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Queen's at Ottawa 20071006
Golden Gaels Lose a Heartbreaker
By Claude Scilley, Kingston Whig Standard
A lot of Queen's football teams would have been crushed by the kind of defeat they suffered here Saturday. To prevent the No. 2 team in the land from scoring a touchdown for almost 59 minutes, then to permit the winning score with just 67 seconds on the clock would have rendered many a recent vintage of Golden Gael beside himself with anguish. Not this time. In the post-game drizzle, the disappointment was palpable but it seemed somehow more stoic in nature, not tinged with sadness but anger, not characterized so much by despair as resolve. Even though Queen's has beaten Ottawa only once in the last 13 tries, Saturday's 13-12 defeat at the hands of the Gee-Gees was no moral victory for the Gaels. This year's Tricolour believes it is past that. They're not interested in thinking about how close they had come.
"Part of where they are is: You need to know," said Queen's coach Pat Sheahan, meaning a team on the rise must first believe it can compete with the best teams before it ever will. "We decided at halftime, we didn't need to know anymore," Sheahan continued. "It's not a matter of whether we can play with them. We felt that we could and the first 30 minutes proved it. "We came out and played in the second half. We just played." Indeed, in a game whose final five minutes contained as much drama as any regular-season game in the last 20 years, the Gaels played.
In the first quarter, with Ottawa leading 1-0, the Gee-Gees were first-and-goal from the Queen's nine-yard line, then after a penalty first-and-goal from the three, but they left six plays later with just a field goal. After that, Ottawa, No. 2 in the nation in total offence, didn't get beyond its own 42-yard line until the second-last play of the third quarter. Gaels back Mike Giffin matched his career-best performance with 165 yards rushing. Queen's quarterback Danny Brannagan rebounded from a poor performance a week earlier by completing 16 of 24 passes.
All of which, however, only served to make more bitter the defeat when it ultimately came after a momentous final five minutes.A 10-play drive had brought the Gaels, leading 12-7, to the Ottawa 30-yard line with about 4 1/2 minutes to play. An unfavourable spot on a pass to Scott Stinson left the Gaels looking at third-and-one. "It would have been a 37-yard field goal, with the wind," Sheahan said later. "I wasn't afraid to kick the field goal but I wanted to gobble more time off the clock and I thought with less than a yard [to go], let's get first down." The exchange from centre Dan Bederman was mishandled, however, and although Brannagan recovered the football, the Gaels turned the ball over on downs.
On the very next play, Gaels defensive back Jimmy Allin made a spectacular play. Diving headlong, he reached in with his left hand and, while parallel to the ground, he scooped the ball away from Ottawa's David Crane, who was a step behind him and doubtless gone for a touchdown had Allin not made the play. Shaken up, Allin was given a standing ovation from the Queen's faithful as he came off the field. The Gee-Gees subsequently moved the ball deep into Queen's territory but the drive stalled on the 25-yard line when quarterback Josh Sacobie underthrew his receiver on third down. Queen's was unable to make first down, however, and had to punt. Ottawa got the ball back with 1:22 to play and two plays later, Sacobie and Cyril Adjeity connected on a play up the middle that looked a lot like the one Allin broke up on the previous series. This time, with Addison Rich covering, the catch was made and though Rich caught Adjeity at the 20-yard line, the receiver wriggled away for the game-winning score. "It's a play in the offence," Sacobie said, "but I think that's the first time we've used it in a game."
With three come-from-behind victories this year, Queen's wasn't done. Giffin, not normally a return man, brought the kickoff back 30 yards to the Ottawa 48-yard line. There were 57.6 seconds on the clock. Giffin caught a pass for seven yards and ran five more for first down then, as he broke through the line on the next play, he fumbled at the Ottawa 30. The Gee-Gees, however, weren't able to kill the clock and Queen's got the ball back with time for one play, from its own 52. Brannagan completed a pass to Valberg about five yards downfield. A punter in his high school days at Bayridge, Valberg kicked the ball, rugby style, in hopes that a teammate might make it downfield and amid the confusion somehow get the ball into the end zone. It didn't happen. The kick got as far as the Ottawa 15-yard line, where a Gee-Gees back smothered it to end the game. "Games like this are ones you're always going to remember when you're done playing football," Sacobie said.
Sheahan said his team played hard, and did a lot of things right. "They played tough against a really good football team," Sheahan said, "but there's still one last measure and that's the level of competitive excellence that you need: When the game's on the line, can you go out there and make plays to win? "It wasn't a case of toughness or lack of effort or lack of discipline. It was just that crucial little bit of poise under pressure. You've got to get into the big games to learn from them. We'll be tougher, mentally tougher, in the clutch the next time the game's on the line."
Gee-Gees coach Denis Piche lamented what he saw as sub-standard execution on the part of his team, "but kudos to Queen's." "Queen's defence is extremely well coached, they have a great game plan, they understand formations and sets and they prepare their kids very well. At the same time, you can prepare your kids as well as you want, they still have to get out there and execute."
- Gee-Gees: Now 6-0 after a TD by Cyril Adjeity, on a 60-yard pass from Josh Sacobie, and Ara Tchobanian FGs of 12 and 27 yards.
- Queen's: Mike Giffin's nation-leading 10th TD, on a one-yard run; Dan Village kicks a 13-yard FG as 4-2 Gaels lose for the second week in a row to an unbeaten team.
- The game: It's 4-0 Ottawa when Giffin scores with less than two minutes to play in the first half; it's 12-7 Queen's when the rookie Adjeity scores with 67 remaining in the game.
- Last gasp: Queen's has two possessions in the final minute, but Giffin fumbles on the first and a trick play fails on the final play of the game.
- Jimmy Allin: Queen's DB has an interception, breaks up six other passes before leaving the game favouring his left arm in the fourth quarter.
- Scott Valberg: Gaels WR has five catches for a season-best 107 yards.
The Gaels' next game is at 1:25pm on October 13 - Homecoming vs. the Waterloo Warriors
All photos are Copyright (c) Jeff Chan 2007, but may be used for personal non-commercial use, or by Queen's University or the Vanier Cup with appropriate photo credit, unless otherwise authorized.
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.