Football: Digesting ... conference semifinal Saturday

Shallow, possibly accurate observations:
  • Hold on: Western's Nathan Riva and Laval's Sébastian Lévesque are still running. Someone tell them they can each come in for dinner.

  • The average score of the four Canada West and QUFL semifinals was 50-13. That makes the argument for OUA apologists their league at least has some close games.

  • Thank you, Calgary's Anthony Parker, for returning two kickoffs for touchdowns just a few days after some dim bulb put your name forward as an overlooked Hec Crighton Trophy candidate.

  • Remember the scene in Major League where Jake Taylor tells Ricky 'Wild Thing' Vaughn, "This is the guy you've been waiting for your whole life?" when he comes into a ninth-inning pressure situation against the Yankees? It's kind of like that for No. 4 Queen's, hosting No. 5 Western in next Saturday's Yates Cup. It's the deepest the two teams have meet in the playoffs since the 1979 Central Bowl. Greg Marshall was playing then.

  • People are picking at Sheahan père et fils: During the McMaster-Queen's telecast, The Score's Tim Micallef commented, "A rather short interview with Pat Sheahan there. Maybe that's thanks to his playoff struggles," after the Golden Gaels coach was circumspect during a pregame interview with sideline reporter Laura Diakin. In fairness, it was two minutes till kickoff and Diakin could have asked a better question than, "What are you going to do if the score is close?" Some dot-orgers wondered if Queen's receiver Devan Sheahan used the F-word during a post-game interview (although it's one thing to let it slip and one to yell it into the camera). It's out there.

  • McMaster ultimately finished 7-3 and loses nary an important contributor. That's a potential OUA favourite next season. Wideout Mike DiCroce will be The Man next season.

No. 10 St. Francis Xavier 33, Acadia 30
— Just like they did back in 2003, the X-Men staged a huge fourth-quarter rally to snatch a playoff win away from the Axemen, scoring 17 points in the final eight minutes.

How dead was X? With nine minutes left, Acadia was six yards away from a touchdown which would have put it up by 18 points. St. FX held, and after the field goal Steve Snyder took them on 75- and 67-yard scoring drives to tie the game.

Also remarkably, there was only 1:57 on the clock when St. FX tied the game, but it had time to get the ball back. A 28-yard Mike Metulynsky punt return, got the ball in position for Anthony Alix to kick the winning field goal.


No. 5 Western 26, Laurier 16
— The main question for next week is whether Western can do to Queen's what it did to Laurier, running Riva play after play (its distribution was 45 rushes, 29 pass plays).

Riva, who set an OUA playoff record with those 42 rushes, for a career-high 279 yards and both Mustangs TDs, had about a 100-yard day in that game three weeks ago, which Queen's won 27-26. Western was a little more creative with how it used him that day, including a couple well-designed screens which might be difficult for sore-kneed QB Michael Faulds to execute.

That being said, ball control tends to win in the playoffs and Western's receivers seem to keep their focus even when pass-catching opportunities are at a premium. Faulds' security blanket/Guelph homeboy Jesse Bellamy has become their wedding China — only for a special occasions.

The 10-point margin was a misnomer; it wasn't as close as the score indicated. Western wore down the Golden Hawks' defence to a fine nub. Only a great strip by Laurier safety Courtney Stephen and a few failed third-down conversions really kept Laurier in the hunt. Western's backs rushed 45 times for 320 yards, all told, without Da'Shawn Thomas (turf toe) even getting one carry.

Western's defensive coaches, whose unit held Laurier to 252 yards (OUA rushing leader Mike Montoya, with nine rushes for 42 yards, was a non-factor), rate a lot of credit. Their rebuilt defence played well — particularly the second-year end, Alex Robinson, and the inside linebacker John Surla — and confused the Golden Hawks Evan Pawliuk (32 pass attempts for 156 yards, a 4.9 average). Pawliuk had a few passes where he lobbed the ball out nowhere near a receiver.

Faulds, as noted seven days ago, is sacrificing his left knee to try to get the Yates Cup three-peat for Western. He had a limp-off in the first half and came back on the next series. Western didn't ask him to do a ton, but their running game was that good.

No. 4 Queen's 32, McMaster 6 — A stiff Kingston wind and Queen's defensive line led by bookends Osie Ukwuoma and Shomari Williams took care of the young Marauders.

