.
Lifehacker (gadgets applied to life): 4.3 million unique visitors monthly.
Kotaku (video gaming): 3.1 million unique visitors monthly.
Jalopnik (cars): 2.4 million unique visitors monthly.
Gawker (media and culture gossip): 2.2 million unique visitors monthly.
The Consumerist (modern consumerism): 2 million unique visitors monthly.
Defamer (celebrity news): 1.3 million unique visitors monthly
io9 (sci-fi): 1.2 million unique visitors monthly.
Jezebel (feminist takes on celebrity/fashion): 1.3 million unique visitors monthly.
io9 (sci-fi): 1.2 million unique visitors monthly.
Deadspin (sports): 765,000 unique visitors monthly.
Valleywag (tech industry, now no more): 621,000 unique visitors monthly.
Fleshbot (porn news): stats aren't listed on this page.

By those numbers, Deadspin is near the bottom of the pile, not the top. This seems somewhat unusual, especially considering the new hires they've made recently (although Dashiell Bennett came in from Fleshbot). However, it might explain Daulerio's negativity in this post.

Deadspin does have some points in its favour, though. For one, it's easy to explain to advertisers what it's about (sports) and what demographic it's hitting (sports fans); some of the other sites have a more mixed readership. It's also picked up ads from several major companies and publications, including The New York Times Magazine and any number of beer and alcohol companies, which probably won't be advertising on other Gawker titles. Sports fans are a conventional demographic target, and one that should be reasonably easy to sell to. According to the Gawker stats for Deadspin, 81 per cent of readers are 18-34 and 91 per cent of those are male. I'm sure there are companies that will want to reach the 765,000 or so sports fans who read Deadspin a month. The question is the cost/profit ratio.

I'm a pure outsider, so I don't have any information on if Deadspin is profitable or not, but the page views would seem to indicate that it's not in that top-six title list (unless the demographic concerns raised earlier mean that it gets a disproportionate share of advertising). Thus, if we assume that it's not in that list, it's in the group of other titles that makes nine per cent of Gawker Media's profit, and thus is probably seen as expendable (or certainly more expendable than the core titles).

Now, this may not lead to Deadspin getting shut down. More likely, what we'll see is more and bigger ads and a smaller roster of writers. The possibility of the site being sold to someone else is not out of the question, though, especially if you take Denton's comments about cost-cutting and spinning off sites at face valley. Valleywag, which was drawing similar numbers to Deadspin, is already gone. However, part of its demise may have been attributable to the overlap it had with Gawker's other tech and gossip sites. Deadspin is much more isolated, so it wouldn't be easy to roll it in to anything else.

On the selling question: there likely would be interested suitors, especially from larger and more traditional sports media outlets like CBS, Fox or ESPN. The question for them would be if there would be a way to retain Deadspin's audience under a traditional media umbrella, as much of the site relies on humour that wouldn't fly at most media outlets (see Magary's weekly "Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo" for an example). If the site goes to a different corporate overlord, it might just lose what made it special.

Will Deadspin survive the current round of cuts? My guess is it will endure in some form. Whether that's in the present state, at a reduced level under the Gawker umbrella or with another company is yet to be determined.

Comments, questions or responses? Leave them here or send them to me at andrew_bucholtz [at] hotmail.com

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cuban the latest owner to get into SEC trouble

Things aren't going so well for Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks. First, it's reported that he's out of the running [Matt Snyder, FanHouse] to buy the Chicago Cubs [Al Yellon, Bleed Cubbie Blue], and now it comes out that the SEC has filed charges of insider trading against him [former Journal editor-in-chief Matt Hartley, The Globe and Mail]. As Hartley details, the crucial charge relates to a massive stock sale in Internet search engine company Mamma.com (now Copernic Inc.):

"The SEC alleged in [a] document that Mr. Cuban sold 600,000 shares of Mamma.com Inc. - now known as Copernic Inc. - after learning from executives that the Internet search engine company planned to make a public stock offering.

The documents allege Mr. Cuban, a shareholder in the Canadian company at the time, was invited to participate in the offering provided he kept the information confidential.

The complaint, filed by the U.S. regulator in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, states that “within hours” of receiving the information, Mr. Cuban called his broker and instructed him to sell all of his shares of the company."

That's very serious stuff. Cuban apparently plans to contest the charges, as he details on his blog, and it's important to keep in mind that nothing has been proven yet. It will be interesting to see what he uses in his defence, though. My guess would be that he'd either argue that it wasn't made clear that the information was not public at the time of the sale or that the sale was planned as a result of other, publicly available information. Insider trading cases are massively difficult, because timing, motivation and the question of what's "public" information can all be involved. However, formal SEC charges suggest that they have a fair bit of evidence to support their case. I'll be watching this one with interest.

Another element of interest is that this isn't the first time Cuban has been linked to controversial trading decisions. Bill Mann and Tim Hanson of the popular investing site The Motley Fool wrote an article back in July about a curious article on ShareSleuth, an investigative financial blog he runs. Sharesleuth editor Chris Carey wrote a piece back in March linking China Fire and Security to some notorious characters and questioning the company's management practices. In accordance with Sharesleuth policies, Carey disclosed at the time that Cuban had taken a short position in the company (for non-investment types, basically selling shares he didn't own on a gamble that the stock would drop). This paid off big-time, as the stock dropped 65 per cent after publication. What's interesting, though, is that Cuban covered the deal less than four months later, suggesting that these weren't ongoing problems. The stock has since rebounded, making Cuban's moves look mighty smart but also opportunistic. I have no knowledge of this situation beyond what the Motley Fool guys reported and what Wired picked up a little later, but, seen in juxtaposition with these latest charges, it's certainly interesting.

An unfortunate outcome of this is it probably will drive a stake through the heart of Cuban's dying bid to buy the Cubs. I generally like Cuban; he's a progressive, free-thinking owner of an extremely rare type, and I love that he maintains a blog to interact with fans. He'd bring fresh ideas and a great perspective to baseball, which could certainly use it. You can bet that this provides a great excuse for the the moribund traditionalists to keep him out of their club, though. If Cuban is found guilty, he shouldn't be an owner of any pro sports team in my mind, but that's only if he's eventually found guilty. If he is found guilty and leaves the Mavericks, the world of sport will certainly miss him.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this case is how common it's becoming in the world of pro sports, though. I believe Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is still fighting it out with the SEC over this March complaint and litigation [SEC releases here and here], which cited "chronic fraudulent conduct". Melnyk's company, Biovail, settled for $10 million, but the information I found suggests that Melnyk and other company officers still face individual charges [SEC]. Anaheim Ducks owner Henry Samueli was also charged by the SEC back in May (SEC release here), admitted his guilt in June [E. Scott Reckard and Christopher Goffard, Los Angeles Times and was promptly suspended by the NHL [CBC.ca] and then had his plea deal rejected [Reckard, LA Times] in September. It's not unique to North American sports, either: consider all the problems exiled ex-Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had before he sold Manchester City. As the prices of franchises shoot up and up, wealth becomes more of a consideration and character less important, but it's terrible publicity for a league to have owners involved in something like this. Cuban isn't the first owner to get in trouble with the SEC, and I'm quite sure he won't be the last.

Real life Slap Shot: Gilmour comes to run the Fronts

According to TSN.ca, Doug Gilmour will be officially announced as the new head coach of the Kingston Frontenacs today. At first, that seems like a decent idea; just about anyone behind the bench would probably be an improvement over Larry Mavety, and the team has some talented players, so a coaching change might make a difference there. Gilmour's status as a local hockey legend also adds to the respect he'll get from the players. He has some coaching and player development experience as well, working as an advisor to the Leafs for two seasons and serving as a Marlies' assistant coach this year. His experience won't necessarily make him a great coach, but it certainly can't hurt.

