Football: Setting up the Mitchell Bowl, Laval at Queen's

All the pressure's on Laval. Really.

It's feeling of fait accompli vs. fate in the Mitchell Bowl. Laval, the heavy favourite, will be counting on ho(i)sting a Vanier Cup in front of those 15,000 fans who sound like barbarians on crystal meth (fist bump: Duane Rollins). There's probably little in their thinking that would even allow them to contemplate watching two teams from the ROC play for it on their field.

Queen's and Dan Brannagan, Scott Valberg, Osie Ukwuoma and Shomari Williams have had been on a come-too-far-to-lose roll since Oct. 17, the first of two Instant Classics vs. Western Mustangs. The Golden Gaels' 43-39 Yates Cup win over Western, the first CIS playoff game where both quarterbacks passed for more than 500 yards and had about a 1,000 stomach-knotting twists, the last Michael Faulds evoking John Wayne ("I might not finish it standing, but I'll finish it") when he limped in to try a last-gasp, third-and-20 pass.

The Gaels didn't always have momentum, but always had control. There's a difference. Stuffing Nathan Riva on a third-and-1 at midfield and Williams planting Faulds for a safety late in the first half indicated the roles had been reversed, at least for one Saturday in one November. It was only a five-point swing, but every little bit helped where there was so little margin between two pretty good teams.

OUA Yates Cup

Queen's 43, Western 39
— Styles make fights, which is why this game worked on every level.

The Yates was this season's latest greatest shootout in the OUA, with seven lead changes and about 1,200 yards offence. Going deeper and deeper, to keep with the air-it-out ways of both passers, Queen's Pat Sheahan finally beat Greg Marshall, the quote-unquote "guy who never loses it" in a big game.

Queen's has faced questions whether its approach can work in the playoffs. Sheahan's Gaels have always drawn their identity from a precise, pro-style passing game. Marshall knows that's the motion of the ocean and has adapted well, but he's steeped in a tradition of power football. The Mustangs, like McMaster at this dawn of the decade, have had a singular talent at quarterback, but they expect to mash teams. That's how they roll.

Except they couldn't do it against a Queen's front of Williams, Ukwuoma, John Miniaci and Frank Pankiewicz, who made a key interception (go figure a defensive lineman made an INT in a game with so much passing). Start with Queen's run defence (Jimmy Allin and Chris Smith, among others, also helped make big plays on Riva) if you want to find an X-factor between two teams who played 120 minutes of football this season where the outcome was in doubt for all of 19 seconds.

The Golden Gaels held a possibly limited Nathan Riva to 3.4 yards per carry (29 rushes for 100 yards). That aforementioned third-down stand in the first half, which was a role reversal of a play at a similar stage of the 2002 Yates in Hamilton between Queen's and Marshall's McMaster team (which stopped Bryan Crawford for a huge loss and went on to win). It showed Queen's was going to be pushed around. Western ended up trying four field goals from inside the 20, which is unheard of for a smart-aggressive team.

There was a lot for the armchair quarterbacks:
  • What might have been if Faulds doesn't take the killer shot on his knee. A colleague questioned whether Marshall should have let Faulds go in, but it was the last play of the man's career. Let him throw. (Faulds will be a good coach some day, and you wonder how anyone wouldn't play for someone who showed that amount of chutzpah.)

  • The no-touchdown call on a goal line catch by Western's Nick Trevail (nine receptions, 171 yards) in the fourth quarter.

    Replays seemed to confirm Marshall's observation, "It looked to me like Trevail was in and scored," but Western was stuffed on two subsequent cracks from the 1-yard line and settled for a chip-shot field goal (what happened to play-action).

    Another minute also rolled off the clock before Western went ahead 39-36 instead of 43-36. Who knows what might have happened if either offence had another minute.
  • Mistakes in the kicking game. Western's Darryl Wheeler honked a PAT in the third quarter. Queen's Dan Village also hit the upright in the fourth quarter, otherwise the Gaels might have built more of a lead.
  • Da'Shawn Thomas being such a non-factor (no rush attempts and one catch for minus-2 yards).
  • Dan Brannagan or Michael Faulds? Faulds got the Hec Crighton Trophy nomination, but Brannagan got his Yates Cup.

