Football: Digesting Week 10 (Saturday) — Faulds fights through pain, Mac's back, Bishop's delivers drama

  • 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."
OUA quarter-finals

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.
McMaster was full value for the win, although the Queen's team it faces next week won't make those kind of mistakes. The Marauders running game looked great. On Nemet's 33-yard run which set up his go-ahead TD, left tackle Matt Sewell was 15 yards downfield before he even found a man to block.

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.

Canada West

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."
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  1. You have to believe regardless of what happens next week that this was the 'turn the corner' moment for Mac, from 'almost there' to legit OUA contender. Ptasek seems to have quieted the chattering classes in Hamilton and produced a winner that should be successful going forward, considering Quinlan and many others still have plenty of eligibility left.

  2. Mac's program is the type of model a program like Windsor should strive to follow, no? Heavy on the local recruits, ensuring the top players stay, and aggressive where they need to be province-wide. Just imagine if Riva and Quinlan opted to stay at home in Windsor. I doubt we'd be seeing the turmoil that exists there now.

  3. There's a good column to be written about how Ptaszek has altered Mac's style from Marshall's power running game (which Marshall has adapted while at Western) to a more open offence.

    Jesse Lumsden and Kyle Pyear seldom caught passes. Saturday, former 1,000-yard rusher Jordan Kozina was Mac's leading receiver! They have 4-5 potential receivers and 3 potential rushing threats on the field every play. It's fun to watch.

  4. Ottawa out-coached again! Ottawa coaching staff is great at recruiting some very good talent, not so good at preparing and executing a game plan. Perhaps some changes are needed if Ottawa is to advance to a higher level?

  5. In the Sherby vs Mtl game, the turning point was more a 3 and one around 6-7 minutes left at our own 30 (approx) that we held...

    In fact, the game was a showdown between Pascal Fils & Rotrand Sené...

    With this performance, Rotrand Sené should be rookie of the year in the Q... maybe even in the CIS (we don't know enough about the other conferences)

  6. This will be a very different Mac team that Queen's faces and now the most "dangerous" OUA team(similar to Western two years ago) at present of the final four.

    Many, many dropped passes by Marauders in the second game of season at Richardson Stadium in Kingston. If they weren't dropped, they were overthrown.

    Queen's did a very good job in that game especially after Brannagan out, to limit the McMaster rushing to near negligible as I recall.

    This is the upset of the semi-finals with McMaster taking this upcoming game against Queen's in a stunner.

    Western/Laurier more a pick-em but as a Western homer I have to go with Western.

    It was my post last week that slagged the Western defense after the John Surla "comment" about Justin Dunk and discussion here in this blog. They are just starting to command more kudos but we shall see if Marshall can do better than in 2006 when as Offensive Coordinator under Haylor in a Faulds -less team, they can score more and allow less points against Laurier.

    If Western "builds" on the showing against Guelph, especially defensively, they will likely do alright against Laurier. Dropped TD pass by Guelph in fourth quarter may have put more pressure on Mustangs.

    Dunk, BTW, has nothing to be ashamed about in his likely last OUA game, as he came up against a finally hungry and four quarter consistent Western defense.

  7. Queen's is at home and is much less mistake-prone than Ottawa; fewer penalties and turnovers. Defensive end Shomari Williams, linebacker Alex Daprato and running back Marty Gordon did not play in that September game vs. McMaster.

    The Marauders have turned a corner. Queen's seems to have tightened up its play and Mac might not have enough playmakers. If Mac wins, well, you tip your cap to them for being the better team that day.

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  9. Queens has more than a few skeletons in their closet when it comes to playoff performance during the Brannagan years. For all that Brannagan has achieved, in the regular season at least, he needs to demonstrate that he is truly the stud his numbers suggest. Much like the A-rod countdown to implosion, during the playoffs, Brannagan is under a tremendous amount of pressure.

    Both the Mustangs and the Gaels will be facing competition that is playing their best ball of season. Both semi-finals are very much up for grabs.

  10. The games are up for grabs, though.

    It's not clear the comparison serves your cause: Alex Rodriguez is hitting .357/.491/.833 in the playoffs with 6 home runs in 42 at-bats, which is really, really good. That's some implosion happening with him.

  11. The A-rod comparison was referencing the o-for Alex experienced during the first two games of the Series. No matter how well A-rod plays in the regular season and the first couple rounds of the MLB playoffs, the moment that he fails is the moment that the hand-wringing starts. Brannagan is under the exact same type of second-guessing and critique, granted in a different scope.

  12. the moment that he fails is the moment that the hand-wringing starts. Only for people who willfully disregard percentages — like a ballplayer with a high home-run being more likely to hit a home run.

    Give a good athlete/team enough chances and he'll get it done eventually (see 2006 Colts). And eventually the player/team will screw a few up too (see 2007 Patriots).

  13. Sager, most fans aren't stats junkies. Fact: regular season sucess means nothing if a player's post-season numbers don't lead to victory. Heck, even Manning was accused of choking in the playoffs prior to the 06 comeback against the Pats in the AFC Championship. Barry Bonds was ridiculed for trying to squeeze the sawdust out of his bats when he struggled during the early 90s Pirate playoff failures. The majority of fans respond to what they see, not what is hidden within probability.

