GUELPH, Ont. — To think, some Guelph Gryphons fans left the stadium when they were down 22 points with five minutes left.
Like the music genre their sophomore quarterback Jazz Lindsey shares a name with, the Gryphons are tough to define and sometimes it looks and sounds all wrong, but then it fuses to produce whatever you care to call their 42-39 overtime win over the Queen's Golden Gaels in the OUA football semifinal in front of 3,550 fans, minus those who figured they should at least beat the traffic.
Lindsey and the Gryphons defence, who came up with two of their six takeaways in the final minutes, had the wind at their back and belief in their hearts in the fourth quarter and OT and well, that's why people keep coming back to university football, even Queen's fans who saw this movie back in 2003 (late lead gets away in a OUA semifinal) when it starred another stringbean sophomore QB from a southern Ontario school named Ryan Pyear at Laurier.
"It's maybe not good to say, but we're kind of used to this," said Lindsey, the 20-year-old who had a less than pretty passing line of 14-of-36 for 198 yards, but got Guelph truly off the deck with his sideline-skirting scamper for an 80-yard TD that made it a one-touchdown game with 3:53 left. "We've been down in a few games and even at halftime, our coach was sounding like a broken record, saying we have to execute better. There was a little bit of frustration but we all know the heart we have. There was 10 minutes left and I looked at the score [36-14 Queen's] and said, we were fine."
Stu Lang and assistant head coach Neil Lumsden, the two Edmonton Eskimos greats, have let the Gryphons tap into their old-pro wisdom. That probably doesn't account for how a team erases a three-TD deficit in barely four minutes. All it took was linebacker Jake Reinhart returning a blocked punt for a touchdown — the fifth TD of the day set up directly by a huge defensive or special teams play — to cut the Queen's lead to 15. Then Lindsey broke the 80-yarder and suddenly it was an AC/DC concert on one side of the stadium and a study hall on the Queen's sideline.
"We've been fortunate that we've had this happen before," said Lang, whose Gryphons have eight wins in a row, five by a total of 16 points, since getting hammered (heh) by 41 points at McMaster on Labour Day. "We've lost our lead, we've been been down and come back. Confidence is something you just can't magically create. They feel like they're always in the game. I don't think there was anyone on the sidelines who got discouraged. Obviously we got some breaks and that helped.
Lang nodded enthusiastically when someone suggested 98 per cent of university quarterbacks don't stay in bounds on the play Lindsey took to the house. His coaching resume might not be deep, but he knew what the 20-year-old Lindsey needed to hear.
"He calls me Cam Newton because he’s my favourite player and I wear 2 and I celebrate the same style as Cam Newton when I score a rushing touchdown," says Lindsey, 20, who's no 6-foot-6, 250-pound specimen like the Carolina Panthers quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner. "He said, ‘go out there and be Cam Newton.’ After the game he came up to me and said, ‘you did it. You were Cam Newton.’"
The breaks included making two interceptions, including a pinball pick by Zach Androschuk a minute after the Lindsey that brought out the inner fatalist in the Queen's faithful. Carl Trivieri made two must-have catches, picking up a 13-yarder on third-and-7 and also making a double-clutch grab on a slightly underthrown ball for the conversion
That's how three-down football works. There's no end of ways a game can be taken or given away very quickly.
"They seemed to move the ball better when they had the wind at their back and it was a good move by their coaching staff to get it in the fourth quarter," said Queen's QB Billy McPhee, who was 22-of-33 for 226 yards and one TD, but three interceptions. "Hats off to them. They played well enough to win. It's kind of unfortunate right now. You got to play four quarters and we got caught playing three. Their defence was ferocious, they made some plays also.
Queen's easily could have been up by more than 22 points, too. Guelph's ballhawking defence came up with a fumble at the end of a first-down run by young running back Jesse Andrews, who had 100-yard efforts in both of their playoff games after replacing injured star Ryan Granberg.
For Queen's, the hell of it is they had played a good first three quarters before the Gryph Train began to roll. They ran off 26 consecutive points in the middle two frames as Guelph sputtered offensively and made the term special teams a misnomer, with Gaels DB T.J. Chase-Dunawa saying shank you very much after scooping up a bad punt and returning it for a touchdown to open a 24-14 halftime lead. They even stopped Guelph on downs three times in the fourth quarter, but couldn't make it four. Meantime, the Gryphons defence, leaders such as Reinhart, linebacker Jarryd Baines, cornerback Mark Durigon and end Mike Millar was everywhere.
"There were some explosion plays that happened that really changed the ballgame," Queen's coach Pat Sheahan said. "It's sports. Every psychologist that's ever attempted to explain it comes up short. What causes the momentum to change? Explosion plays like blocked punts and interceptions, they can change the character of the game. We had survived a couple explosion plays early in the game. But to tempt fate like that, I'm afraid, it came right down to overtime at the end. That kid [Trivieri] also made a terrific catch on the conversion. They made all the plays they had to make."