Looking like they were out to show that last year’s 6-2 record was no fluke, the football team gave the McMaster Marauders a 35-11 pounding in their first game of the season Monday.
The victory came at Richardson Stadium before an announced crowd of 6,504.
Veteran running back Mike Giffin, who was drafted by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last season but returned to Queen’s after failing to crack the CFL team’s roster, proved the key to success for the Gaels. Giffin had his 11th-straight game with over 100 rushing yards, carrying the ball 18 times for 143 yards with one 57-yard carry, two touchdowns and a 7.94 yards per carry average. He was named Offensive Player of the Week at both the OUA and CIS levels. McMaster head coach Stefan Ptaszek said he felt his team did a reasonably strong job of defending Giffin, though.
“He’s going to get his yards,” Ptaszek said. “He’s a talented kid. You’re not going to stop him, but if you take the 57-yarder away, I think we did a pretty good job of containing him.” It took some time for Giffin and the Gaels to get going, though. They put up four points in the first quarter and took a slim 14-0 lead into the half, despite quarterback Dan Brannagan recording 207 net passing yards in the first two quarters.
The Gaels’ luck changed shortly after the break, though most of the frosh who showed up for the start of the match didn’t stick around to see it. Queen’s started from their own 25 but advanced the ball close to midfield with two short runs by Giffin, a quarterback draw by Brannagan and a catch from wide receiver Mark Surya.
On the next play, Giffin smashed his way through the McMaster defensive line and rumbled 57 yards for his second touchdown of the game, taking the wind out of McMaster’s sails.
Queen’s later added two more touchdowns on passes from Brannagan to Scott Stinson and Scott Valberg.
The Gaels conceded eleven points on two safeties and a touchdown, all of which came in the fourth quarter.
Ptaszek said his team turned in a solid effort, though, especially considering the heat and the youth of his players.
“As you know, fellows, that was a warm day,” he said at the post-game press conference. “Our kids spilled their guts for 60 minutes, particularly on defence. They were on the field all day, and they can play some football. I’m very proud of that group”
Giffin said McMaster’s fatigue on defence led to his big run.
“In the second half, they were just physically beaten,” he said.
The win resulted in Queen’s picking up seventh place in the CIS national top-ten poll, but Queen’s head coach Pat Sheahan said there’s still plenty of improvement to come for his squad.
“We were not a well-oiled machine today, by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. “I think we can be a lot better.”
Sheahan said the Gaels committed too many errors during the game.
“In Week One, you know you’re going to blow a tire, you’re just not sure where it’s going to come,” he said. “We made some mistakes today that in closer ball games, more competitive ball games, would come back to haunt us.”
But Sheahan said he thought the team played reasonably well overall. He said he was particularly impressed with the efforts of veteran defensive back and returner Jimmy Allin, who piled up 129 yards on nine punt returns and added 15 more yards on a kickoff return. Allin also had an interception and was named the player of the game.
Sheahan said he plans to use Allin as the team’s primary returner this season.
“I think he’s going to be a returner of consequence, which our opponents found out today,” he said.
Allin said he’s hoping to score a touchdown off a long return in the near future.
“It’s only a matter of time before we run one all the way back,” he said.
The team will play the Guelph Gryphons on the road Saturday in a televised game on The Score at 1 p.m.
Sheahan said he expects a stronger effort from his team against a strong Guelph squad that narrowly lost 15-13 to Laurier Monday night.
“Nobody was completely fulfilled by the effort today,” he said. “We have to get better because games are going to get tougher.”
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