    If a special player, one whose performance draws accolades and attention during the regular season, falters repeatedly in the post-season then they are always labelled as having shrunk from the moment. Whether that label is fair is always up for debate. However, said labelling is as much a part of sport, if not more so, than post-season awards. As far as most fans are concerned those types of labels have far more relevance than anything a post-season awards banquette can do.

    I grew up with Battlin' Billy Smith, who was acclaimed as "the money-goalie" of his era. Years later I came to understand the strength and depth of those hated Islanders but when I went, teary-eyed, to bed after another Long Island win it was Billy who I cursed. Players like Messier and Claude Lemieux were singled out as being big-time post-season performers despite the fact that they were rarely the most talented contributer on their respective teams. If media and fans are going to pay special attention to those who performed in the clutch then it only stands to reason that those who fail, repeatedly, in pressure situations will be demonized. That is the daunting task that Brannagan and his Gaels face this post-season, to ignore that fact or pretend that it isn't an issue would be absolute folly.

  14. There will be no disparaging of the 2007 Patriots who were, are, and will forever remain the only truly enjoyable NFL team I have ever watched.

  15. War's over, man. The number-crunching nerds won.

    You seem to be saying we should just go along with whatever most fans think (loose usage). By that rationale, this site should not exist since CIS is by definition a nice league most sports fans do not deem worthwhile.

    People will always apply the choker label as a way of simplifying what they saw — just as others will turn to the numbers.

    Some would say it's folly — in your term — to bank on Player A always choking and Player B always being clutch. If it's been disproven 1,000 times; I don'

    Perhaps Brannagan and the Golden Gaels won't win the big one. If it happens, it will because someone else was the better team on that particular day, pure and simple.

  16. The post-season of any sport is a small sample to assess. However, the win or lose essence of these games and series is also what makes them more compelling that the regular-season. Thus, when Player A fails on numerous (more than one) occasions the choke-label is applied and relavent. I’m not trying to be cruel but that is the drama that compels people to follow sport.

    I think everyone agrees there is a swagger that comes with success. If Player A achieves no success then it is not unreasonable to say that that the player takes to the field lacking an intangible quality. That intangible essence is embodied in confidence, which is critical to performance.

    Again, I’m not trying to be difficult but I think that you should focus on the enormity of the moment for the Gaels. If they succeed then the story could reveal their triumph over past disappointments. If they fail (and honestly, the best stories are always a little bitter sweet) then the story revolves around notions of gallantry and unfulfilled promise. If you live exclusively in the numbers you could miss this drama.

  17. The enormity of the moment is evident for Queen's; please keep in mind the discussion was initially about McMaster, which actually played Saturday.

    The saying that comes to mind here is one they had back in WW2 about brave men and bodily functions. (Basically, it said brave men went for a Number 1 when cowards took a Number 2.)

    Some people want to say a guy is "clutch" and some want hard evidence — and just as I typed that, Alex Rodriguez, wouldn't you know it, just hit a double to put the Yankees ahead in the ninth inning. Total coincidence.

    It's all about being tough in the face of a tough job. If you look at as something you know you can do, it seems easier to do. If you get caught up in What It Would Mean To Win, you might be toast.

    The former is part of what Western has had going for it, right? They've said, let's get it done. Look at the way Carleton's basketball team speaks — they gobble up teams in this very anodyne way. It's almost frustrating with them — they never act like it's a huge deal until the national championship is won.

    On a personal level, there's no chance — none — this Queen's fan of 20 years' standing is going to miss the drama. It's also fun to thin-slice it and try to understand why it went down the way it did.

    And this isn't a Queen's fan site, so I downplay my fan side. It came into being in small part since one of its first contributors was a Queen's fan, which is different. There's a responsibility to try to give the more high-profile teams a fair shake.

  18. This year the Yanks' story is about redemption and goal fulfilment. That could be the story at Richardson but those in the media need to "choose" to allow past failures to fit into the back story. A-rod's failure in past post-seasons has made his eventual breakthrough that much more poignant. If someone is going to document the story of the 09 Gaels they can't be afraid of sifting through past heartbreaks.

  19. That's funny, because someone chose to write the following back in August:

    "HOW bitterly ironic is it that the way the Gaels' 2008 season ended — star running back gets injured, team falls in playoffs, everyone feels burned-up inside and wonders about feeling cursed — was also a storyline on Friday Night Lights last season? Is there any way to avoid talking about that in late October? (Not on your life.)"

    " ... (the Ottawa playoff game) was probably the toughest loss the Gaels have had in a good 20 years."

    " ... In the grand scheme, Queen's and Laurier likely stand the best chance of thwarting Western. The Gaels face a lot of doubters after the post-season woes and surely know they will be reminded of it at every turn this season, but give a good team enough chances and they will pull it off eventually."

    Who's afraid to sift through past heartbreaks?

  20. Oh, and I missed this, from Aug. 27, 2008: "The (2007) playoff loss to hated Western threw everything about an otherwise rousing season into question for anyone who's invested mentally and physically (or just emotionally) in Queen's football."