Golden Gaels stun McMaster

25-19 win puts Gaels in OUA semifinals for first time since 2003

Gaels celebrate their win after beating the McMaster Marauders 25-19 in Saturday’s quarter-final game.
Gaels celebrate their win after beating the McMaster Marauders 25-19 in Saturday’s quarter-final game.
The Gaels leave the field, exhausted but ecstatic, after Saturday’s win against McMaster.
The Gaels leave the field, exhausted but ecstatic, after Saturday’s win against McMaster.

Not rain nor snow nor sleet could keep the football Gaels down.

In what was arguably the most exciting game of the season, the team came back from an 11-point deficit to upset the McMaster Marauders 25-19 on a miserable Saturday afternoon at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton. It was the first time in seven years that the Gaels beat the Marauders. Running back Mike Giffin said his team’s record against the Marauders didn’t factor into their preparations.
“The mentality is always the same,” he said. Rushing for 73 yards on 23 carries and scoring two touchdowns, Giffin reassured his coaches that the decision to start him at running back was the right thing to do. But he refused to take credit for any of it.

“The defence played the greatest game I’ve ever seen today,” he said after the game, adding that he feels the Gael’s defensive line is one of the best in the country. His first touchdown came early in the fourth quarter immediately following a perfectly executed trick play. On their third down, 24 yards f from McMaster’s end zone, the Gaels appeared to prepare for a field goal. But as soon as placeholder
Brad Smith got his hands on the ball, instead of placing it for kicker Ryan Elger, he drew on his high school quarterbacking skills and pitched it out wide to rookie defensive end Osinachi Ukwuoma, who ran 23 yards and was stopped one yard from the goal line.

On the next play Giffin dove the one yard to give Queen’s their first lead of the day.

It was the beginning of the end for the Marauders. “It was huge for us,” Smith said.

Ironically, the Gaels learned the play after watching McMaster run a similar play, faking a punt against
Guelph last week, Smith said. With the win the Gaels secured a place in Saturday’s semifinal against Ontario’s top seed, the Ottawa Gee-Gees. It will be their first semifinal appearance since 2003.
McMaster opened the scoring with a touchdown in the first quarter. Queen’s kicker Ryan Elger put his team on the board in the second with two field goals but the Marauders increased their lead with a field goal of their own. With less than a minute left in the quarter, Mac intercepted a pass and scored their second major on the ensuing possession, making it 17-6 McMaster at halftime.

Queen’s put up the only points of the third quarter with a 27- yard Elger field goal and a safety.

The Gaels were within inches of a touchdown when quarterback Danny Brannagan found a wide-open Giffin in the end zone, but Giffin slipped before he could make it to the goal line.Early in the fourth quarter Early in the fourth quarter Giffin scored two touchdowns: the one-yard score after the field oal and a nineyard run. Elger converted both to extend the Gaels’ lead to eight points. Queen’s conceded a safety with three seconds left to play for a final score of 25-19. Brannagan said a big part of the Gaels’ comeback was their unwavering trust in each other and in themselves.

“You can’t doubt yourself; you can’t doubt the guys in the same jerseys.” Brannagan was sacked six times and threw one interception but he never lost his cool, completing 14 of 26 passes for 171 yards and rushing for 23. The majority of passes again went to receiver Rob Bagg who picked up five catches
for 76 yards of offence including a 51-yard run. Bagg also had 52 yards in punt returns, including a 34 yard run. The defence was led by TJ Leeper with six solo tackles and Adam Ross with five solo and one assisted tackle. Brannagan said the team felt all along they could beat McMaster.

“Even the last time we played them we felt we beat ourselves.” Head coach Pat Sheahan shared that view. “We came in expecting to win.” Smith said that after mistakes, like the five fumbles Queen’s made on Saturday, it’s especially important for teammates to build each other back up to ensure that errors don’t snowball.

“When running backs fumble, it shatters their confidence,” he said. “By handing them the ball and telling them to keep their heads down we’re just showing them we trust them.”

On Saturday the Gaels will go to Ottawa to face the Gee-Gees in the OUA semifinals. When asked how he was going to approach the contest Sheahan simply said, “It’s another game.”

Another game that nobody—except maybe the Gaels themselves—thought the team would be playing this year.

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