More revealing, though, is Gilmour's recent cameo [Miss 604] in the soon-to-be-released Slap Shot 3: The Junior League, a straight-to-DVD movie. Perhaps he enjoyed seeing a gong show of a junior franchise on film and decided he'd go for the full experience? If so, he's certainly come to the right town: the Frontenacs are currently a bigger joke than anything in the movie will likely be. I usually avoid talking or writing about them due to this, but I still follow the team; it's gotten to the point where you don't even really need to read the stories any more though, as the losses have started to blur into each other.

I can see Gilmour as a good potential coach, but this is still probably a PR move from the organization's standpoint. The Frontenacs are sinking fast, and their tradition of mediocrity is no longer acceptable in town, especially considering the vast amounts of public money that went into building them a shiny new arena downtown. The team's personnel decisions and marketing efforts have been questioned at council meetings, and they're fast turning into solely a punchline. The vast numbers of fans disguised as empty seats at the K-Rock Centre is probably more worrying to owner Doug Springer than the team's 5-13-4-1 record (last in the OHL's East Division) and one regulation win in their past ten days. Bringing in Gilmour will reinvigorate local interest in and talk about the team, which was fast losing its relevance. However, the question remains as to how Gilmour will do in his first head coaching job, and more importantly, how much authority he'll be given.

It's been speculated for a while that Mavety wants to get out from behind the bench. As such, it's notable that all the information on this so far refers only to Gilmour as taking the head coach role. That would suggest that Mavety will stay on as general manager, and also that this plan may even have been his idea. Suddenly, he has a Kingston hero to deflect the ever-intensifying criticism. For an example of this, see Patrick Kennedy's piece in today's Kingston Whig-Standard which starts this way:

"The mystery and misery that is the 2008-09 Kingston Frontenacs continues to baffle and burn the diminishing base of faithful fans.

What in heaven's name is wrong with this outfit?

How can a team which offered so much promise at the end of last year, open this season - and if they don't wise up, said season could soon be closed - with just five wins in its first 23 games?

How can the Limestone lads be dead-last in the 20-team Ontario Hockey League?

In no particular order, folks wonder: What's wrong with the players? What's wrong with the coaching? What's wrong with the ownership?

What's wrong? In a word, plenty. The frightful Fronts secured their hold on the OHL basement last night with a 3-1 road loss to the Oshawa Generals, Kingston's ninth defeat in its past 10 outings."

That's pretty strong stuff, especially coming from a writer and media outlet that some, notably Tyler King, have repeatedly raked over the coals for being too positive towards the Frontenacs. Personally, I think the Whig's done a good job of telling what's going on without putting opinion into their news: their readers are intelligent enough to know how bad things are. Kennedy's piece today shows just how high the frustrations are getting, though, and that says a lot about the timing of this move.

Suddenly, Springer and Mavety, who have borne the brunt of the criticism thus far, have a convenient local hero to answer the questions and stand in the way of the flack. You can bet Gilmour will get more respect than either of them from the fans and the media, and deservedly so. The question is if he'll actually be given the authority to try and change the culture of defeat in the franchise. If so, then this could be a great decision and the start of a return to glory for the Frontenacs. However, if Mavety and Springer will be pulling Gilmour's strings from upstairs and watching his every move, then this will be a mere PR move that ultimately fails. Time will tell.

Duane has more at Out of Left Field, and I'm sure Neate will weigh in later. I'll update as info comes in.

Update, 2:59 P.M.: Neate has a great take on this, including the superb lines, "The only way to feel good about it is if Gilmour is trying out the coaching side before he buys the team lock, stock and barrel. Otherwise, this is intended to keep the diehards from organizing a Bring Your Own Pitchfork night at the K-Rock Centre."


- Neate's latest takedown on the team. [Out of Left Field]
- James Mirtle has a good take on how this won't be easy for Gilmour [From the Rink]
- Mirtle and PPP weigh in with some more links and thoughts [Pension Plan Puppets]
- "If nothing else, give Doug Gilmour credit" [Toronto Sports Media]
- "Gilmour takes over Frontenacs" [Terry Doyle, Loosepucks.com]
- "Doug Gilmour leaves Maple Leafs organization, set to coach Kingston" [Derek Harmsworth, Bleacher Report]
- Nathan Fournier weighs in [The World of Junior Hockey]

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Kill McGill live blog

The fourth-oldest hockey rivalry in Canada is featured prominently tonight, with Queen's taking on the McGill Redmen. Things just got underway here in Kingston at the Memorial Centre, and the game's already heated: a Queen's forward collided with McGill's starting goalie, Jake Jarvis, and one of their defencemen early on and the whole tangle slid into the boards, sparking a bit of a dustup. Jarvis hobbled off afterwards favouring his arm and was replaced by rookie Danny Mireault.

(Correction: LeagueStats indicates that it was Hubert Morin who was the original goalie, not Jarvis).

First period

14:00: We're six minutes into the first period now and it's been pretty even so far. Plenty of checks and big hits, and some strong penalty killing from McGill. Queen's looked all right on the power-play chances they've had so far, but they couldn't produce a goal and we're back to five-on-five.

11:43: The Gaels are going on the power play again. Brandon Perry was taken down in the corner, and the Redmen pick up a hooking penalty.

10: McGill is again doing a nice job of penalty killing. The Gaels' shoot-ins are cleared almost immediately, and the Redmen even get a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush. It comes to naught thanks to a bad pass, though.

9:24: McGill gets a power play and they waste no time. Veteran defenceman Ken Morin drills home a slapshot from the point. 1-0 McGill.

8:16: Another after-the-whistle scrum breaks out in the McGill end, and Gaels' forward Brock Ouellet gets his helmet knocked off. He and McGill's Yan Turcotte are both sent to the sin bin.

CFL update: Calgary hung on to beat B.C. 22-18. I'll have a full post on that later tonight at Out of Left Field.

5: Not too much going on offensively for either side here, but still plenty of hits. Good atmosphere: there's around 100 McGill fans who made the trip down, and probably 200-300 from Queen's. All are quite into the game, which is good to see.

2: Another power play for Queen's thanks to a penalty to Turcotte, and they get some good chances. Defenceman Brendan Bureau blasts a slap shot from the faceoff circle, but Mireau makes a nice save. McGill kills the rest of the penalty off.

1: Queen's forward Jeffrey Johnstone picks up a penalty, and McGill is back on the power play. Queen's kills off the first part of it as the period comes to an end.

Second period:
19: Queen's kills off the rest of the penalty and we're back to five-on-five.

17: Morin turns it over in his own zone and Queen's gets a two-on-one, but they can't get a shot off.

16: Johnstone takes another penalty for slashing. McGill power play.

15: Queen's forward Brandon Perry steals the puck in McGill's end and walks in alone shorthanded, but his shot misses the top left corner by a good foot and sails wide.

14: Queen's kills off the rest of the penalty, but McGill gets another chance soon after when a Marc-Andre Daneau shot is deflected towards a scrum in front of the net. Gaels' goalie Brady Morrison makes a nice diving play to cover the loose puck.

This Don Campbell profile of Queen's assistant coach (and former NHL star) Alyn McCauley in the Ottawa Citizen is well worth a read. I spoke with McCauley briefly after a Queen's game earlier this year, and I was impressed; he's obviously got a lot of hockey knowledge, but my sense was that he can also communicate it, an important quality in any coach.

11: The Gaels get another two-on-one from Blake Pronk and David Chubb, but Mireault makes a good stop on Pronk to preserve his shutout.

9: Still plenty of physical play here. Queen's is getting chances off the rush, but not a lot of shots.

8: Good chance for McGill in close and Morrison has to make a sprawling stop.

7: McGill's Alexandre Picard-Hooper bangs a loose puck home. 2-0 McGill.

