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2009 Vanier Cup - Queen's vs Calgary 20091128
All photos are by Jeff Chan. Jeff is past Chairman of the Vanier Cup - Canada's University Football Championship and the Premier University Event in Canada, and was a member of the Canadian College Bowl Board and Vanier Cup Organizing Committee from 1978-2000. All photos are Copyright (c) Jeff Chan 2009, but may be used for personal non-commercial use, and by Queen's University, the CIS and its member conferences, and by the Vanier Cup, so long as photo credits are shown or the photos are otherwise attributed to Jeff Chan. All other rights are reserved.
QUEEN'S 33, CALGARY 31
AWESOME GAELS WIN VANIER CUP
By Paul Svoboda, The Belleville Intelligencer
Finally, after 17 years, Belleville resident Dan McCullough has company. McCullough played tight end on the 1992 Queen's University football team, which until Saturday was the last Golden Gaels gridiron squad to win the Vanier Cup national championship.
On Saturday, McCullough and several of his buddies from the '92 team were in Quebec City to pass the torch as the 2009 edition of the Gaels overcame a 25-7 halftime deficit to defeat the Calgary Dinosaurs 33-31 before a standing room only crowd of 18,628 at Laval Stadium. This year's Queen's team featured Belleville native Jimmy Allin, an All-Canadian defensive back and kick returner. "I met and chatted with Jimmy on Friday," said McCullough. "Then I saw him after the game. I told him that now he was getting his own championship ring. He said, 'Hey, let me look at yours. I want to make sure we do ours right.'" McCullough was one of hundreds of former Queen's players and students who flocked to Quebec City to cheer on the Gaels.
"There were guys there from the 1978 championship team and 12 or 14 guys from our 1992 team were there too, including a guy who drove all night and straight to the tailgate party Saturday morning," said McCullough. In fact, McCullough, who hopped a flight to Quebec City Friday night, started getting text messages at his hotel at 7:30 a. m. Saturday, ordering him to get his butt on down to the stadium. "Guys were calling me, wondering where I was," said McCullough. "They said there were already 500 people in the parking lot." Kickoff was at noon. Even with Queen's trailing by 18 points at the intermission, McCullough said he sensed a feeling that the best was yet to come from the Gaels.
"A couple of our guys were biting their nails," said McCullough. "But you could see the players weren't down. They had that confident swagger. It was awesome." Gaels rallied with a dozen points in the third quarter and two touchdowns in the fourth to become only the eighth team in the 45-year history of the Vanier Cup to win after being behind at the half.
At the conclusion of the game, Queen's fans swarmed the field to congratulate the newly-crowned champs. "It's a Queen's tradition to rush the field and the Quebec police didn't quite agree with us," said McCullough. "But we eventually won them over."
Now a father himself, McCullough said meeting the parents of current Queen's players was almost as much fun as watching the game. "That was the neat part for me," he said. "Talking to them and understanding what my parents went through when I was playing. Seeing their nervousness with their kids out there playing. "I know both of my parents were at home, wearing their Queen's shirts, watching the game on TV."
McCullough said the Canadian college game has changed immensely since his days wearing the tricolour uniform at Queen's and he noted few similarities between the '92 champs and the new Vanier Cup title-holders.
"These guys throw the ball a lot more than we did," said McCullough. "Wow. I was a receiver and I would've loved that. But we were built around an all-star running back. We were athletic, but we didn't have the six-foot-eight, 320-pound linemen like they do now.
"We had smaller, quicker guys." On the field, shaking hands with the champs, McCullough made one other observation. "They're all so young," he said.
By Mike Koreen,Kingston Whig Standard
With his voice cracking, Queen's Golden Gaels coach Pat Sheahan tried his best to describe his team of champions. In the end, the coach needed just one sentence to sum up the 2009 Vanier Cup winners. "What was very much in evidence today," he said, "is that they never give up." Resilient, determined and at their best when games were on the line, the Golden Gaels capped their first national championship season in any sport since 1992--also a football banner-- in fitting style.
Locked in close games right from the opening day of the season, the Gaels at trend Saturday and, once again, came up aces. Trailing a powerful Calgary Dinos team by 18 points at halftime, the Gaels clawed their way back for the greatest second-half comeback in the 45-year history of the Vanier Cup, recording a sensational 33-31 win before a sellout crowd of 18,628 at PEPS Stadium. For these Gaels it was the sixth game decided by a touchdown or less this season--and six wins, including the past three playoff triumphs.
"The mood at halftime was just 'Don't give up,'" said star rush end Shomari Williams, a big addition to this year's squad. "We had battled back from worse before. Our first goal was to get the game close and our second goal was to win it." They did both to claim the school's fourth Vanier Cup. Because of that the city, the university and the athletics department have had preliminary discussions about some sort of celebration--likely late this week.
