- Bishop's 40-38 win over Concordia, where the Gaiters drove 77 yards in the final 1:36, might have been the QUFL's most entertaining game this season, considering the stakes. Bishop's bumped Concordia into fourth place and bumped McGill to their living rooms for next week. Please don't ask how Concordia could lose when it outgained Bishop's by a factor of two.
So, when Laval is raising the Dunsmore Cup in two weeks, at least remember there was some excitement in the regular season.
- Calgary's Erik Glavic finished the season averaging more than 10 yards per attempt both passing and rushing.
- Talk about the irresistible force and the immovable object — Calgary outscored the next-highest team in Canada West by 50%, while Saskatchewan allowed a third less than anyone else.
- You have a better chance of finding the true extent of Fidel Castro's health problems than learning how badly Western QB Michael Faulds is injured. Faulds — make you own pun on dictating the tempo of the game — is giving his left knee for the Mustangs, who advanced fairly easy with a 37-18 OUA quarter-final win over Guelph and Justin Dunk, who went out on a 15-of-36, four-interception day in wind-whipped London.
- Queen's supporters can point out Dan Brannagan was injured when the Golden Gaels beat McMaster, their semifinal opponent, in September. Please keep in mind that was before Kyle Quinlan emerged for the Marauders, who scored two fourth-quarter TDs to take out Ottawa 27-15 in the other OUA game. That was similar to Queen's road playoff win over the Marauders in 2006, coach Stefan Ptaszek's first season. Ottawa lost with 555 yards total offence, too.
- The last scoring in Simon Fraser's final CIS game was a rouge. File that under "strangely appropriate."
No. 6 Western 37, Guelph 18 — The big post-game question is Faulds' health after he took a hard shot on the knee in the third quarter. He finished the game and was turnover-free despite the gusting wind, passing 28 times for 199 yards. (Donnie Marshall had to come in for a play in the first half and ended up cutting loose like Kenny Powers, firing a long bomb for a 60-yard-plus gain.)
Western might be a slight favourite for next Saturday's late OUA semifinal vs. Laurier, based on its offensive firepower. It will be a matchup you'll be seeing for the next 3-4 years, with Nathan Riva (25 rushes for 171 yards vs. Guelph) going up against fellow sophomores who lead the Laurier D, safety Courtney Stephen and linebacker Mitchell Bosch.
Another second-year Mustang, defensive end Alex Robinson, had the fourth-quarter sack which iced the game. Western looked pretty decent, confident, albeit vs. Guelph, which ended the season with four losses in a row.
Suffice to say, no one was disabused of thinking the Mustangs live rent-free between the ears of Justin Dunk (15-of-36 for 223 yards, four interceptions). One would like to believe it goes deeper, there are more logical explanations like "better players" and "more resources to dedicated to football," but Guelph receded inch by inch once Western put a touchdown on the board. A lot of mental mistakes. Wideout Jedd Gardner did not make it through the game, as was the case the first time the teams played.
Some Guelph fans were none too happy about what happened at the end of the first half. Guelph, already having taken a couple standing eight-counts, wanted to run out the clock and get to its corner. Western coach Greg Marshall screamed at the officials to get their attention, got a timeout. Guelph ended up getting a no-yard penalty on the ensuing punt, which moved the ball to the 34-yard line, within field-goal range for Darryl Wheeler.
It was a smart play. Nothing is left to chance in the playoffs. You do wonder if any league will adopt the CFL no-yards rule where no-yards is a five-yard penalty if the ball hits the ground like it did on that play. With the CFL rule, Western would have had a 46-yard try, out of Wheeler's range.
The long-story-short for Guelph is coach Kyle Walters has them headed in a good direction. One outsider observation is to ask about how the coaching duties are delineated. Walters previously was the defensive coordinator; now he's on offence and his team's D is a shambles, despite some decent, still-maturing talent in the secondary such as Bryan Dunjko, Jarryd Baines, Jordan Duncan and Sebastian Howard.
