Mitchell Bowl: 10 moments and moves that rocked Laval's world

Queen's, as you know, turned the CIS football-following world on its ear by beating Laval 33-30 in the Mitchell Bowl on Saturday. Two days later, here are 10 plays that swung the tide in a way few likely imagined, even if was not exactly predicted (although Andrew called it)!
  1. Shomari Williams' first sack. The Rouge et Or got a gift-wrapped touchdown opportunity early on a tip-drill interception by Maxime Bérubé at the Queen's 26-yard line. However, the first of Williams' 3½ sacks forced Laval to settle for a field goal. Why it mattered: As noted in the game preview, it was an early indicator Queen's could "pressure the passer without overblitzing." Laval getting only three points made it seem like a small win for Queen's.

  2. Blaise Morrison catching a jump ball. On a first-and-10 at the Laval 46, Brannagan, whom we had noted would have to "go for broke," tested Laval deep. Morrison shielded off Olivier Turcotte-Letourneau and made a 36-yard circus catch. Why it mattered: Queen's scored two plays later and maybe planted some seeds of doubt.

  3. Second quarter; Laval comes in short in short yardage twice. In the second quarter, up 10-7, Laval's offence failed on second-and-4 and second-and-2 just shy of midfield. In a season where smart-aggressive coaching has been a norm, Laval coach Glen Constantin opted to punt rather than take a shot at a first down. Why it mattered: A two-score lead might have helped Laval recover its usual swagger; instead, Queen's gained confidence.

    The first stop was a curious call. Sébastien Lévesque had ripped off four good-sized runs when Laval attempted a short pass to Mathieu Picard to get the four yards; he was tackled after a short gain. The next series, Lévesque was stuffed on second-and-2; he wasn't heard from much the rest of the day, with 12 carries for 48 yards (just three carries for minus-4 yards after the half).

  4. Jimmy Therrien's 22-yard run. Again, another instance of mixing it up. Therrien, the lone Quebecer on Queen's roster who ended up as the unlikely leading rusher (with 62 yards), skated through a huge hole opened by tackle Matt O'Donnell and guard Vince De Civita for a run down to the Laval 20-yard line. Queen's scored four plays later to go ahead 14-10 and never trailed again. Why it mattered: The well-disguised handoff caught Laval off-guard. Four plays later, Brannagan threw a go-ahead touchdown pass to Chris Ioannides on a play-action, completing a 90-yard, four-minute drive.

    (Apparently Brannagan faked out TSN's cameras both times.)

  5. Third quarter; Julian Feoli-Gudiño's end zone drop. It was not replayed as often as his drop at midfield on the game's final possession, but in the third quarter, Feoli-Gudiño had a pass in the end zone go off his hands while being tightly covered by Jimmy Allin, who is (officially) two inches shorter and 35 pounds lighter. Why it mattered: Took momentum away from Laval and allowed Queen's to keep a cushion (Le Soleil has a good photo of the play).

  6. Chris Smith's sack to force a field goal attempt. Laval, down 19-13 (instead of 19-17) drove to the Queen's 30 before Smith came in unblocked to drop Groulx for a six-yard setback.Queen's held on second down, and suddenly Christopher Milo was looking at a 44-yard attempt on a muddy field instead of an easier 38-yarder.

    Now you know the rest of the story ("Jimmy Allin! Jimmy Allin!"). Why it mattered: "Jimmy Allin! Jimmy Allin!" Queen's switch to a 3-4 look on defence was a major story of the game. Both of the outside 'backers who wear DB numbers, Smith (No. 29) and Alex Daprato (28), had sacks on plays where Laval seemed to have trouble ID'ing who was the fourth pass rusher.

  7. Laval's trick play backfires. On the kickoff following Allin's 120-yard TD, Laval tried a Music City Miracle-style throwback, with receiver-quarterback Bruno Prud'Homme lateraling to Picard, who had Lévesque trailing for a pitch. Picard faked an option pitch, only to have Ben D'Andrea, who was trailing him, slap the ball away. Queen's recovered on the 36-yard line. Why it mattered: It put Laval further behind the 8-ball after Queen's converted a second-and-18 (on a sideline catch where Devan Sheahan might have been juggling the ball as he went out of bounds) and went on score on an end-zone catch by Mark Surya, who got behind two Laval DBs on a second-and-11 play.

    D'Andrea, whose dad Jim D'Andrea was co-captain of Queen's 1978 Vanier Cup team, also had a key block on Allin's 120-yard TD.

    Those two special teams plays were a 17-point swing for Queen's (sort of). Also, one wonders if Milo's miss from 44 influenced any later decision-making.

  8. Fourth quarter; Williams sacks Groulx in goal-to-go. In terms of down-and-distance, quarterbacks are taught to never give up a sack in the red zone. Laval, down 33-20, had driven to the Queen's four-yard line. Groulx was sacked on first-and-goal. Groulx missed on his next two passes and the Gaels took over on downs. Why it mattered: It took a little more sand out of the hour glass, plus Laval had to pass the next two plays. Actually, it didn't have to pass; if Laval (which called 25 consecutive pass plays in the fourth quarter) knew it was three-down territory, why not chance a run?

    Some in the press box also wondered why Constantin did not take the points with a short field goal that would have cut the margin to 33-23. There might have been more time to score twice.