    The roles ended up being reversed. Last season, Queen's had individual accolades and no team prize.
  • Chris Ioannides' day. On Queen's winning drive, the Gaels tight end caught a first-down pass, limped off, came back in and caught another to set up the go-ahead strike to Scott Valberg.

QUFL Dunsmore Cup

Laval 31, Montreal 7
— The Rouge et Or are awfully good, and after seeing Benoit Groulx be on-target (13-of-17, 216 yards), Queen's might be living in fear. The early crossing pattern to Mathieu Picard which set up the day's first points seemed to set a tone. Guillaume Rioux also had a gorgeous TD catch.

Laval is Laval, for lack of anything original to say at this hour. Montreal ultimately might have been too banged-up to make this interesting, but please remember the Carabins did some damage back on Bleu Sunday.

(Special thanks to Andrew Bucholtz, Arden Zwelling, Mike Radoslav, Rob Pettapiece, Greg Hughes and Daniel Da Silva and many others for their work on the Yates Cup live blog.)
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  1. The Walk

    Sport has the power to inspire and lift the human spirit and Saturday’s Yates Cup championship was true to that lofty goal. The Gaels and Mustangs met in another thrilling, last moment finish where legacies were redeemed, fulfilled, and cemented.

    The shear drama of Faulds' walk may have been lost in the aftermath of the Yates Cup conclusion but that long walk to the Western huddle will be one that will be retold time and again. The pain etched upon his face told us all we will ever have to know about Michael Faulds. He is a champion, whether crowned or not, whether under the lights or between the lines or not, he is a champion. The long walk to the huddle spoke of what makes Michael Faulds special. The walk defined him and cemented his legacy as more than just another in a long line of leaders to have ever carried the Mustang banner. As the pure theatre of Faulds’ display of courage overwhelmed those who saw it, the ball was snapped and he found a way to get off one last pass.

    Saturday's tilt will be remembered for many reasons. However, the final moments of Michael Faulds storied career will always be summed up by the pure drama of the walk.

  2. That game would have been possibly the best Vanier Cup ever played.
    Unfortunately, it wasn't.
    Instead, I fear that the real Vanier Cup will look more like the Christians V the Lions in that bloodthirsty coliseum known as the PEPS stadium.
    Worse yet, we could be treated to that scenario two years in a row.

  3. The Calgary/Saskatchewan game was equally as good as the Queen's/Western game. Wonder if those close games took some gas out of the tanks of both Queen's and Calgary as it seemed that both SMU and Laval walked in their games. I hope SMU wins because they are one team that will not be intimidated by Laval.

  4. @SFHS: Well-said ... it's really impossible not to forget that moment.

  5. The Score announcers said that the place kick holder is in play and that the bump which led to a Western touchdown should not have been called. If that's the case then it was offset with the no-touchdown catch near the end of the game.

    Were they correct in their assessment?


  6. I'll have to ask a couple officials I know. I had certainly never seen "roughing the holder" before.

  7. I think what happened was this. The holder grabbed the loose ball and tried to get up off his knees He raised his knee4s off the turf but he then dropped one knee back to the turf before contact was made. In the CIS as soon as the ball carriers knee hits the ground the play is dead. It is a rule to try and avoid injury. The hit,or bump, was then deemed to be roughing (piling on a downed player). I have seen CIS punters go down on one knee to snag a low snap that was a one hopper, and the play was immediately blown dead. The punter was said to be downed where his knee hit. Apparently it applies to holders too. Strange rule, but true.

  8. Good explanation, thank you so much. It sounds one of those football rules that doesn't necessarily sync up with the act, like the Tuck Rule. You can bet coaches and officials will talk over the interpretation of that next summer.

  9. I appreciate the explanation. I just rewatched the game it was that exciting that I had to watch it again. The placeholder was hit after the ball was kicked. The placeholder did not get up and go back down on the knee with the ball. He was hit while on one knee.

    As suggested, I hope they clear up some of these rules. I'm sure the Refs get levied with a bunch of criticism for these judgement type calls.

  10. Don't know about the holder penalty. But, in terms of the punter he is allowed to put his knee down in fielding the punt, then get back up and punt it. Seen it happen a few times this year, and asked the ref to confirm it.