Chris Rossetti will be the Walters recruit to start at QB now that Dunk has moved on. As for No. 12, he had his critics, but he was awful fun to watch for five seasons.
No. 10 McMaster 27, No. 7 Ottawa 15 — Honestly, it was like the worst thing Ottawa did all day was finally take the lead.
It was like once they went ahead, there was a feeling of all accumulated frustration, uh-oh, what's going to happen now? Over the next 6½ minutes:
- Jordan Kozina ended up making a great cut to return the kickoff to midfield and McMaster put together a four-play, 55-yard drive, mostly behind Joey Nemet (19 carries, 123 yards, two TDs).
- Ottawa drives to the Mac 31, stalls, and on third-and-10 elects for a fake field goal, since the wind put a 38-yarder out of range. Starting QB Brad Sinopoli, who is the holder,underthrew Mike Cornell, who was open at the 10-yard line. The rub is Cornell's a linebacker. It was shame that went awry for the Gee-Gees and it involved one of their best defenders (who had eight tackles in the game, too).
- Kozina gets behind Ottawa cornerback Chayce Elliott for a 65-yard TD pass. Ball game. Elliott, by the way, was also in coverage on a TD pass in the first half and fumbled the ball away after a 40-yard punt return — while being tackled by the punter.
It was honestly similar to Queen's quarter-final win over McMaster in 2006, Ptaszek's first season. The Golden Gaels had a sophomore QB, Dan Brannagan, in his first playoff start, same as Kyle Quinlan.
Ottawa had a huge edge in total offence, with Brad Sinopoli passing for 342 yards and their three ball carriers tallying 200 combined (although Jordan Wilson-Ross was held to 16 rushes for 68 yards). The Marauders' first TD was set up by a trick play on special teams when Matt Peressini (who also had a TD catch) took a direct snap and pitched to Mike DiCroce for a 31-yard rush. (In the '06 game, Queen's go-ahead TD pass was set up by a fake field goal pass to Osie Ukwuoma.) The Marauders forced turnovers on special teams, most notably in the first half when punter Andy Waugh stripped the ball from Elliott, who in a flash went from having only the punter to beat to giving the ball back to Mac. (Queen's had a few of those in the '06 contest.)
That win sent Queen's to a semi-final against Ottawa; Mac's win over Ottawa sends it to a semi vs. Queen's, circle of life.
Turnovers, a slew of penalties (again), probably epitomize what Ottawa coach Denis Piché was talking about when he told the Ottawa Sun, "You’ve got to play like it’s do-or-die. I don’t think we played that way. I’m not quite sure why. We turned the ball over and we dropped some balls at key moments. We just didn’t make the plays ... We lacked desperation. Football is an emotional game and you’ve got be able to channel that emotion and play to win as opposed to playing to not lose. I’m not sure we knew the difference."
Meantime, losing at home gives the armchair coaches plenty of ammunition. The turnovers, the way the fake field goal played out, Sinopoli throwing a deep ball on a late third-and-long ... Ottawa outgained McMaster badly and still contrived to lose. Always OUA has a very good synopsis of how it went down. Ottawa had reached the semifinals five consecutive seasons.
The clinching TD, by the way, was set up by Peressini throwing a block that allowed Quinlan to scramble for a first down. Kozina scored the next play.
Bishop's 40, Concordia 38 — Gaiters QB Jesse Andrews' third-down, seven-yard TD run with 26 seconds left put the Gaiters into the 2-3 game vs. Montréal.
Gaiters coach Leroy Blugh called the timeout of his career with 2:26 left. Concordia's Cedric Ferdinand (21 rushes, 148 yards) had just ripped off three runs in a row for 29 yards. The Gaiters held the next two plays — raising the question why Con U didn't try a pass since Robert MacKay had thrown for 480 yards, the second-highest total in Stingers history to his 494 just seven days earlier — and got the ball back after a (bad) punt. Andrews then put together an 11-play drive to get the win, helped by a second-down pass interference call (those seemed to be going around).
