Football: Conference semi-final Saturday: Queen's, Saskatchewan ousted

Canada West: Simon Fraser at Calgary 

Calgary 24, Regina 17: One yard was all that separated these teams at the end, which attests to how tight Can West has been all season. The Dinos' D stacked up Rams QB Teale Orban on a third-down quarterback sneak from the 1-yard line with less than two minutes to go and were able to run out the clock, clinching their first playoff win of the Blake Nill era.

DB Matt Grohn made an even bigger stop on the second-down play, wrapping up Rams receiver Jordan Sisco at the 1 after a completed pass. Regina will have all winter to think about that, along with an unnecessary roughness call that gave Calgary life on its go-ahead TD drive after Matt Walter (22 carries, 105 yards) had been stopped short on a second-down run. (Walter scored the winning TD three plays later, with 5:05 left.) They also were unable to execute in the green zone, failing to score an offensive TD and settling for three field goals, on which they kicked on a third-and-1 at the 18-yard line. Some would call that

The Canada West final should be a defensive battle, since that's what we've had all year from out West (save for the first semi on Saturday). It would be great to watch this one in Ontario, especially with Calgary's tough defence trying to deal with Simon Fraser's option offence.

The Clan rushed 40 times for 295 yards in a 20-3 regular-season win at home back on Sept. 20. That was early in the season, when Calgary, judging by the numbers, didn't seem to know who it was on offence. They've found something of an identity behind Walter and Deke Junior (20-of-30, 229 yards, one INT). I don't know enough about these teams to pick a winner, and after Ottawa-Queen's, I'm out of the predicting business (although I did have the Gee-Gees winning the Yates way back when).

We'll have the first Hardy Trophy game without a Saskatchewan team since 2003. The last one before that was in 1997 — and who was the winning coach in that one? Current Simon Fraser coach Dave Johnson, then at UBC. Granted, everyone might want to cheer for Calgary, since Simon Fraser's departure for the NCAA is rumoured to be a done deal.

Simon Fraser 40, Saskatchewan 30: Hands up, all of you who thought the Clan would be hard-pressed to score 20 points in the game, let alone in less than nine minutes.

Johnson might very well have wrapped up the Frank Tindall Award with this beauty, as the Clan scored on four straight drives across the third and fourth quarters to stun the Huskies. The Clan evidently worked the running game by committee to perfection, with four backs rushing for at least 48 yards. Brandon Halverson, for instance, among his nine-carry, 58-yard output, had back-to-back 19- and 25-yard runs on the third-quarter drive that staked SFU to the lead for good.

Nigel Palma's interception and 63-yard return with 1:48 left set up SFU's clinching field goal. Jeffrey Biles, by the way, had 86 yards from five catches while going 4-for-4 on figgies.

Saskatchewan just could not stop the run. It is not often that the Huskies end up minus-17 in rushing attempts, but it happened. It is the first time since 2000-01 that Brian Towriss' Huskies have missed the Canada West championship game in back-to-back years.

Ontario: Ottawa at Western

Western 36, Laurier 28:
The Mustangs were solid for 2 1/2 quarters and fully earned a return trip to the Yates, their third in four years. Backup QB Ian Noble came off the bench to rally the young Golden Hawks after Luke Thompson, in a playoff game in his hometown, couldn't get the offence going, tossing five interceptions.

The Mustangs probably ould have won by more. Darryl Wheeler kicked an OUA playoff record six field goals, plus they had two Nathan Riva fumbles and a failed third-and-goal quarterback sneak have also kept them from building a bigger lead. Give credit to Riva, along with his offensive line, since he ended rushing for 173 yards.

Having home field will help them immensely next week, although there's a case that after two close wins over Ottawa in a row, fate or whatever might be riding with the Gee-Gees next week — whether that's enough to overcome the loss of Davie Mason, who knows.

Thompson, gifted as he is, had a couple first-year starter mistakes late in the first half, taking a sack deep in his own territory and, on the next play, throwing late over the middle for an interception. Laurier should be all on the up-and-up. They had six freshmen starters and only lost by a touchdown against a very solid team. On two of the interceptions, frosh receiver Shamawd Chambers was outmuscled by a Western defender — next year, he'll know how to get separation and might make that play.

Ottawa 23, Queen's 13: The Gee-Gees couldn't totally run away from their regular-season woes. They pulled off an emotional win, but running back Davie Mason might have gone down for the season with a torn hamstring after gaining 95 yards and scoring both Ottawa TDs.

Craig Bearss, a Kingston native, filled in very well at tailback for Ottawa. They reduced the game to the same straightforward equation that Western did against Queen's in last season's playoffs — run the ball, play defence, avoid major screwups. The corners, David Timmons and Chayce Elliott, did a number on the Queen's receivers. For the second straight year, a Kingston-born Queen's receiver had a disappointing end to his time wearing the Tricolour; this time it was Scott Valberg, last year it was Rob Bagg, the current Saskatchewan Roughrider.

There is not much else to say; from a purely personal standpoint as a Queen's fan, this is so hard to take that one almost wishes they were back in the old O-QIFC as an underdog team, instead of being in the OUA.

Queen's lined up to kick a field goal four times and got all of three points. Nineteen of their last 24 passes were incomplete. There is more to that than OUA rushing leader Mike Giffin's absence (Kingston Whig-Standard).

Queen's was up 8-0 early, but Ottawa replied with a 75-yard drive highlighted by a 50-yard-plus catch by QB-turned-receiver Brad Sinopoli that set up a short touchdown run. Queen's, which ran an unsuccessful fake kick earlier, replied with a field goal. They also scored on the drive after Queen's kicked a field goal to go up 11-7, and never trailed gain.

Devan Sheahan, who also caught the first touchdown in the regular-season matchup, got open over the middle for a 51-yard touchdown for the game's first points.

There is a liveblog over at Sporting Madness.

Quebec: Concordia at Laval

Laval 32, Montreal 7: The Rouge et Or settled in after giving up an early TD, when they were going against the wind in the first quarter. They will likely be in the Hammer in three weeks, just as they were in 2003 (for the semi-final) and '04. There's not much to add when Laval is this efficient.

Concordia 41, Sherbrooke 20: The Stingers got it done through the air, with Liam Mahoney throwing 24 times for 254 yards and three TDs to spearhead a rout (Sherbrooke scored 16 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to make the outcome a little more respectable).

It is quite possible the real Vanier Cup might be next week at PEPS Stadium. Paraphrasing Lee Corso, "Someone, quick, get me a train ticket to Québec City!"

Atlantic: St. Francis Xavier at Saint Mary's

St. FX 52, Mount Allison 12: X might wish it could save two or three touchdowns for next week. We say this every week — you're a fool to predict any result in the Atlantic Conference from the "little three," since the same two teams can have a blowout in their first meeting and a nail-biter in their second.

James Green was back in X's lineup after being out a couple games with a knee ailment and was up to a 20-carry workload (although Saint Mary's is a wee bit more physical than Mount A), rushing 22 times for 168 yards. Steve Snyder, the country's most quietly efficient QB, threw 16 times for 282 yards and three TDs. Is any of that gonna matter next week, though?
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  1. As suspected, Queen's were who I thought they were: a vastly overrated team that couldn't even get to the finals in a weak conference.

  2. Bitter, much?