6: And McGill follows it up with another nice one. I believe it was forward Leonard Verrilli who drilled home a one-timer from the slot while being checked to the ice by a Queen's defenceman. Good goal for the Redmen, and it's now 3-0 McGill. The pro-Gaels crowd is noticeably quieter now; I wouldn't be surprised to see the building empty out a bit after this period.

Gaels update: Well, men's hockey might be losing, but the women's volleyball team pulled off a straight-sets win at home tonight against the Lakehead Thunderwolves.

NHL update: Canucks are leading the Leafs 4-0 at the end of the second period on Hockey Night in Canada. Good to see that at least one West Coast team had a good day. The Lions, not so much.

2: McGill's Serbian forward Marko Kovacevic gets a good chance in close, but Morrison makes a nice save to deny him.

1: McGill's Maxime Langelier-Parent takes a holding penalty with 13 seconds left to go; Queen's will be on the power play to start the third period.

That's the end of the second, and it doesn't loook too good for the Gaels. Attendance is announced at 920, which may be a little optimistic, but not by too much: more people have trickled in since I gave the initial figures earlier. That's a pretty decent turnout for an off-campus hockey game, especially given that the Leafs are playing right now and the CFL West final also ran into this time slot.

Hilarious intermission contest; obstacle-course racing, and the McGill guy wins. The Queen's student managed to miss six shots at an empty net from the top of the faceoff circle. Usually, there's a joke available about how the losing home team should sign one of these contestants, but not tonight.

Third period:

19: Queen's starts on the power play, but they aren't able to create much off it. McGill kills the rest of the penalty off without the Gaels really even getting a good chance.

18: Shot totals through two periods: McGill 23, Queen's 12.

17: It's not really that surprising that McGill's doing so well in this one. Yeah, they're 2-4-1 on the year, but they beat Queen's 4-1 just last week. Part of that record is a slow start for the Redmen; another part of it is the quality of their division. Their overtime loss is to the 10-1 UQTR Patriotes (on Nov. 5) and several other losses have been close ones against good teams like Carleton and Concordia. Meanwhile, Queen's is 5-5-2 and tied for the division lead, but that's with wins over some weaker opponents like Ryerson and UOIT.

15: McGill penalty to forward Andrew Wright. Queen's power play gets another chance: let's see what they do with it.

13: Queen's sets up well this time and passes the puck around, but the Gaels then succumb to Canuck-itis and fail to get many good shots off. McGill kills off the penalty.

12: Well, one good sign is that the arena's still largely full, contrary to my previous prediction. Nice to see some decent fan support; it's not all that common these days.

12: Picard-Hooper walks in alone on goal, but Morrison makes a nice save.

11: McGill eventually jams a puck by Morrison after a protracted scramble in front, but the goal's disallowed.

11: Special teams are not helping the Gaels this game. According to LeagueStats, they're 0-6 on the power play and 3-4 on the penalty kill.

9: Five-minute penalty and a game misconduct to Brock Ouellet, served by Jarrod Thomson (and no, not that J. Thomson. That probably kills Queen's chances of any comeback.

8: Johnstone takes another penalty, giving McGill over a minute of a 5-on-3 advantage.

6: Queen's defends well though, and kills off Johnstone's penalty. Morrison had to make a few good saves, but decent penalty killing this time around.

5: These guys really have to learn to stop taking bad penalties though. It probably didn't make a difference here, but it killed their comeback hopes, however faint they were. More discipline is needed.

5: McGill gets a good power-play chance when a Kovacevic shot is tipped in front by Sam Bloom, but Morrison makes a nice save.

4: NHL update: Now Vancouver 4, Toronto 1, but that should still be a safe lead. 4 minutes left in that one too.

3: McGill gets a great chance on a one-timer, but Guillame Doucet fires wide from the slot.

3: Starting to run out of power here, so I'll have to shut this down pretty quick. Should have some post-game thoughts and reaction up later tonight or early tomorrow though.

3: Another scrum after the whistle, and Langelier-Parent gets into a fight with Johnstone. More of a shoving match than anything, though. There's plenty of passion here for this rivalry, and the Queen's guys must be frustrated to lose to McGill yet again.

2: It's offsetting penalties, so no change there. Thought Queen's had the extra one for a moment.

1: McGill's fans are doing the classic "Na, Na, Hey, Goodbye" serenade, and we'll shut it down on that note. The game comes to an end. Final score, McGill 3, Queen's 0. Thanks for tuning in.

CFL playoff coverage

Just thought I'd mention that I'm doing CFL coverage today over at Out of Left Field. East final preview is here, West final preview here and a East final recap is here; I'll put a West final recap up there later tonight, hopefully between periods of the Queen's-McGill game (which will be live-blogged here, as previously mentioned).

Upcoming Kill McGill live blog...

A quick note that I'll be live-blogging tonight's men's hockey match between Queen's and the McGill Redmen, believed to be the fourth-oldest hockey rivalry in the world. The game starts at 7:30 p.m. It will also be broadcast on TV Cogeco and webcast at cfrc.ca. Check out Amrit's story in Friday's paper for a preview and a recap of last week's battle between the teams in Montreal, which McGill won 4-1. Queen's is already off to a better start this weekend with a 2-1 shootout win [Mike Grobe, gogaelsgo.com] against the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees last night; we'll see if they can keep it up tonight.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Campus Corner: Stinson joins hoops Gaels

I learned this morning that football tight end Scott Stinson (famed not only for his size and great receiving numbers, but also for being one of the few athletes to crack the front page of the Journal, even in less than ideal circumstances) has officially joined the men's basketball team. There had been some rumours floating around about this earlier, but it's confirmed now: he's on the official roster and may play as early as their weekend games against Brock and Guelph.

This might work out well for the team. One of the big problems so far has been their lack of depth in the frontcourt positions; in fact, as I pointed out in my story on last weekend's games, a lot of their success came when they went to a three-guard lineup. Especially with Jon Ogden not playing (he played in the pre-season, but isn't with the team at the moment), there aren't a lot of frontcourt options on this team, and Stinson's addition should significantly help with that.

These Gaels are renowned for their speed and their outside shooting, but their main presence down low at the moment is Mitch Leger, who's better as a power forward or a small forward than a centre. Rookie Bernard Burgessen and second-year centre Patrick Beswick have shown potential, and Rob Shaw brings veteran experience, but they can't play all the time, and Stinson should be able to eat some minutes. Moreover, he's got a ton of size; he's listed as 6'6'', 250 pounds in the football media guide, but personal observations (and that aforementioned OUA roster) suggest he's at least 6'7''. More impressive still is his weight; Burgessen and Beswick (the only other 6'7'' guys on the roster) are tall, but pretty stringy, and Shaw isn't much bulkier. With his size and athleticism, Stinson should be able to make an impact.

Another point of interest is that this isn't a new game for Stinson; the aforementioned football media guide notes that he was a member of the 2003 national bronze-medal basketball team at Humber College. He also played basketball, soccer, Ultimate and rugby at Chippewa High School in North Bay in addition to football, so he's obviously got a fair bit of all-around athleticism. It will be interesting to watch and see how he does, but the feeling from this end is that he might just be a big addition to this team. Good for him for taking a risk and trying this out; it would have been much easier to rest on the laurels he earned with the football team.

Neate has more at Out of Left Field, including a look at other crossover athletes in CIS history. Oddly enough, there have been several at Queen's in recent years: Billy Burke played football and hockey until this year, when he decided to focus more on hockey, and Teddi Firmi quit women's basketball to return to rugby this year.

Campus Corner: Basketball bonus coverage

We were pretty pressed for space in this week's Journal, so I had to cut this piece on the men's basketball team's opening weekend games down substantially for the paper. I figured I'd post it here in its entirety for anyone interested in more details on the team and their opening games. For more Gaels' hoops coverage, check out my profile of Mitch Leger in today's paper: I'll have another posts on the team up here shortly. Here's the full story:

Basketball opens with a bang
By Andrew Bucholtz
Sports Editor

The men’s basketball team’s started the season with a bang Friday. They earned a 72-67 victory against the Waterloo Warriors, a team that was 6-16 last season but had defeated the Gaels 92-62 in the preseason.