  9. Pat Sheahan pulls a Belichick (but it works). Sheahan twice gambled on third-and-short in his own territory, going for it on third-and-1 from his team's 30 and later going for it on third-and-2 from the 47 with a little more than two minutes remaining. Marty Gordon converted both, running behind De Civita and O'Donnell. The Gaels even called a pitchout on the second. Can you imagine that? An OUA team running a toss play in short yardage against Laval? Why it mattered: On some level, Sheahan understood that Laval was bound to get momentum at some point; going for it was a way to keep his team's foot on the pedal and give Laval a smaller slew of tie to mount a comeback (and hey, it's not like he went for it on fourth-and-22).

    The second conversion helped Queen's push the the ball deep enough to make a punt a no-brainer, since it was defending whatever yard line Laval felt it needed to reach to be in Milo's field-goal range. Dan Village subsequently pinned Laval at its own 15.

    (Queen's fans should send a thank-you note to Guelph QB Justin Dunk. On Sept. 7, Queen's had a 21-point lead after three quarters vs. the Gryphons, blew it and needed a last-second field goal to win. This time, presented with a similar margin and a scary opponent, it refused to sit on the lead.)

  10. Deep denial times two. Armchair offensive coordinators will debate this forever; why did Laval air it out on back-to-back plays? They had a long way to go (95 yards from the end zone, about 60-65 from field-goal range) and a short time to get there (1:19 on the clock), but that's not insurmountable in Canadian football.

    Why it mattered:
    The first incompletion, where Feoli-Gudiño bobbled the ball as he laid out, seemed like a demoralizer. Some Laval linemen had already sprinted 15 yards downfield as the ball arced downfield, anticipating having to race down to set up for the next play. Instead, two incompletes, a safe pass to get a first down and a holding penalty left them still 95 yards away with 49 seconds left. On the next play, with Groulx now forced to look deep, Frank Pankewich's strip-sack ended the game, and Queen's kneeled out the clock.
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  1. Great post Sager. Essentially Queen's able to keep it close(bonus to be out ahead) by halftime. Fabulous O and D line work.

    Queen's secondary way too permissive especially in second half. Can't happen in Vanier or good night Irene.

    Constantin will be kicking himself more about the field goal attempt from outside of the 40. Marshall for sure would have gone for third conversion attempt or punt for serious field position advantage. Laval may have had further pressure of needing to appear at home for Vanier which I noted before the game here.

    As much as I support OUA(Western first, Queen's second with several offspring presently there) Queen's were gifted several Mulligans in this game.

    BTW, tickets appearing like hotcakes on ebay and kijiji. Hope to be at Vanier for a good game.

  2. Jimmy Allin! Jimmy Allin! Jimmy Allin!

  3. Was this post intended to show how the QUeens Gaels are the flukiest team of all time? If so, Bravo, Sager. Queens only beat Guelph because of Allen's three punt return TDs, they only beat Western because the Mustangs let them have that drive at the end, they had the benefit of bad officiating against Western, and if they played Laval on field turf instead of grass they don't have a chance.

    I predict Calgary will win and Sager will cry into his keyboard like the fat POS he is. Mark my words.

  4. "Queen's ONLY won because..Queen's ONLY won because..."

    Queen's won. That's what matters.

    Jimmy Allin had two punt return TDs and a kickoff return TDs, yes. Which also prevented Dan Brannagan from getting the ball, which means Queen's can't run time off the clock and Justin Dunk can't build momentum. The Gaels D never left the field. Don't look at a final score and rationalize. If you didn't watch the game, you don't know.

    It doesn't matter if Trevail scored that touchdown or not because Darryl Wheeler missed an extra point which would've made the a game a FG away from OT. Championship teams don't miss extra points.

    It doesn't matter if Richardson Stadium has grass because it has grass, Laval knew that going in, and should have prepared as such. I don't see how turf would've made their pathetic pass protection any better, and I suspect Queen's would've also benefitted from playing on a non-slow, beat up surface.

    Small word of advice: If you want people to "mark your words", then offer something of substance, not hypothetical crap. If you want people to "mark your words" then don't call someone a "fat POS". Finally, If you want someone to "Mark YOUR words" put a damn name on it.

  5. I agree with always OUA... anonymous if you're going to make statements like that then you should have the guts to put your name to them

    I'm not a Queen's fan; don't like them, don't hate them, but it was great to see an OUA team upset the almighty Laval

  6. Limestone Guy11/24/2009 11:23 pm

    To anonymous (the name calling anonymous type) If it weren't for Allin, If ..

    Face it anonymous if ifs and buts were candies and nuts we'd all have a Merry Christmas.

    Aren't special teams 1/3 of football?They even have a few All Canadian positions designated for these unit members.
    I don't think Western "let them have that drive in the last minute" it was more like their secondary were beaten like a bunch of rented mules. As for the officiating, Trevail's ball never broke the plane. Besides let's not forget the chintzy call early in the game for "roughing the holder" when Wheeler missed the field goal and UWO got a second chance and scored the TD. No wait, I used your glasses when I saw that play and I think Queen's "let" Western have that touchdown.
    Oh and finally, since when is it a crime to have a natural turf field. Unfortunately for Laval, Queen's doesn't have the benefactors to pony up for artificial turf to make the Rouge et Or feel at home. Too bad, because I'm sure with artificial turf they would have contained the plodding Jimmy Allin.

  7. The difference is GOOD journalists get to go to the Grey Cup. The shitty writers like Naete Sager are the ones stuck covering the Vanier CUp.

  8. Now you may think that last comment is a typo and an unfair insult, but you'd be wrong: Naete Sager is actually Neate's evil alter-ego. Naete writes for Sun Medai, lives in Nepaen, and can also be found at Out of Left Feild. (And he says hello when he leaves, goodbye when he arrives.)