Seeing as Mayor Harvey Rosen made the trek to Quebec City along with more than 10 bus-loads of fans from Kingston to watch the game, chances are he'll be leading the charge for a public gathering. Considering the strong television ratings for the Yates Cup, the excellent crowds for the final two home playoff games and the busy bars downtown for the Vanier, it's clear the Gaels captured the fancy of many Kingstonians. How could they not?
The past three games--a 43-39 win over the Western Mus-tangs, a 33-30 triumph over the heavily-favoured Laval Rouge et Or and the comeback to top all comebacks versus Calgary-- were three of the most exciting football games imaginable. It was high drama with compelling characters--the veteran coach looking for his first national title as a head man, the quarterback, Danny Brannagan, looking to bring down bigger names, the unheralded running backs Marty Gordon and Jimmy Therrien fighting for extra yards, the defence attacking and making game-changing plays. Above all, perhaps, it was many young men trying to keep their football careers going for one more game, one more victory.
"This is probably his last football game," Sheahan said, referring to Gordon, who played the game of his life against Calgary. "For a bunch of guys, this might be their last football game," Sheahan added of a team that could lose 18 of its 25 starters to graduation. "I'm sending them home champions."
Years from now when people look back at this team, they'll remember Gordon driving and dancing for critical yards to keep the final three-minute drive alive, allowing Brannagan to kneel down to end the game. They'll remember a rolling Brannagan throwing an absolute bolt into a stiff wind, connecting with Scott Valberg in the end zone to put the Gaels ahead for good in the fourth quarter. Most of all they'll remember a team that just never surrendered. "We lost Danny for two games (early in the season with a concussion) and that helped us win," Williams said. "I knew right then we had a special team because we could win even when facing adversity."
As the players embraced loved ones, Queen's students finally were allowed to storm the field. The sight of them passing it among themselves will be an enduring image. "This is my last football game," Gordon, the hometown boy plagued by injuries his entire career, bellowed so he could be heard as the students celebrated. "I think this is a nice send-off." Later, he hollered, "The Vanier Cup is coming to Kingston." It's here today thanks to a team that gave this city a November to remember.
QUEEN'S COMEBACK AT CUP
By Robert MacLeod, Globe & Mail
Pat Sheahan thought he had seen it all during his 21 years as a head coach in Canadian Interuniversity Sport, the last 10 with the Queen's Gaels.
But none of that prepared him for the moment in the fourth quarter of a taut Vanier Cup national championship game against the Calgary Dinos when Matt O'Donnell, Queen's massive offensive tackle, lumbered over with some disheartening news.
"He says he has to go to the bathroom," Sheahan cackled with delight after all was said and done on Saturday afternoon, one of his big paws cradling a bottle of beer. "Can you imagine?" Sheahan continued. "This game had everything, that's all I can tell ya."
With hundreds of students having bussed from Kingston to fill standing room-only sections, Queen's quarterback Danny Brannagan showed an uncanny flair for the dramatic, engineering the greatest second-half comeback in Vanier Cup history for a 33-31 victory and a fourth title for Queen's ï¿½ but its first since 1992. "You can only keep him [Brannagan] bottled up so long," Blake Nill, the despondent Calgary coach, said afterward.
The 18,628 fans packing PEPS Stadium on the University of Laval's campus were rewarded with a terrific football game on a cold and blustery afternoon. Brannagan was good on just six of his 14 attempts for 65 yards in the first half as the Dinos marched to a 25-7 lead.
"At halftime we kind of took a deep breath," Brannagan said. "We weren't really worried about it after that." That must have been some breath as Brannagan made good on 11-of-19 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. Altogether he completed 17-of-33 attempts for 286 yards and three touchdowns, and was named the game's most valuable player. With the wind at his back in the third quarter, Brannagan connected with Devan Sheahan, the coach's son, on a 60-yard pass-and-run play for a touchdown.
Calgary surrendered a safety and a 12-yard field goal by Dan Village, after Queen's recovered a fumble by Calgary quarterback Erik Glavic near midfield, trimmed the Dinos' lead to 25-19. Early in the fourth, Brannagan found receiver Scott Valberg on a 17-yard TD pass reception that moved Queen's in front for the first time in the game, 26-25. It was at this juncture that O'Donnell could not ignore the urge any more and had to find a bathroom, but the story gets even better.
As the locker rooms are some distance from the playing field, O'Donnell's only choice was to try to use one of the portable restroom units set up for the fans located behind the main grandstand. At that time the lineup was about eight deep in front of each unit and O'Donnell (even though he weighs 310-pounds) was loath to butt in. "Out loud I said, "Can anyone help me out right now? I really have to go to the washroom,"" O'Donnell recalled rather sheepishly. "This one very nice man let me in."