Point guard Baris Ondul poured in 19 points against Waterloo and added six assists and three rebounds.

Ondul said the team was out for revenge after their ignominious loss to the Warriors in the pre-season.
“We were motivated for redemption,” he said.

Ondul said the Gaels were spurred on by the large numbers of fans in attendance.
“I liked the turnout from the crowd,” he said. “That’s good; we’re hoping for that every single game from now on.”

Forward Mitch Leger scored a game-high 26 points Friday and added 10 rebounds.
Waterloo head coach Tom Kieswetter said the play of Leger, who missed the pre-season match thanks to injury, was the main disparity between the two games.

“Mitch didn’t play; that’s the denominator right there,” he said. “He was the difference tonight; we couldn’t get him stopped. He was hitting shots and played great, and that’s why they won.”

After the game, Leger said the Gaels were humiliated by their previous loss to Waterloo, which he missed thanks to an injury, and were looking to make sure it didn’t happen again.

“You lose by 30, it’s really embarrassing,” he said. “We knew they’d come in thinking they could beat us by 30 again, so we just played hard and grinded it out.”

Leger said he was pleased with the team’s defensive play, as they were able to hold Waterloo to 67 points.

“They had 67, last time they scored 92,” he said. “To hold a team like that under 70 is pretty good.”

Leger said there was still room for improvement, though.

“It’s just little letdowns,” he said. “The coach is always talking about dead plays, where we fall asleep. We’ve practiced for two months, we can’t really afford to do that any more, and we know better.”

Head coach Rob Smart said after the game the difference between the two clashes with Waterloo was the Gaels’ defensive intensity.

“We defended,” he said. “They can really score, but we defended and they’ve scored against everybody but Carleton and us tonight. Every other game they’ve played, they’ve scored a bunch.”

Smart said he was pleased with the team’s performance.

“I don’t think we could have played a whole bunch better tonight,” he said.

The Gaels finished strong, outscoring Waterloo 17-13 in the final quarter where they went to a three-guard lineup that featured their smaller players. Smart said 6’7’’ rookie Bernard Burgessen’s rebounding performance enabled him to go to a quicker lineup. Burgessen finished the night with six rebounds, behind only Leger for the team lead.

“Bernard rebounded so well he let us go small,” Smart said. “It’s nice to go small if you can get rebounds. On the defensive end, he was just a vacuum. He got every one, he went up the ladder and took it down.”

Smart said he wasn’t pleased with the team’s 67 per cent success rate on free-throw attempts, but he doesn’t see an easy cure.

“It’s one of those things that the more you talk about it the worse it gets, usually.”

Smart said he was pleased Queen’s was able to knock off the Warriors, who he said are much stronger than last year’s record shows.

“They’re a good team,” he said. “Of the teams I’ve seen in the country, I think they’re a top ten team. They’ve beaten a lot of teams.”

Smart said there’s still a lot of work to do, though.

“I always expect a whole bunch,” he said. “The win tonight isn’t very big if we lose tomorrow.”

Those words came true, and the Gaels suffered a 97-84 loss on Saturday to the lightly-regarded Laurier Golden Hawks, who were 8-14 last year. Leger, who again scored 26 points and added 10 rebounds, said the loss nullified the euphoria from the win over Waterloo.

“By the end of the weekend we felt pretty bad,” he said.

Leger said the defensive effort, which was a strength on Friday, was absent Saturday.

“The performance we had Saturday was just a complete defensive meltdown by the entire team, and I was one of the major problems with that too,” he said. “It was a lot of fundamental defensive breakdowns, things that we just kind of took for granted, defensive things we didn’t feel like doing hard in that game.”

Leger said the loss will fire the Gaels up for their upcoming road games against the Guelph Gryphons and the Brock Badgers, though.

“It’s pretty disappointing, but it gives us some motivation for practice this week and going into this weekend.”

Apologies for the absence

I've been away from this blog for a horribly long time, thanks to the crazy last couple of weeks, so sincere apologies to all of you who bother to read my blabberings. In addition to my usual writing and editing duties for the Journal, Out of Left Field and The CIS Blog [note: that one, a review of the CIS soccer championships, might actually be worth taking a look at], I've had to deal with four massive history papers and presentations in the last week (on such various topics as the actions of General Motors under the Nazi regime, the Byzantine Empire's relationship with Russia and the significance of the printing press to the German Reformation), so my brain has been pretty fried. Anyway, things should hopefully get back to a slightly more normal posting pace around here, and I'll do my best to keep up with it. Thanks for putting up with the absence!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The charge of the Golden brigade

There are some moments in sports that transcend the usual prose used to describe such encounters, when art, life and competition collide in a surreal mix. Saturday's football game between Queen's and the Ottawa Gee-Gees was one of those moments, at least from this perspective: I've been trying to find the proper way to give it justice for two days now. In the end, there was one poem that kept flashing through my mind high up in the chilly Richardson Stadium press box while watching the Gaels' dream season reduced to ruins on the gridiron below. I present it below, with annotated commentary on its relevance to this occasion.

[The full text of The Charge of the Light Brigade, by Lord Tennyson, can be found here...]

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Much like the famed Light Brigade, the Gaels perhaps came into this game without an idea of what they were truly up against. Yes, the coaches and players said all the right things beforehand ["Have the tables turned?", myself, Queen's Journal: the question mark I added into that title seems like a bloody good idea in retrospect, as today's game showed that the tables haven't changed too much since the 2006 loss]. Even in their guarded comments, though, the confidence came through, and they were right to be confident: they were an 8-0 team playing at home against a 4-4 team that barely stumbled into the playoffs. As I mentioned in my live blog of the game, though, "There are two kinds of 4-4 teams: the mediocre ones who gut out a few wins, and the brilliantly talented but inconsistent ones. Ottawa was always the latter."

That latter group of teams is scary, and it exists across all sports, but especially in football: the small sample size of the regular season and how each game can often turn on a play or two makes it so there isn't often that much difference between a perfect or near-perfect team and a team that just snuck into the playoffs. The ultimate case in point is last year's Super Bowl, where the 14-6 New York Giants knocked off the 18-0 New England Patriots, but there have been plenty of other examples. The 2006 Pittsburgh Steelers are another great case in point; they earned the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs with a 11-5 record, but went on to win Super Bowl XL in Detroit. The 12-7-1 Toronto Argonauts knocking off the 14-5 B.C. Lions in the 2004 Grey Cup also is a good example, as is 4-4 Western's run to the Yates Cup last year. There's a good reason why they made Any Given Sunday a football movie.

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Was there a man dismayed? There certainly didn't seem to be on the Queen's side. In my pregame interviews for the aforementioned preview piece, there was a huge atmosphere of confidence. No Giffin, no problem; Queen's hung a 38-16 pasting on Ottawa in Week Six with Giffin in a limited role, and that win was convincing enough for me to write a regrettable lede.

"Saturday’s football game was a tale of two programs. The 6-0 Gaels were off to their best start in ages and ranked second in the country, while the 3-3 Ottawa Gee-Gees were a former powerhouse in sharp decline. Queen’s helped Ottawa continue their slide from pre-season favourites to a team struggling to make the playoffs, beating the Gee-Gees 38-16."

That was probably justified at the time: Ottawa struggled for most of the season, and they never found consistency until this week. Still, I didn't think this one was going to be anywhere near as easy, especially given Ottawa's returnees from injury and Giffin's possible to probable absence. Even after the Waterloo game, all the talk was that he wasn't that badly hurt and would be back; glad I stayed skeptical there.