MacKay ended up throwing for six touchdowns — four to his own receivers and two to Gaiters defenders Junior Turner and Zak Buis. Two defensive scores in a game is a rare, semi-random phenomenon.
In the words of Beanie in Old School, "It got ... crazy." Concordia had the lead in the fourth quarter; Sherbrooke was driving before Montréal sealed the win. Had the Vert et Or won and the Stingers held, they would be hosting a playoff game instead of watching.
No. 9 Montréal 14, Sherbrooke 9 — The Carabins hung on to win the low-scoring battle of backup QBs when Pascal Fils, on his 33rd carry of the day, fumbled at the end of a 15-yard run with 50 seconds left. Talk about heartbreaking for Sherby.
Like seeemingly every game played Saturday, the wind dictated what teams could do offensively. Rotrand Sené had 228 yards for Montréal, but gave Sherby an opening with a goal-line fumble with 1:25 left.
No. 1 Laval 50, McGill 0 — The Rouge et Or scored five touchdowns on their first 19 plays, and no offence to McGill, thankfully there will not be a rematch next week in the Q semifinal.
Maxime Béland had three TDs for the Rouge et Or.
One among reasons to look forward to the playoffs starting in the QUFL: Laval tailback Sébastien Lévesque should get more touches. There was a nice writeup about him in Le Soleil for those not cursed by monolingualism, unlike this author.
No. 2 Calgary 40, Alberta 5 — The Golden Bears' D got some early turnovers in the first quarter to keep it mildly interesting. Calgary is just better, though, and soon enough the yards started to pile up — Nathan Coehoorn with a big 44-yard catch to set up the day's first TD, Matt Walter rumbing for 37 of his 170 rushing total — and their defence got takeaways, including a red-zone interception Steve Truzak. Before long it was out of hand.
Alberta's Craig Gerbrandt had a good game despite the loss. He became Alberta's all-time leader in sack yardage, plus his eight tackles included a play where he stopped Walter cold on third-and-1. Walter finished as Can West's rushing champ with 1,103 yards.
A good question there is no means of answering is whether Erik Glavic is the first QB to finish the regular season averaging more than 10 yards per attempt rushing and passing. He (just barely, since it was a blowout) joined Sinopoli in the 2,000-500 club, averaging 11.4 per throw and 10.5 per run.
Manitoba 31, Simon Fraser 28 — The result, a strong effort only to fall just short, seems to sum how SFU's season just went sideways between the Caleb Clark controversy and some close losses
As the dot-orgers note, the players are kind of just pawns in the grand scheme. A few won't get to play as much football as they expected to coming into university and the quality of their experience is no doubt altered. C'est la vie.
Manitoba might have trouble mustering enough offence to keep up with Calgary next week. The Bisons had a lapse in the third quarter, but their defence shut down Simon Fraser in the final 15 minutes.
Clark passed for 206 yards and rushed for 89 for SFU. For the record, Simon Fraser's final play in CIS was a pass from Caleb Clark that was dropped by Miles Zivkovic to end the game.
As an addendum to the Mac-Ottawa write-up, some idiot wrote this about the Marauders back in August 2007:
"Mac's four straight Yates Cups (2000-03) was the last throes of what worked for the OUA's power programs in the '80s and '90s. The better teams, such as Western and Laurier, typically kept offensive and defensive schemes relatively simple and trusted in having superior athletes. The rise of Laval and Quebec football, the scrapping of the OAC (Grade 13) year in Ontario high schools and Western Canada teams' use of more experienced junior players has put an end to that approach working on a national level.
"Laurier had a breakthrough, winning the Vanier Cup in 2005, because it thought more seriously about how to trick its talent into being better. Ptaszek, who was part of that shift in thinking, will probably try to do this over time at McMaster. Considering the school's size, support of sports, its facilities, and the talent and fan support, it should lead to the Marauders delivering a long-sought Vanier Cup appearance inside of five years."