Once inside the stall, O'Donnell said several fans (he's assuming they were Calgary supporters) started shaking the unit from side to side as he was trying to go. Family members chased the pranksters away and he returned to the playing field to participate in yet another Queen's grand finale.
After defeating the University of Western Ontario Mustangs 43-39 to win the Ontario University Athletics title on Nov. 14 and then outlasting the No.1-ranked Laval Rouge et Or 33-30 last weekend in the Mitchell Bowl national semi-final, these anxious finishes have become routine for Queen's. "It didn't hurt us, I'll tell you that," Sheahan said about the difficult road the Gaels have travelled this season."It was great training."
Calgary had the wind at its back for the final 15 minutes but could not take advantage as Queen's utilized an unsung ground attack led by the relentless Marty Gordon to grind out yardage and maintain ball control. A 15-yard touchdown run by Gordon, who rushed for 102 yards, pushed Queen's lead to 33-25 after 6:26 and the Ontario champs were able to hang on after that, maintaining possession for the final three minutes of the game to frustrate Calgary.
"We've got a bunch of guys it was probably their last football game so I'm sending them home champions," said Sheahan, finally taking a swig of his beer.
HISTORIC COMEBACK CAPS VANIER CUP WIN - The wind was strong and the University of Calgary Dinos were tough, but the football team overcame an 18-point halftime deficit to win the Canadian championship in Quebec City on Saturday
By Jake Edmiston, Queen's Journal
Queen's win in Saturday's Vanier Cup will outlive everyone who watched it. The biggest second-half comeback in Vanier history is sure to live forever in Queen's football folklore. The Gaels were up against the second-ranked team in the country whose quarterback, Erik Glavic, was fresh from receiving his second Hec Creighton Award as the most outstanding Canadian player. The halftime score seemed to validate the rankings. Queen's trailed by 18 points after two quarters.
Gaels head coach Pat Sheahan said he told his team they needed a touchdown to open the second half. "We had to score next," he said. "To get down 32-7 would have been too much." Despite the desperate situation, quarterback Danny Brannagan said Sheahan's halftime speech wasn't dramatic. "He was just trying to keep us calm, trying to say that they hadn't really stopped us," he said.
The Gaels took just over a minute to carry out Sheahan's orders in the third quarter with a 60-yard Brannagan touchdown pass to the coach's son Devan Sheahan through double-coverage. All-Canadian receiver Scott Valberg, who had seven receptions including two touchdowns in the game, said after the Sheahan touchdown he knew he'd be wearing a championship ring. "When Dev hit that ball, I knew we were going to win this game," he said. There was still an 11-point deficit, though, and with the fourth quarter to be played into strong winds, the Gaels were far from sealing a win.
Brannagan said the deficit shadowed worries about the wind. "When you're a passing team, it does affect you. It does affect your mentality," he said. The Gaels played with the wind in the third and used the advantage to build on Sheahan's touchdown, forcing a Dinos safety and adding a field goal to bring them within six.
A Valberg touchdown early in the fourth quarter gave the Gaels a one-point lead, their first of the game. Valberg said the comeback was a testament to the team's character. "It was the maturity of our team that didn't let us get down and get down on each other." Dinos receiver Anthony Parker scored on a 15-yard pass from Glavic with six minutes to go, giving the Dinos a chance to tie the game. But the two-point conversion attempt failed when Glavic's pass slipped through running back Matt Walter's hands.
The 33-31 final was the last of three consecutive Gaels playoff games to conclude in a fashion that generated ulcers in fans' stomachs. The Yates Cup, the Mitchell Bowl, and the Vanier Cup were all won by four points or less. Saturday's final clock-killing drive included two gambles on third-and-short by Pat Sheahan.
Brannagan, who was the Vanier Cup Player of the Game, defeated a Hec Creighton Award nominated-quarterback in each Queen's playoff game. He beat Western's Michael Faulds in the Yates Cup and Laval's Benoit Groulx in the last weekend's Mitchell Bowl. "Danny should be the Hec Creighton award winner," left tackle Matt O'Donnell said. Pat Sheahan said he wouldn't have been devastated by a loss had Calgary made it" he said. "If Calgary had came back and won it in the end, I'd be happy that the guys came back and at least showed everybody that they weren't quitters." With time expiring and the teams separated by two points, every play had the potential to be the game's defining moment.
At the four-minute mark, Sheahan said an unusual personnel issue put the Gaels in a vulnerable situation. "Matt O'Donnell comes up to me and says he has to go to the bathroom," he said. "Can you imagine? Biggest play of the season and we've got a 6-10 guy going to the bathroom! This game had everything, that's all I can tell you."
All photos on this site are Copyright © Jeff Chan, except as noted, and may be used for personal non-commercial applications, so long as photo credits are shown or the photos are otherwise attributed to Jeff Chan. All other rights, including for all corporate and media use, are strictly reserved, and any use of these photographs without the author’s express written consent is prohibited.