In any case, the Gaels weren't dismayed even without their star running back. Marty Gordon and Jimmy Therrien had proven to be capable backups before, even if they didn't pose the same kind of power running threat and force the defence to concentrate on the ground game. They were still an 8-0 team that had been lights-out dominant against most of the OUA (the Western game was a notable exception, but they still took that one by a large margin in the end). There was also every chance that the bad, inconsistent Ottawa would show up, and even a flawless Gee-Gees team would have had trouble competing with a top-notch showing from the Gaels. Maybe it looked too easy; hindsight is always 20-20, and this columnist was surely taken in to a degree as well. I didn't go to the lengths of Jan Murphy from the Whig, but I thought Queen's could win by seven even without Giffin. My confidence, and that of the team, proved sorely mistaken in the end. Like the Light Brigade, the Gaels rode into the valley of death with high hopes that didn't survive the clash of battle.

Someone had blundered. Now, we come to the nub of the problem: assigning responsibility. This is one area where my twin interests of history and sportswriting overlap: both professions are always looking for scapegoats. You can make a case for a variety of causes in this one, though. Neate theorized that a big part of it is the playoff structure and the uneven competition during the season*, but he also assigns some blame to the coaching staff and Queen's ineffectiveness on offence.

*I partly agree on this, but I don't take it to the same lengths. Yes, it's horrible having teams that are basically just a walkover on the schedule. Those games don't accomplish anything for either school, and if we can find a way to reduce them by either forcing every school that wants to play CIS football into a more substantial commitment or realigning/tiering the divisions, I'm all for it. That's going to be a tough sell at the CIS level, though, especially considering that the current model favours the participation of the many. I disagree that there's something inherently wrong with a league where a 4-4 team can win the Yates Cup, though, and I think the reason for that dissent is my sports background. As Neate wrote, his first love is baseball, which takes the sustained-excellence model further than pretty much any other sport these days due to the length of the regular season and the limited number of teams in the playoffs. I come from more of a soccer, hockey and football background, at least originally, and in all of those sports, it's more about getting hot at the right time. I live for the crazy upsets in the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League, the deep playoff runs of the likes of the 1982 and 1994 Vancouver Canucks and the Super Bowl trophy of the 2007-08 New York Giants. For me, it's the playoffs that matter, and I love to see the results no one predicted, which is why I'd probably be thrilled about Ottawa's win if I didn't go to Queen's.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Back to the scapegoats: I'm not so sure that we need to find too many in this case. Yes, there were plenty of bad plays, including a shocking number of drops by the receiving corps when they were open: if they're able to pull in a few of those, it might have been a different story. From my perspective, though, it just looked like the Gaels could never get everything to click at the same time. When Dan Brannagan was making lights-out throws, the receivers couldn't haul them in. Other times when they got open, Brannagan missed them with a pass. Yes, Dan Village missed two field goals, but he did a great job of punting all day for my money, and a more effective offence might have given him a shorter kick or scored touchdowns on its own. Yes, Giffin's absence hurt, but Gordon and Therrien filled in pretty well. They couldn't force Ottawa to play the run, and that hurt Queen's passing game, but they did their best and created a lot of yards on the ground. It's tough to do that when you haven't seen much of the ball for most of the season. Yes, losing middle linebacker Thaine Carter hurt the Gaels' defence, but as fellow linebacker T.J. Leeper pointed out afterwards, they seemed to rally around their fallen leader. The defence did an admirable job overall of containing an explosive group of Gee-Gees. At times, Queen's rode boldly and well; as the poem shows, though, no cavalry charge can succeed against massed artillery fire.

Probably eight times out of ten, the Gaels would have played well enough to win this one, but this was one of the outliers. Ottawa executed a perfect game, shutting down Queen's passing offence and pounding the ball with running back Dave Mason. Even after he went down, they stayed with the smash-mouth football and Kingston native Craig Bearss stuck it to his hometown. As mentioned above, Queen's defence did a decent job of containment that on most days would have been good enough, especially with their usual lights-out offence. This wasn't most days, though, and what should have been a glorious charge through the enemy lines turned into a nightmarish ride into the jaws of death.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

While all the world wondered. That summed up this one pretty well. All of a sudden, the mighty Golden machine ground to a halt against an underachieving bunch in garnet and grey. If you look at the previous history, though, it's easy to see the Gaels as the underdogs and Ottawa as the powerhouse army. Queen's hadn't beaten Ottawa in six years before this year's Thanksgiving game, and they'd lost to them in the semifinals two years ago. They'd also lost their first home playoff game in a long while last season against the Western Mustangs, another 4-4 team that underachieved during the regular season based on their talent but got rolling at the right time and went on to win the Yates Cup. Queen's was certainly still the favorite here, but perhaps shouldn't have been favoured by so much. Yet, they were, so all the world wondered when their season ended in tatters.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

Back from the mouth of hell. That could have described the understandably shell-shocked expressions on the players' faces after the game. They that had fought so well during the regular season had ran into far worse than they were expecting, and came up short in the end. Much like the British cavalry units involved in that disastrous charge, they found that past glories were worthless in the face of a new, more powerful foe.

All that was left of them: perhaps that's even more apt. Some will argue that it's just a game. Well, not at this level, and certainly not higher up. Anyone who's read or watched Friday Night Lights knows about the levels they go to in Texas over high school football. Here, the intensity isn't quite that bad, but there are still school reputations and potential CFL jobs on the line. Moreover, anyone who ever argues that university sports (or any reasonably high-level sport, for that matter) are just meaningless games obviously hasn't put in the time on the practice field. For months and years, these students devoted themselves to their university's football team, probably at the expense of grades and friendships, certainly at the expense of countless amounts of time. For some of the graduating ones, they'll never again don a helmet and pads. When you play any sport for a long period of time, your identity begins to get bound up in it: believe me, I know. When that all comes crashing down weeks before you thought it would, in the worst way possible, it's awfully tough for there to be much left. I've been through the soul-crushing defeats as an athlete, and it can just ruin your life for a while. The Queen's guys are all smart types, and I know there's more to their lives than football, but it's still certainly going to be an adjustment for them.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.

When can their glory fade? The traditional view of sports would argue that it should have already dissipated. In the end, there can only be one, and nothing short of the ultimate prize is worth celebration. I take exception to that, though. Yes, this is not what they hoped for and not what they could have acheived, but this team should be honoured and celebrated on its own merits. This is surely one of the best squads ever to don Queen's uniforms, even if they didn't claim the Vanier Cup. They were the only Gaels team to ever go 8-0, and only the eighth team ever to go undefeated in the regular season. They set a school record for offence with 374 points, averaging over 47 points per game and only allowing over 16 points twice. Giffin led the OUA in rushing yards and might still pick up Ontario's Hec Creighton nomination, while Brannagan threw for the third-most yards in the country, Osie Ukwuoma led the CIS in sacks (with Dee Sterling tied for third) and Scott Valberg led the country in receiving yards. Valberg also put up the third-best season in Queen's history in terms of receiving yards (but perhaps the best ever, considering that he averaged more yards per catch than either Jock Climie or James Maclean, the two legends in front of him). This team put on a show all year, and those of us who saw them play can proudly attest to that. They also revitalized the interest in university football in Kingston, among both students and local residents.

Let's not blot out the good with the bad; these Gaels should be feted for what they did accomplish, not raked over the coals for what they didn't. As my hero Grantland Rice once penned in Alumnus Football,

"For when the One Great Scorer comes
To write against your name,
He marks-not that you won or lost-
But how you played the game."

The Light Brigade didn't accomplish their goal, and their charge turned into a horrible defeat. Yet, you can make a strong case that it's not the defeat that was noteworthy: after all, those have happened since time began. What's always stood out to me about the poem is the triumph even in defeat.

"Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd."

