As each CIS football team is officially eliminated from playoff contention, we'll reflect on what they did this year and compare their results to our expectations.
Next up: Bishop's, eliminated from the playoffs ... well, a while back.
RPI: 20th (out of 26)
Points for: 19.8
Points against: 30.8
Passing yards: 303.9
Rushing yards: 46.4
Passing yards against: 218.2
Rushing yards against: 178.0
Looking back at our preview questions:
HOW will the Gaiters overcome to losing six players to the CFL and three other key contributors to graduation?
The immediate impact of losing the likes of DT Junior Turner and RB Kyle Exume and DL Matt Boulay stung a bit. Defensively, the Gaiters had a hard time stopping anyone, allowing a lot of yards on the ground (that 178 per-game figure is 60 yards higher than the next-worst team). Their pass defence was certainly better than last season, moving from middle-of-the-pack to among the best in Quebec, but the offence had a hard time keeping their linemen rested.
It isn't that the Gaiters offence is bad—in fact, they were pretty good. The team had the third-ranked passing offence in the country, which usually results in quick scoring drives and a generally tired defence come season's end. Unfortunately, the offence could have benefitted from a better run game. With the loss of Exume, the Gaiters' per-game rush average dropped nearly by half, gaining just over three yards per carry. and they couldn't sell the pass more effectively. Defences caught on, and the lack of converted opportunity took a dive.
The Gaiters, known nationally for recruiting character guys, had their share of good recruits. Whether this character showed on the field is tough to say. They had tough wins, albeit solid defensive games, and their losses were bitter pills to swallow (especially the first two games, losing by a combined nine points). If someone were measuring the character by their home performance, the Gaiters may have failed. One home win is, frankly, disheartening. The team may need to adjust to the huge changes in personnel and staff on both sides of the ball this offseason.
WHO will step up to lead the Gaiters offensively?
If there is any other answer than QB Jordan Heather, I would be glad to hear arguments. Losing QB Jesse Andrews to eligibility was tough for the Gaiters, but they have their guy for the next season or two. Throwing for over 2,500 yards and 16 touchdowns, the guy simply had an upstart season. He did throw 14 interceptions, and threw for 55 per cent completion, but he should be able more ready for the defensive speed and intelligence next season.
An honourable mention goes to WR Alexander Fox and the receiving corps, for their efforts catching the ball this season. Fox lead the team in receiving TDs and yards.
CAN the Gaiters overcome the loss of their head coach to get back to the playoffs?
They can, but not this season. It looks like the Gaiters have, once again, recruited well in a conference that features Laval and Sherbrooke. If they are recruiting for character, they will have no problem finding talent. The question is whether they have are able to attend to gaping holes on defence.
Coach Tony Addona, in his first full season, was able to leave his immediate mark on the offence, and the passing game was better for it. Other aspects of the team will take some time, considering the team recruits well and improves on ball control and pass defence. I can only see good things, but in a conference as this one, the Gaiters will have to avoid biting off more than they can chew.