Neither offence did much, except when it was set up by a turnover (and even then). A Matt Vickers interception and a blown punt snap set up Queen's two first-half TDs, while the Marauders were forced to concede four safeties rather than punt into the wind coming off the St. Lawrence River Lake Ontario. Mac's defence, which got solid effort from veteran James Edwards and rookie cornerback Cody Lynch, had two takeaways in the second quarter, forcing fumbles by veterans Marty Gordon and Scott Valberg. Mac converted those into all of three points and sort of dragged itself into the locker room.

How about that Queen's defence? Mac coach Stefan Ptaszek told the Kingston Whig-Standard, "Other teams in our conference to shut down our run game blitz and take chances. Queen's is able to slow our run game down just sitting there and playing their base stuff. They're not getting out of position to do what they need to do." It got pressure with four rushers more often than not, which should not be so easily accomplished vs. Faulds.

Canada West

No. 2 Calgary 45, Alberta 13
— The Dinos scored almost half-a-hundred without Erik Glavic putting up big passing stats. It was just Matt Walter, Matt Walter, Matt Walter (17 rushes, 163 yards).

Parker's second return TD came on an onside kickoff. Calgary's defence was damn good, with Steven Truzak making three interceptions.

No. 3 Saskatchewan 53, Regina 23 — Tell you what, the Huskies come across pretty favourably when their QB, Laurence Nixon, doesn't pass for five TDs (three to Cory Jones). Saskatchewan ended up with 400 yards passing in the easy win.

The Huskies offence — remember how much it sputtered the first three, four weeks before Jeff Hassler (nine rushes for 113 yards) returned from injury and got up to speed? It's almost like someone realized a just-OK offence might not be enough with the kind of numbers Calgary is capable of producing.


No. 8 Montréal 40, Bishop's 15
— The Gaiters' mojo was good for a half, but the Carabins' Rotrand Sené (236 rushing) and a rejuvenated M.-O. Brouillette (363 passing) were too much to overcome.

The $64,000 question is whether Montréal can gave Laval a game next week. It's so hard to know for sure. Allez Les Bleus, a little help, s'il vous plait?

The Gaiters deserve a slow clap for managing a decent season vs. a difficult schedule in the first year after Jamall Lee. They got into the Q playoffs despite being outgained almost every week, including 639-191 in this game. A team that gets outgained that bad should lose every time, but their D came up with five takeaways. They apparently never stopped hitting, even when outmanned.

No. 1 Laval 63, Concordia 1 — There's really not much to say, eh? The Carabins made Laval mad and the Stingers made. It was a massacre.
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  1. I think Micallef was sticking up for a novice compatriot when he addressed Sheahan's glibness. A couple of years ago I remember Brent Musberger doing the same thing when Lloyd Carr, then the head coach at Michigan, was rude to a sideline reporter. Sometimes coaches become so self-absorbed that they have to be reminded to mind their manners.

    I had the opportunity to attend the Western-Laurier semi-final and these are the two keys that led to the eventual outcome.

    One, the absence of Mike Montoya in the Laurier backfield severely impacted the effectiveness of the Golden Hawk play calling.

    Two, Nathan Riva is the Western offence for the rest of their playoff run. The injury to Faulds’ knee severely hampered his effectiveness and the purple ponies had to ride the pure emotion of their backfield spiritual leader.

  2. Interesting how in the pre-season much fuss was made about Da'Shawn Thomas, because he is an American who played some minor pro ball. Some lamented that he would relegate Nathan Riva to the bench. Look who was lugging the ball today and look who was riding the bench.

    It seems early to talk about next season. However, Neate said that Mac will be the big cheese in the OUA next season. He is probably right and Ottawa will up there with them. Each team has only two five year players to lose and each team showed that they recruited some talented young players for this season and going forward. The other OUA playoff teams each will lose more, particularly in the QB department.

  3. Parker's second return for a TD was on an onside kick late in the fourth quarter. It was over almost before it started as Parker got his first kickoff return for a TD on the first play of the game, then the Bears came out on offence and Quade Armstrong got picked off = worst possible start for the Bears. Walter and Parker were all Calgary needed on this day - Glavic was far from great, but didnt make any mistakes to give the Bears any sniff at momentum.