That's a picture of a doomed but heroic force, and I think it's applicable to this year's Gaels football team. Yes, they lost in the end, but boldly they rode and well, back from the mouth of hell, and as Queen's students, fans and chroniclers, we still should honour them; they're our noble six hundred.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Live blog: The Battle of the 613

And we're up and rolling! Kickoff should be in just a moment. My previews of the game are here [Sporting Madness] and here [Queen's Journal]. Neate also has a good one here. The game is also on the radio at CFRC and is being webcast at SSN Canada. Post comments here or send them to me at andrew_bucholtz (at) hotmail.com.

First quarter:
-Dan Village kicks off for Queen's: Ottawa returns it to around their own 20.
- Dave Mason runs off the left tackle for about five yards.
- Josh Sacobie completes a short pass, but his receiver is stopped less than a yard short. Gee-Gees are going for it.
- Sacobie sneaks for the first down. 1 and 10 on the Ottawa 33.
- Mason carries off right tackle, picks up 5. 2 and 5 on the Ottawa 38.
- Mason carries for two, stopped by Mike Botting. 3 and 3 Ottawa: they decide to punt.
- Awful snap and the punt's almost blocked by Tim Poffley. Ottawa gets it off, though, but the ball only travels about 35 yards. Jimmy Allin pulls off a nice return and Ottawa's called for no-yards as well. 1 and 10 Queen's on the Ottawa 53.
- Short pass to inside receiver Scott Stinson is good for about 4 yards. 2 and 6.
- Brannagan's pass is right to Ottawa linebacker Joe Barnes, who really should have made that pick. He drops it, though, and Queen's punts.
- Village gets a great punt off, punning Ottawa deep: they take it out to about the 1315.
- Mason runs for a gain of about 2. Queen's linebacker Thaine Carter is hurt on the play: he's still down.
- 2nd and 8 Ottawa on their own 17. Carter's limping off with help from Botting. That's a big loss for Queen's if he doesn't come back: Carter's the defensive captain and the key linebacker in stopping the run.
- Queen's linemen Osie Ukwuoma and Dee Sterling break through, flushing Sacobie from the pocket. He has to throw it away and Ottawa will punt. The punt goes out of bounds at the Ottawa 43, giving the Gaels some great field position.
- Realized I forgot to put an official prediction up in my preview. I think it's going to be close, but I see Queen's winning by 7.
- A short Brannagan pass to (I think) Chris Ioannides winds up going for a first down with a great run after the catch.
- Marty Gordon runs for two: 2 and 8 Queen's on the Ottawa 33. Gordon will have to carry most of the running load today: it's been confirmed that Mike Giffin isn't going to play. Looks like my doom and gloom on that front was justified.
- Brannagan hits Scott Valberg with a great pass over the middle: he's brought down around the Ottawa 12. First down, Queen's.
- Gordon runs for five off-tackle. Second and five.
- Brannagan's pass for Devan Sheahan falls incomplete. 3 and 5 Queen's.
- Queen's fakes a field goal, with Allin taking off and running. He isn't getting anywhere though, so he throws an end-zone pass, but it's picked off by an Ottawa DB. Ottawa ball on their own 20.
- I like that call, even though it didn't work. Queen's has been very successful on the fake field goals this year, particularly with Allin running. I think he might have been able to get the five yards they needed if he'd kept going instead of dropping and trying a pass.
- Mason runs for four or five yards, stopped by T.J. Leeper. 2 and 5 Ottawa.
- Mason runs for a first down off the left side. 1 and 10 Ottawa on their own 40.
- Mason runs for two: second and 8.
- It's surprisingly warm and nice here, which is probably good for Queen's: they're playing more of a finesse game, while Ottawa's going for the old smash-mouth power running game.
- Sacobie throws deep, and it's almost picked. Both David Rooney and Allin has a chance at that one. Ottawa will punt.
- It's not a great punt, and it soars out of bounds. Looks like Ottawa's trying to keep the ball away from Allin on the returns. Queen's ball on their own 42.
- Jimmy Therrien runs off right tackle for QUeen's and picks up about 4. 2 and 6 Gaels.
- Brannagan throws a beauty of a sideline pass to Valberg, who picks up a first down and more. 1 and 10 Queen's on the Ottawa 52.
- Brannagan has all day in the pocket, and finds Devan Sheahan at about the 10-yard line with a sideline bomb. Sheahan sidesteps a tackle and jumps in for the TD. That was fantastic protection from the O-line. Brannagan had about seven seconds without a defender getting anywhere near him, allowing him to make that deep play. It was a hell of a throw, too: right into Sheahan's arms 40 yards down the field. Village hits the EP: Queen's 7, Ottawa 0.
- Village kicks off right to the end zone and Ottawa's Chayce Elliott misfields it. He runs back to get it and is hit in the end zone for a single. Queen's 8, Ottawa 0.
- Ottawa ball on their 35.
- Sacobie throws a 8-yard pass or so, and the receiver picks up the first down.
- 1 and 10 Ottawa on their own 45.
- Mason runs up the middle for about eight.
- Ottawa tries another run, but Ukwuoma comes over the top and makes a great stop. 3 and 1 Ottawa: they're going for it.
- Sacobie sneaks up the middle for the first down. End of the first quarter.
- That's cool: the Kingston high-school football all-stars are being honoured on the field, and Saskatchewan Roughrider and former Gael Rob Bagg is in attendance to shake hands with all of them. Bagg had a fantastic game this Thursday against the Argonauts. Good to see him doing so well and making the trip back to his school. He gets a big round of applause, as he should.

