Billy McPhee thinks Queen’s can do better.
The Gaels fell 33-20 on Saturday to McMaster, the top-ranked team in the country. Despite trailing by as many as 30 points, Queen’s quarterback didn’t give the Marauders full credit for the early lead.
“They [scored] points, but I don’t think they made a statement,” McPhee said, noting that Queen’s offense didn’t convert when they should have.
An inauspicious start cost the Gaels against McMaster. Seven of Queen’s first eight drives ended in punts, with their only first-half points coming on a 42-yard field goal from kicker Dillon Wamsley.
The offense was considerably sharper in the second half. Rookie Doug Corby returned a third-quarter kickoff 71 yards, setting up a two-yard touchdown run from Ryan Granberg — his seventh of the season.
Late in the fourth quarter, McPhee and the offense gained 60 yards in under a minute, capping the quick drive with a nine-yard touchdown pass to receiver Justin Chapdelaine.
The final score could have been even closer, but the Gaels failed to cash in on several late chances.
Wamsley hooked a 33-yard field goal attempt wide left; receiver Scott Macdonell lost a fumble in McMaster territory; and Queen’s turned the ball over on downs on the Marauders’ seven-yard line with a minute left.
Despite the missed opportunities, McPhee expressed confidence in the offense’s ability to produce.
“I think we showed spurts of brilliance,” said McPhee, who completed 29 of 46 passes for 320 yards. “There were points where I’d never felt part of an offense that lethal. With the athletes we have on the field, we can make plays basically at will.”
McMaster’s offense imposed their will on the Gaels for the entire first half. They covered 90 yards in five plays on their opening drive, taking just 1:48 to claim a lead they never relinquished.
In the final minute of the half, Marauders quarterback Kyle Quinlan hit receiver Ben O’Connor with a 50-yard touchdown pass, extending the lead to 26-3.
Quinlan, the CIS’s most accurate passer through four games, completed 25 of 36 passes for 340 yards. He ran for a six-yard touchdown early in the third quarter — the first rushing score Queen’s had conceded in 13 regular season games.
McPhee tabbed Quinlan as the favourite for this year’s Hec Crighton Trophy, awarded to the CIS’s most outstanding player.
“He’s the heart and soul of this McMaster team,” McPhee said. “It’s tough to beat a guy of his character.”
Queen’s hasn’t beaten McMaster since the 2009 OUA semi-final, in Quinlan’s first season as Marauders’ starting quarterback.Since then, the Gaels have suffered five straight losses, including playoff defeats in both 2010 and 2011.
“We sort of unraveled [in the first half], which has been our wont against these guys the last two years,” said Gaels head coach Pat Sheahan.
“We need a little bit more consistency on offense — that’s been our tragic flaw in every game [this season].”
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