  4. Laurier will have a very strong roster next year: Thompson will be back and healthy (saw him tonight at the campus nightclub, was putting alot more weight on his feet) Montoya is back as well as that entire receiving core which will only get better, maybe even become the best (Chambers, Bishop [two future CFL wideouts i believe] and a 2nd year Steve Anthony with a Dillon Heap in there for good measure)

    On the other side of the ball, Rapanarro, Bosch, Stephen and Allen all return. In addition, Chema Ihkwoba will be healthy again.

    The Hawks lose three fifth-year offensive lineman, Chris Mamo, Peter Quinney, and Jordan van Horn. van Horn is a loss, i like him, but the D is so deep we can replace him. The loss of Mamo is, let's be honest, peripheral. The loss of Adam Bestard will hurt, next season could come down to whether or not a young OL can make enough holes for Montoya to set up the passing game for Thompson.

    NCAA transfer Mike Knill should be much better and maybe he takes over the duties as the top lineman on the team just like Bestard did from Scott Evans, so this is a trend that Laurier has seen before.

    Outside of Quinlan and Sinopoli i don't think either Mac or Ottawa have those star players returning that Laurier does. The Hawks will have key players at every stage: DB, LB, DL, OL, QB, RB and WR

    A balanced attack that can score to win or prevent you from scoring to win is as dangerous as any team one could think up.

    I think the OUA is Laurier's for the taking next season

  5. Laurier, Mac, Western, Ottawa should all be pretty strong next season in the OUA. Greg Marshall has said he expects to have a stronger team next season save for the QB position.

  6. Neate is right again in listing the four for 2010.. Luke lists more starting players lost to the Hawks than either Mac or Ottawa should lose. Both should reurn strong O's almost intact. As well as Sinopli Ottawa could return Wilson-Ross and and Gillanders at RB as well as Hughes and Adjeity, the number two and three leading receivers in the OUA this season.
    Stacks up well against those "stars" who return for Laurier. Mac looks solid too. Both Ottawa and need to shore up the D a bit. Both had young talented rookies and second year first time starters on D this year and they are likely to be much better with a year of experience under their belts.
    I am not sold on either Thompson or Pawliuk being the QB Laurier needs to excel.
    Western always fields decent teams. QB will indeed be their big question mark next season.

  7. MAC was in a position to give Queen's a game on Saturday. After thinking back on what I watched on the Score on Saturday, MAC lost this game by being outcoached. Here are my reasons why:

    1) Where did the run game go? All season long, the run game was MAC's bread and butter. Who didn't it work against, Queen's in week 2. The display on Saturday was worse than week 2, not only because the run game was never given a chance, but the MAC O-Line was not become a factor when it should have been FACTOR #1. I understand that Queen's has top calibre rush ends, but the MAC oline was not given a the chance to compete.

    2) Why or why implement a wildcat? I could understand if MAC used a wildcat throughout the season and was a solid complement to their offensive scheme. The reality was that it looked raw, unpolished and ultimately was detrimental to the offensive chemistry yesterday.

    3) Where was the longball? The ability to strecth the field with players like D'Hollander, DiCroce and Giordano was no where to be seen. I understand that Jimmy Allin and Chris Smith are roaming back there, but at the same token the MAC coaches gave Queen's 8 points as well.

    I hope that this team forms an offensive identity for next season. They have the players, but it comes down to implement an offensive plan players can trust.

    The D-Unit is solid and will only get better next year.

    I would not be surprised if MAC plays for the Yates next season.

  8. Sager will probably tell you it was because Queens is so good, but really your right. I still believe Mac has more talent and would have beat the Gaels with a better game plan.

    Go Stangs Go!

  9. Mac isn't more talented than the Gaels - not at this point. Queen's is a deep vetran team and this isn't Mac's year. Mac is going to be dangerious in the future and they are clearly the fourth best team in the OUA at this time. Lots to look forward to from this team - but not this year. Queen's was/is the better team.

  10. Queen's was the better team as expected.

    No doubt McMaster improves and contends next year or the year after.

    I didn't like the wildcat plays McMaster ran either but special teams were the worst culprit of the game planning for McMaster.

    They need better schemes and changes in personnel to get better here.

  11. Good thing that one guy put "Go Stangs Go" at the end, otherwise we would have thought he was a lunatic in saying Mac was more talented than Queen's...instead he's just a Western fan.