Second quarter:
- Sacobie drops and throws deep for Justin Wood-Roy, but Botting makes a great play to break it up. 2 and 10.
- Sacobie drops and has plenty of time this time: good protection from the O-line. He fires it deep to about the 15 and backup quarterback Brad Sinopoli makes a nice catch. It takes two tacklers to drag Sinopoli down, and he gets to the 1.
- Mason punches it in from the 1: TD Ottawa. They hit the extra point, so it's Queen's 8, Ottawa 7.
- Ottawa kicks off and Allin busts a nice sideline return, getting up to about the Queen's 37. Ottawa was offside on the play, but Queen's declines the penalty. 1 and 10 Gaels.
- Gordon rushes up the middle and finds a hole, picking up about 6. A nice run, but he's brought down by one tackler: if that was Giffin, he'd have the first down. Gordon and Therrien are doing a decent job so far, though.
- Brannagan completes a short sideline pass to Blaise Morrison, good enough for a first down on Queen's 54.
- Gordon rushes out near the left sideline and picks up another 6. 2 and 4 Queen's.
- Gordon gets some fantastic blocking and rushes outside left again for the first down, then cuts back inside for more yards. He gets all the way to the Ottawa 28. First down, Queen's.
- Therrien runs up the middle for another six or so. Ottawa's having all kinds of trouble stopping the Gaels' run game, even without Giffin. Perhaps they underestimated his backups, who are both very capable themselves.
- Brannagan has to scramble and throws for Mark Surya, but the pass falls short. Surya almost reels it in with a diving grab, but can't hang on. Third down, Queen's.
- Village hits the 29-yard field goal, making the score Queen's 11, Ottawa 7.
- Ottawa takes the ball on their own 35.
- Mason runs outside left for about seven yards. 2 and just over 3 for the Gee-Gees.
- Mason goes up the middle and is hit at the line of scrimmage: he fights for an extra couple of yards, but it's going to be third and short after a measurement.
- Sacobie sneaks for the first down.
- Sacobie hits Sinopoli with a short pass, and he fights through the middle for a gain of 9. It's going to be second and short on Queen's 54.
- Sacobie keeps and picks up the first down. 1 and 10 Ottawa on Queen's 52.
- Mason runs off left tackle and picks up a first down. He's down at Queen's 38.
- Good protection by Ottawa's line and Sacobie completes a pass to Ivan Birungi, who makes a nice sliding catch at around the 15. A penalty's tacked on, giving Ottawa the ball on the 5. 1 and goal Ottawa.
- Mason runs up the middle and gains about 4. 2 and goal from the 1. A Queen's defender is down on the play.
- It's defensive end Neil Puffer, who's limping off now. With him and Carter both gone, that's two big losses for the Gaels' defence.
- Mason punches it in for the TD. Matthew Falvo kicks the extra point, making it Ottawa 14, Queen's 11.
- Well, we knew this one wasn't going to be easy. There are two kinds of 4-4 teams: the mediocre ones who gut out a few wins, and the brilliantly talented but inconsistent ones. Ottawa was always the latter, and it looks like the good Gee-Gees showed up today, rather than the mediocre ones. Queen's has to find a way to shut down Mason on the run: he's opening up too much space for Ottawa's deep passing game.
- Great coverage on the kickoff by the Gee-Gees: Allin only gets to about the 25. Now, that makes much more sense than just kicking it out of bounds all the time.
- Brannagan's pass falls incomplete.
- Brannagan is flushed and has to throw away the ball. 3rd down, Queen's.
- The Gaels punt: Ottawa returns it to about their own 53.
- Mason runs for about 6.
- Mason runs again and gets close to a first down, but he's hurt on the play.
- Mason limps off. That's not good for Ottawa by any stretch of the imagination: he's been tremendous so far. 3 and short.
- Sacobie keeps and gets the first down.
- Craig Bearss is in the game for Mason, and he runs for about 6 up the middle.
- Bearss runs off the right tackle and gets the first down, plus more. 1 and 10 Ottawa on the Queen's 26.
- Looks like there's about 3:16 left in the half, but the scoreboard's tough to read from here. The Gaels could really use a stop at this point.
- Sacobie is flushed and almost sacked: he gets off an underhand toss to Bearss as he's falling down. Bearss made a good move to come back and help his QB. Loss of 2 on the play, but a sack would have been a loss of 7 or so at least.
- Sacobie tries a swing pass, but Ukwuoma gets a hand on it and knocks it down. 3 and 12 Ottawa on Queen's 28. Looks like they'll try for the field goal.
- Falvo hits the FG from about 35 yards out, making it Ottawa 17, Queen's 11. Less than three minutes left in the half.
- Gaels take the ball on their 35.
- Therrien takes it up the middle but gets only about 3 yards. 2 and 7 Queen's.
- Brannagan gets tons of time in the pocket and has Sheahan open up the middle, but the throw is behind him. Sheahan gets a hand on it but can't hang on, and Queen's will have to punt.
- 2:15 left in the half. Time out Ottawa.
- Village punts to around Ottawa's 30-yard line. Elliott gets nowhere on the return. 1 and 10 Ottawa on their own 31.
- Felix Dejardins-Potvin runs up the middle for a gain of about 2. 2 and 8 Ottawa.
- Sacobie has time in the pocket and completes a 15-yard pass up the middle to Cyril Adjeity. First down Ottawa on their own 48.
- Queen's finally gets some pressure. Ukwuoma almost brings Sacobie down. He escapes, but runs into T.J. Leeper, who records the sack.
- Sacobie completes a pass to Matthew Bolduc who makes a nice diving catch, but he's hit about 2 yards short of the first down. Ottawa will punt.
- A poor punt by Falvo loops off his foot and tumbles end over end out of bounds. Queen's ball on their own 46: they'll have less than 2 minutes to make a drive.
- Brannagan throws sideline for Valberg, who makes the catch but is called out of bounds. Doesn't matter: Gaels were offside on the play.
- A great play call by Queen's on second and 10: Ottawa's looking pass, and Gordon rumbles up the middle for the first down.
- Swing pass to Gordon gets the Gaels another first down. 1 and 10 on the Ottawa 33.
- Brannagan's pass to Blaise Morrison is incomplete and almost picked off. 2 and 10.
- Brannagan tries a short sideline pass to Valberg, who can't reel it in. 3 and 10 Queen's. Field goal attempt, or maybe a fake?
- Nope, it's a real field goal, but Village's attempt falls short and wide. That's the last play of the half. Ottawa leads 17-11.

Third quarter:
- Queen's kicks off, Ottawa returns it to around their own 30.
- A run from Bearss picks up a first down.
- Short pass gets Ottawa about 8: second and two.
- Bearss rumbles up the middle, stopped just short of the first down. Third and very short.
- Sacobie sneaks for the first down.
- 1 and 10 Ottawa on their own 54.
- Sacobie scrambles, throws a pass to Bolduc, but he can't reel it in in tight coverage from Botting.
- Sacobie throws deep, but his receiver slips and falls down.
- Ottawa punts: the snap flies over Falvo's head, but he does a great job to race back and recover. He gets a weak punt off just before it would have been blocked and it rolls out of bounds at the Queen's 46. Great field position for Queen's.
- Gordon rushes twice, but only gains a combined seven yards. Queen's will punt.
- Village gets off a good punt to the Ottawa 21, but Elliott returns it to about the Ottawa 40. It's coming back for holding, though. First and 10 Ottawa on their own 21.
- Bearss rushes up the middle, gets nowhere.
- Sacobie is rushed and almost sacked by Sterling, but he gets the pass off as he falls. Sacobie's down and hurt, receiving attention.
- Injury update here: Puffer is back in the game for the Gaels, but Carter's still out. Sacobie hobbles off. Ottawa will punt from their own 10 or so.
- Good snap this time and a good punt to Queen's 45. Allin doesn't have much room, but still picks up a 15-yard return or so. Queen's ball on the Ottawa 52. They need to get something going here.
- Gordon rushes, but he's stopped by Ottawa defensive end Ian Hazlett, a former Queen's linebacker.
- Brannagan is flushed and almost sacked, but he makes a great throw off the scramble to find Surya. Surya would have been well short of the first down, but he makes two tacklers miss and picks up about 7 yards after the catch.
- Therrien powers through a hole up the middle for about 12: another first down.
- Therrien goes off the right tackle for about 8. 2 and 2 Queen's on the Ottawa 19.
- Therrien runs, but is stopped for a loss of 2. 3 and 4 Queen's. Field goal team on: Allin to hold, might be a fake.
- No fake, but Village misses from about 30 yards: Elliott runs it out to the Ottawa 20. That's a bad one to miss.
- Sacobie is back in, so he can't have been hurt too badly.
- It's getting a bit chilly out here: the wind's picking up.
- 1 and 10 Ottawa on their own 20.
- Sacobie hits Wood-Roy on a play-action fake, picks up 15. 1 and 10 Ottawa on their 35.
- Bearss runs up the middle for 2: nice stop by Ukwuoma. It's a battle of the second-string backs now, with Mason and Giffin both out.
- Sacobie's pass is short: 3 and 8 Ottawa.
- Good snap, and Ottawa's Steve Fievet gets off a good punt. Looks like they've gone away from Falvo after some of his struggles earlier. Queen's ball on their 39.
- Brannagan is hit, but gets off a pass over the middle to Scott Stinson, who picks up the first down. 1 and 10 Queen's on their 54.
- Sheahan runs a great outside route and beats two defenders, but then drops the ball when he's wide open. He would likely have had a touchdown if he'd caught it. It's those hands that prevent Sheahan from being a great receiver, as opposed to a good one.
- Ottawa lineman Evan Prokipchuk breaks through and sacks Brannagan: he's been getting good protection most of the day, but not on that play.
- Queen's punts deep: good coverage means that Ottawa will start on their own 19.
- Swing pass from Sacobie's good for a first down: 1 and 10 on the Ottawa 35.
- Bearss runs up the middle for a gain of 1: 2 and 9.
- Pass over the middle to Adjeity: no one near him and he gets the first down. 1 and 10 Ottawa on their 54. That's where Carter's injury might hurt the Gaels: backup middle linebacker Matt Ritchie hasn't played much this year, and he's looking rusty.
- Great rush by Queen's sees Sacobie throw a pass that's almost picked by Sterling. 2 and 10.
- Sacobie throws into double coverage: incomplete. Ottawa will punt.
- Great punt by Fievet pins Queen's deep. Allin drops the ball and recovers just before he's hit. Queen's ball on their own 13. They have to get something going here.
- Therrien runs up the middle for about four or five, stopped by Hazlett. End of the third quarter.

