Inconsistent play continued to act as the theme of the Gaels’ season this past weekend.
After a lopsided 40-17 loss to the fifth-ranked Laurier Golden Hawks, the team dropped to 0-3 on the season.
The game was a tale of two halves, with Queen’s going toe-to-toe with the defending OUA champions for a good chunk of the first half.
The Gaels forced a Golden Hawks fumble on their opponent’s 28-yard line with just over eight minutes left in the second quarter, which put the home side in prime field position to pick up points. On the ensuing offensive possession, quarterback Nate Hobbs found a wide-open Chris Osei-Kusi on the right flank, and the receiver subsequently cruised into the end zone for his first career score.
Although the touchdown gave the Gaels a 17-13 lead, it also signalled the last time the team would score on the day.
“For about 28 minutes of that game, we were right there with what looks to be the best team in the league right now,” head coach Pat Sheahan said of the Gaels’ first half output.
After the Hawks closed the half with two field goals and a touchdown — going into half-time at 26-17 — the Gaels were shutout for the entirety of the second half.
In the second half, Queen’s looked sluggish on the offensive side of the ball. They punted on four consecutive drives in the third quarter before opening the fourth with a turnover.
Once Laurier went up by another 10 points, Sheahan said the team “never really recovered.”
“[Queen’s] is a team that hasn’t come from behind and won a ball game in well over a year … it’s something our guys need to learn how to do,” he continued.
The Hawks played the part of one of the better teams in the country, he added, and they’ve “been there” before.
“They got a little shaky there in the first half,” Sheahan said, alluding to how Laurier left some holes open for the Gaels to take a second quarter lead. “[But] what they did was they just hung in there. They didn’t panic, they knew they could make some plays — and they did.”
Even though Queen’s defense didn’t have a particularly favourable game — they allowed the Golden Hawks to amass 588 total yards in their passing and run games — the Gaels offensive line was a specific area of concern for Sheahan.
The Gaels conceded eight sacks on the day, six of which came in the third and fourth quarters.
Protecting the quarterback hasn’t been a one-game problem for the Gaels. Through three contests, Queen’s offensive line has allowed 26 sacks — good for worst in the OUA.
“We tried to throw the ball quick,” Sheahan said. “Unfortunately in the second half we boxed ourselves in where we had to throw it.”
At 0-3, the Gaels face an uphill climb to find their way into the OUA playoffs.
Next week the winless Gaels play away to the fourth-ranked Western Mustangs. The Mustangs’ suffocating defense, who limits offenses to a league best 250 total yards per game, will be as tough a test as they come for Queen’s.
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