Fourth quarter:
- Queen's is running out of time here: they've got to get the offence together. The defence is holding, but the offence isn't getting much done without the running threat posed by Giffin. Ottawa's defence is favouring the pass. Therrien and Gordon are doing okay, but not well enough to open up passing lanes for Brannagan.
- Therrien runs off the right tackle for a first down. 1 and 10 Queen's on their
own 25.
- Brannagan gets clocked by Prokipchuk but gets a deep pass off. Sheahan makes a great diving catch, but it's coming back: offensive holding by Queen's. I think it's a face mask: it's 15 yards. 1 and 25 Queen's on their own 13.
- Time out Queen's. This could be a crucial series here. They've got a long way to go, but Ottawa will have great field position if the Gaels fail to get the first down.
- Brannagan is flushed, short pass to Valberg incomplete, but flags on the play. Pass interference on Ottawa. It's now 1 and 12 on the Queen's 22.
- Queen's called offside: 1 and 17.
- Therrien runs up the middle, but gets nowhere.
- Gaels' left tackle Matt O'Donnell is hurt on the play and limping off. As anyone who's read The Blind Side knows, that's a big loss.
- Jordan Kirchberger is in to replace him. The inexperience is shown on the next play: Ottawa right end Tyler Dawe breaks through and hits Brannagan, but Ottawa's called for a face mask. First down Queen's on their own 35.
- Brannagan throws deep to Valberg, but he's in double coverage and can't pull it in. 2 and 10.
- Ottawa's defence breaks through, and Dawe and Sebastien Tetreault sack Brannagan, who drops the ball. Tetreault recovers the fumble. Ottawa ball on Queen's 34.
- That could be the decisive play if Ottawa can score here.
- Bearss runs for a couple.
- Bearss runs for about 6 more: 3rd and 1.
- Ottawa's going for the FG. Falvo hits it, making the score Ottawa 20, Queen's 11. That missed field goal by Village is looking bigger all the time.
- 10:30 left in the fourth quarter.
- Queen's offence is running out of time.
- Gordon carries up the middle but he's stopped by Hazlett for no gain.
- Interesting call on 2 and 10: Gordon rumbles up the middle again, and gets 9 this time. 3 and 1 Queen's: they're going for it.
- Brannagan sneaks for the first down. Queen's has to be careful, though: he's been stopped on a couple of those this year. Remember that he's still got a rookie left tackle protecting the blind side.
- Dawe breaks through again and should have had a sack. Brannagan breaks free and gets a deep pass off, but Blaise Morrison can't reel it in. 2 and 10.
- Brannagan over the middle for a wide-open Stinson, but he can't make the catch. Too many drops by the receivers today. Queen's will punt.
- Good punt by Village, down to the Ottawa 15. Excellent coverage means they'll start around their 18. The Gaels need to get a quick stop here: they're down by 9 with eight minutes to go.
- Different Gaels' players have looked good at times, but the whole hasn't come together. When Brannagan's on, his receivers aren't. When they're in form, his passes are off.
- Bearss rumbles outside for a first down, but a flag on the play. He's having a hell of a day as well. Looks like Ottawa doesn't miss much from Mason to him.
- Objectionable conduct is the call: Ottawa gets the first down, but they're back to their own 19. Lousy time for that kind of a penalty.
- Bearss carries off the right side, doesn't get too far. Offside against Ottawa is declined. It will be second and 9.
- Deep pass to Sinopoli, a tremendous play by Botting to knock it down. Ottawa will have to punt. Queen's should get good field position out of this.
- The punt's blocked! Great play by Queen's special teams. I couldn't tell who it was: maybe Alex Daprato? The ball rolls out of the end zone for a safety, so a huge two points for Queen's. It's now Ottawa 20, Queen's 13. They're within one TD.
- Kickoff to Queen's 30: Allin returns it to the 42.
- Therrien runs for four up the middle.
- Brannagan's pass is tipped and almost picked off, but the Ottawa DB can't make the catch. Queen's will punt.
- Village's punt is almost blocked, but he gets it to the Ottawa 20. Ottawa's Ezra Millington returns it to the 34.
- About five minutes left: Queen's still trails by a TD.
- Bearss runs up the middle for about two: nice stop by Sterling. Looks like maybe they're finally getting somewhere against the run.
- Sacobie flushed by an unblocked Ukwuoma, but hits Adjeity over the middle with a short pass. Adjeity gets the first down and more. 1 and 10 Ottawa on their own 51.
- Bearss runs up the middle for four. 2 and 6.
- 3:15 left. Bearss runs up the middle again for 4. 3 and 2 Ottawa; looks like they'll punt.
- This is turning into rather a defensive struggle. Queen's is running out of time to get something done, though: they need to get somewhere on this drive.
- 2:56 left. Fievet is in to punt. His punt's almost blocked by Stephen Laporte, who was lucky not to draw a roughing the kicker penalty. He pins Allin deep, though, and the Gaels can only get it back to about the 17. Rough play's called on Ottawa though, so 1 and 10 on the Queen's 32.
- Brannagan throws a deep sideline route to Valberg, who gets open, but can't hang on: he's stripped from behind, and the ball falls incomplete. 2 and 10.
- Another O-line injury for Queen's: right tackle Colin Boyle is out.
- Brannagan finds Sheahan wide open over the middle again, and again Sheahan drops the ball. That might have cost Queen's their season unless they do something quick here. 2:26 left.
- Village punts deep: Millington returns it to about the Ottawa 40. 1 and 10 Ottawa.
- 2:13 left: Queen's needs to make something happen.
- Bearss runs up the middle for 1: good stop by the defensive line.
- Pass over the middle to Wood-Roy, looks like he made a diving catch, but he couldn't pull it in: 3 and 9, and Ottawa will have to punt.
- Good punt: Allin makes the catch, but he gets stripped and Ottawa recovers. Ottawa ball on Queen's 29, and that might be it.
- 1:34 left, and the fans are starting to leave. A comeback now would be a miracle. Time out, Ottawa.
- Bearss up the middle for about 6. 2 and 4. Time out, Queen's.
- Bearss up the middle for about 2, but he's stopped. 1:26 left: Ottawa's going to try a 33-yard FG.
- Falvo hits the FG, and it's Ottawa 23, Queen's 13. 1:05 to go.
- Queen's takes it on their 35, and Brannagan throws up the middle for Stinson: incomplete, almost picked off.
- Brannagan throws deep for Morrison, incomplete, again almost picked. 3 and 10
- Brannagan deep for Valberg in double coverage. Incomplete. The curtains are starting to go down on this season.
- Sinopoli takes the snap and runs around for a bit to kill the clock, putting the ball back on Ottawa's 39. 2 and 45, 40 seconds left.
- Sinopoli takes a knee: 37 seconds left. 3 and 47: Ottawa runs the clock down to 16 seconds, then takes a time out. They'll punt, and that should do it: no way to score 10 points in that little time. It's another season of high expectations and great moments at times, but a failure in the playoffs for the second year in a row.
- Punt's out of bounds on the Ottawa 53: 10 seconds left. Queen's sends everyone deep this time, but pass to Valberg is incomplete: he only threw it to about the 30, so even a catch wouldn't have been enough. They should have gone end zone.
- Last play: Brannagan to Valberg, he punts it down field and Millington falls on it. That's the season, folks. A tough way for it to end for the Gaels. I'll have much more in a post-game writeup here later today.